Content is King at World Book
Then there's WB's licensing agreement with New York City-based Versaware, an Internet publisher and software developer that provides e-publishing services (with a focus on the educational market). Digital content is sold via the Versaware Web site and co-branded e-book stores through partnerships. Versaware also developed a Versabook format (Open eBook-compliant and downloadable to various reading devices).
"We have several new products -- sold as downloads or as CDs -- with Versaware," Ross reveals, "including our children's illustrated dictionary, atlas, a geography program and a science program. If these are successful, we'll do more."
In 1998, WB's retail products were distributed through an arrangement with Random House, with a return rate as low as 1 to 2 percent. Since then, WB stopped distributing through Random House and trade houses altogether.
Instead, Ross says, WB focuses on selling directly to the customer through its school and library sales force, its Web site and direct mail, and specialized wholesale companies that are prepared to accept WB products on a non-returnable basis.
"We're out of the trade," he explains. "We made a strategic decision not to sell to the bookstore chains anymore. It's not a profitable activity. The returns were killing us.
"We're using the Internet," Ross sums up. "We're going direct to the consumer. We're on a path to have all of our products available through e-commerce within the next month or so."
Selling on the Web is becoming increasingly important for his company, Ross points out, although sales from direct mail and the 800 phone line currently comprise most of WB's consumer-generated revenues.
In its online bookstore (coming soon), instead of referring customers to the 800 number, as it does now on its Web site, WB will offer a full range of products for sale, with easy ordering right from the Web site.