November 16, 2017

OverDrive’s Potash and Penguin Random House’s Applebaum Honored by UJA-Federation

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Steve Potash, right, and LJ editorial director Rebecca T. Miller
Photo credit: Ian Singer

At a high energy midtown New York gala, the UJA-Federation of New York honored Steve Potash, president and CEO of leading library ebook distributor OverDrive, Inc., and Stuart S. Applebaum, emeritus executive vice president of Corporate Communications at Penguin Random House. UJA’s annual Publishing Division Dinner, held May 24, marked the first time the organization has acknowledged someone entirely dedicated to digital content with its celebration of Potash’s contributions.

Noting the uphill climb Potash faced when he first approached trade publishers about the potential of ebooks, longtime publishing executive and current agent Larry Kirshbaum praised his tenacity, saying that eventually “he convinced us there was an economic model that makes sense.”

Potash recalled the early years, citing a 1986 trip to New York City to talk to trade publishers throughout which he maneuvered a massive computer, and touted an ebook that fit on a mere 28 discs. “I am so happy we are where we are today,” he said, holding up a smartphone. “I love this thing.”

Barbara Marcus, Markus Dohle, and Stuart S. Applebaum Photo credit: Michael Priest Photography

Barbara Marcus, Markus Dohle, and Stuart S. Applebaum
Photo credit: Michael Priest Photography

The work at OverDrive, Potash said, is about one basic thing: “It’s reading.… We love reading books and storytelling.” He also made clear how he feels about libraries and librarians. A tipping point for the company, Potash said, came when his wife Loree, a librarian, told him to talk to librarians. “‘Go to ALA and stand in a booth,’” he remembered her saying. “The rest is history,” he added. Pointing out the many librarians in the room, he said: “It’s not the library we must value, it’s the librarian.”

The accolade, he noted, has deeper personal resonance for him. Referring to his siblings and offspring as children of UJA, he shared that his mother was a refugee, “a sole, single orphan arrived in this country without anyone,” who was helped along by work such as the federation does.

In introducing Penguin Random House’s Applebaum to receive the Harry Scherman Service Award for his more than 40 years in publishing, former Bantam Doubleday Dell publisher Irwyn Applebaum noted the “creative persuasion” necessary in his brother’s work as a publicist and communications expert, giving a nod to an “inexplicable ability to put things into the real-world context” to capture the attention of strangers.

Thanking his colleagues, Stuart S. Applebaum acknowledged the collective effort of the publishing enterprise, saying they “all collaborate and celebrate authors to help them reach readership” and noting that the stimulation and smarts in the work “galvanizes me non-stop.” As with Potash, Applebaum has a special connection to libraries, which have been the beneficiaries of some of his charitable giving.

The event raised $650,000 for the UJA-Federation, an organization designed to pool philanthropic efforts to address the needs of New Yorkers of all backgrounds and Jews around the globe. Two videos, embedded below, were produced to help celebrate the honorees.

Stuart Applebaum from The Audiovisual Dept on Vimeo

Steve Potash—UJA Award

Rebecca T. Miller About Rebecca T. Miller

Rebecca T. Miller (miller@mediasourceinc.com) is Editorial Director, Library Journal and School Library Journal.

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