Byron's phrase, ""Now Barabbas was a publisher."" So is Mr. Jovanovich, the president of Harcourt, Brace & World who, in these assorted essays which touch angentially on various phases of his profession, is a very civilized commentator. To be a publisher requires ""taste, prescience and courage."" In Mr. Jovanovich's canon it also imposes higher obligations and he is well aware of the importance of ooks as tributaries to the mind. ""The serious reader"" as well as the writer and the publisher ""should be concerned not with indulgences but with good works."" These ieces, considerably more than shoptalk, deal with the industry (paperbacks, which have stimulated reading along with publishing; textbooks, the new markets overseas here education has increased the ""rage to learn""; etc.) They also deal with American practicality, or knowledge put to ""definable, utilitarian purposes""; with education and amplifying, intensifying curricula; with sex in fiction as a reflection of a predominantly middle class world in which people can only differentiate through their ex mores; with good books and the tolerance for calculated mediocrity; and there is personal piece on Milovan Djilas and his ""Vision of Good and Evil.""..... A literary auserie which affords considerable pleasure and enlightenment and affirms criteria which command respect.