PubWest, the leading trade association of small- and medium- sized book publishers, has awarded its 2011 Jack D. Rittenhouse Award to Jack Jensen, President of Chronicle Books. The PubWest Board of Directors selected Jensen in recognition of his extraordinary career and his lifetime of work with Chronicle Books which has shaped and inspired the book publishing community.
PubWest Board president Derek Lawrence said, “The Jack D. Rittenhouse Award was established in 1990 as a way to thank and honor those who have made a real contribution to the Western community of the book. Today, the Rittenhouse Award is truly a lifetime achievement award for those who have made long-lasting contributions to how books are made and sold. Jack’s work with Chronicle has inspired my own career and so I’m truly pleased to welcome him into the company of Rittenhouse Award recipients.”
Jensen accepted the Rittenhouse Award during PubWest 2011, which took place November 3-5 at Green Valley Ranch Resort in Henderson, Nevada.
During his 35-year career, Jack Jensen transformed Chronicle Books from a tiny, regional house into a global brand known for its high-quality design and eclectic subject matter. Jensen joined Chronicle Books in 1977 when it was still directly associated with the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper and worked alongside five other employees to produce and market twelve new titles per year.
As Chronicle Books started to look for an identity beyond the newspaper, Jensen began to take an interest in books that other publishers ignored. Unburdened by the customs of the East Coast publishing establish ment, Chronicle Books began buying foreign rights to art-related books and repackaging them for the American market. In 1981, Chronicle Books published The Sushi Book, a small, colorful, and cheap paperback that immediately resonated with consumers and revealed the selling power of accessible art publishing.
Following the success of The Sushi Book, Chronicle Books continued to pursue not only unconventional titles, but unconventional sales channels as well. Jensen recognized a reverence for books that went beyond the content, and subsequently pitched Chronicle’s list as books that doubled as keepsakes. With their pop-culture topics and friendly formats, Chronicle books have lent themselves well to the gift market, setting the trend for publishers to explore new areas of revenue beyond the traditional markets.
Today Jensen oversees 185 employees at a company that produces 300 books a year. Jensen is also president of the McEvoy Group, a holding company for Chronicle Books, New York-based Princeton Architectural Press, the Seattle-based Becker & Mayer!, Spin Media, and California Home & Design and 7×7 Magazines.
Chronicle Books has become a mainstay of the West Coast book industry and Jensen continues to push the publishing house in new and exciting directions. “If we don’t continue to challenge ourselves,” he says, “it is no fun. And if we continue to do the same thing, we’ll find ourselves in a crowded field of people doing it too. Any degree of success will be mimicked. It is imperative that we continue to evolve.”
About PubWest: PubWest is a non-profit trade association for North American book publishers, from small independent presses to publishing companies with worldwide operations, and related professionals, such as printers, designers, binderies, and publishing freelancers.
The PubWest Board of Directors selects a Rittenhouse Award recipient each year, and the award presentation takes place during the annual PubWest Conference.