5 Minutes With: Richard Nathan

5 Minutes With: Richard Nathan

Richard Nathan is a Non-Executive Director of Avallain AG, an education technology (EdTech) company with over 15 years experience of equipping international publishers with the technology, tools and services they need to create tailored and engaging digital educational content and services. Richard is also a Director and Principal of Bosquet Capital, and Co-Founder and Director of Red Circle Authors Limited, and a Non-Executive Director of the Dublin-based publisher M.H.Gill & Co. Prior to this he worked for Kyodo News, the international journal of science, Nature, and Macmillan.


1. What was the last book you read?

The Chronicles of Lord Asunaro by Kanji Hanawa translated by Meredith Mckinney

2. And what did you read it on?

I read the paperback edition. Some books are better when read in print and this is the case I think for The Chronicles of Lord Asunaro and all the other titles in the series, Red Circle Minis, it is published in.

3. What’s next on your reading list?

I am obviously biased as I helped found the company and its launch imprint Red Circle Minis, but I can’t wait to read the next book in this series from Red Circle Authors by Soji Shimada. He has been called the postmodern master of Japanese whodunnits and Japan’s Man of Mystery. I am sure it will be unusual, beautifully translated and another cracking read!

4. Which writer would you have loved to have met and why?

Yukio Mishima. He is probably Japan’s most notorious writer and everyone has a view on him and dozens of books have been written about him and his life. If you listen to recorded interviews with him in English of Japanese he sounds somewhat polite, sensible and gentleman-like so very different from some of his famous photos and images. He isn’t in fact my favourite author, but as so many were fascinated by him, including David Bowie for instance, I have always wondered what he was actually like, with and without his mask, in person. He was brilliant at self-promotion as well as engaging with international publishers and the media. I would love to ask him not just about how he saw the narratives of our age, but also how he would try to use social media, if at all. That’s why I would have liked to have met him.

5. What is the one thing about your company that we need to know?

Avallain, which is the company that brings me to the London Book Fair is a real pioneer in its field. I was a client when I was at Macmillan and now I am a Non-Executive Director, investor and advisor. Modestly and highly professionally behind the scenes they have been transforming the digital offerings of major international publishers. If you are a publisher interested in offering some form of digital education related product you should talk to our team. With 18 years experience in multiple jurisdictions and different language markets, with large and small publishers, Avallain has a real sense of what works and doesn’t, and a keen idea of how markets are developing and changing, which they are.

6. What do you like about your job?

The best thing about my role with Avallain is my relationship with its two founders Ignatz Heinz and Ursula Suter. They are seasoned professionals that really care about educational outcomes as well as the bottom line. They have been providing services to schools in Kenya, for example, long before terms such as social impact were popular. They have stealthily navigated their firm, team and long-term clients through several iterations of the so-called digital hype cycle. There is something magical about working with the latest technology in the right way, a highly skilled team, and demanding clients. It is a special mix that often leads to great outcomes for learners, students, educators and the publishers that engage and equip them. I really enjoy working with them on the company’s long-term strategy and product development plans.

7. What is the single biggest challenge facing the publishing industry right now?

Distinguishing the noise from the signal and finding the right things to focus on at the right time, and the right people to work with.

8. Does the publishing industry understand technology?

I think this really depends on which part of the publishing industry you have in mind, and what you mean by technology. There are definitely people within the industry’s different sectors that understand it for their sector and are exploiting it in highly intelligent ways. And obviously using technology has been part of the industry’s history. The trick is to find the right people to talk to and the right technologies for each sector that are relevant at this point in time. It is so easy to get distracted by exciting technology that is brilliant for the audience it is targeting, but may not yet be relevant in another area. If you ask the captains of our industry and its most experienced and successful publishers about this they will no doubt say, it was ever thus.

9. Go on, let us know your musical guilty pleasure.

Bach’s Goldberg Variations played by Glenn Gould

10. And your one from the world of fiction?

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson and Deep River by Shusaku Endo.

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