Local, Local! Spotlight on…Chris Kahn

chris-kahnIf you have heard of the boisterous Books & Booze organization—or work in book marketing in the Bay Area —you will have probably heard of Chris Kahn.  He has been working in the publishing world for over ten years, and for the last year has served as the Chairman of the Books & Booze not-for-profit organization.


Chris was recruited to help with Books & Booze finances about three years ago. “John Owen, Christine Carswell and Ani Chamichian created Books & Booze as an event for the diverse SF Bay Area publishing community to come together. I joined in 2004 and helped the group to organize and incorporate.”


After they raised and donated $16,000 to Save the Children for their work to relieve the suffering caused by the 2005 tsunami in Indonesia, their semi-regular parties have evolved into a fund raiser to support a scholarship to the Stanford Professional Publishing Course. 2009 will mark the third time they have made this award.


“As part of our continuing efforts to bring the community together, Books & Booze will soon launch a job board on their website for freelancers to post their availability and specialties,” Chris explains.    


You might also know Chris from his ‘day-job.’ As the Western Advertising Director for Reed Business Information’s print and online properties Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and School Library Journal. Chris consults with clients in the Western US and Canada about the marketing opportunities they offer publishers, library suppliers and technology vendors.


Before joining LJ/SLJ/PW, Chris worked in ad agency media departments in San Francisco for five years. He was recommended for his current position by the former PW West Coast rep who called him at one of these agencies.


He took a break from Reed Business in 1998, when he left to join a feisty band of technologists from the Valley to help launch the Rocket eBook. 


Their efforts, especially in making the large New York houses exercise the digital rights they had acquired, helped start the ebook revolution now continued Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s Reader Digital Book.


Launched in 1999, the Rocket eBook was, like the Kindle and Reader, an ebook device, as well as a publishing and content distribution platform. “We facilitated retail websites to sell copyright protected material for users to read on their portable ebook device,” explains Chris. “We were appealing to early adopters of the ebook and with this group the Rocket eBook was wildly successful. Just as we were moving into a full consumer launch, we were acquired by a company that did not know what they were doing and ultimately ruined the company.”


Chris has nothing but praise for the current ebook products. “In my humble opinion, while devices such as the Kindle would benefit from a more ergonomic form factor, they have pretty much all the features one would want and expect from an ebook device. The Kindle’s wireless connectivity is a killer app which greatly advances the ebook device as a consumer product. One can argue that a backlight screen would be required, but battery considerations may preclude this.”

Chris believes the ebook as well as the increasing consolidation of retail and distribution channels pose serious challenges for established publishers. “Beginning with desktop publishing, everything about book publishing, sales and distribution has changed,” he continues, “from acquisition to creation to archiving; the pace of technology has challenged our ability to adapt to it in a rational manner.”


Chris, a true local, was born in San Francisco and, except for a couple high school years in SoCal, and a few years in Carmel and Carmel Valley, has lived in the Bay Area all his life.  Reared in Lafayette, he graduated from St. Mary’s College in Moraga, and received an MBA from Cal State East Bay. His favorite place to hang out in San Francisco is at the bar in Farallon Restaurant on Post Street, where his wife Beverly works.


You may recognize Chris by his penchant for black clothing; he rarely leaves the house without wearing at least one item in his favorite color.  He also claims to be the only person to have read his favorite title, War and Peace, on a Rocket eBook while flying to and returning from Singapore!


Please join Chris and the rest of the lively local publishing community at the next Books & Booze to be held January 20, from 5:30-8:00, at 111 Minna Gallery.  Find more information at http://www.BooksandBooze.org.


Chris plans to attend both this and the Publishing Palooza on January 29.