Well, I worked in publishing for almost fifty years and I never heard anyone claim this: maybe it was whispered and I didn’t hear. Doubt it. However Mr Eco came from Italy, and maybe they say this all the time around the water cooler at Mondadori. I suppose it’s also possible that it may have lost something in translation.

The Passive Voice sends the picture without comment. Not that one’s really necessary if your job is to display the stupidity of publishers.

And who is that beardy guy? He looks  a bit familiar. One wonders why he was selected to lend weight to this silly sentiment. He is certainly suitably quizzical, though one doubts he had too much familiarity with publishers. An Assyrian? A Greek god? A historian of beard styling could no doubt pin this down.

It’s an odd sentiment to have become such a quote-trope, though none of these wallpaper manufacturers seems concerned enough to hint at a source. I suppose it’s the self-publishing community that’s driving this popularity: as we all know there’s a substantial body of resentment against traditional publishers out there. I suppose some publisher once turned down a book proposal from a sensitive author, and now we’ve all got to pay for it. (Let me insist once more that I think the development of self publishing is an entirely beneficial thing for us all, book publishers and readers alike.) Ironically, I think it’s generally accepted that “easy” reading is what self publishing is so good at providing, while anything serious needs the help of a traditional publisher. See Richard Hershberger’s two recent excellent columns on “The State of Book Publishing” at Ordinary Times: (Part 1 and Part 2).

Mr Eco’s quote may have originated in a 2011 Guardian interview where he said “It’s only publishers and some journalists who believe that people want simple things”, though of course it’s possible he may have formulated it differently elsewhere.

These straw men are always an excellent target if you care about winning.