With no government bailout in sight to rescue their ailing industries, more than 1,200 book- and magazine-publishing executives convened at the 2009 Publishing Business Conference & Expo in New York City, March 23-25, in search of strategies to help them weather the worsening storm. And while much of the discussion centered around cost-cutting, the topic of innovation took center stage throughout the event, which featured nearly 60 educational sessions and more than 125 speakers.
From multimillion-dollar acquisitions to multimillion-dollar best-sellers, powerful women stand at every pivotal, decision-making point in the book publishing process. Book Business’ first annual “50 Top Women in Book Publishing” feature recognizes and honors some of these industry leaders who affect and transform how publishing companies do business, and what—and how—consumers read.
Steve Mettee picks up ideas from the world around him. Traveling, reading the paper, browsing in a bookstore—he’s the type to notice what’s there and what’s missing, and think about how the publishing company he founded, Quill Driver Books, can meet needs and fill in gaps. And once he’s latched on to an idea, he’s loathe to let it go.
On his “Publishing 2020” blog, Joe Wikert, general manager of O’Reilly Media’s Technology Exchange Division, mused recently about the long-term viability of the closely watched deal between Borders and HarperStudio, whereby the bookstore chain will purchase HarperStudio titles at a 10-percent to 15-percent discount in exchange for accepting a no-returns agreement. As a result, Wikert wrote, Borders will probably be less aggressive with initial buys and could find itself out of stock in the face of a hit—not a good situation for either party. On the other hand, having to sell all of the books it purchases most likely means Borders will more aggressively market HarperStudio titles—just the sort of incentive lacking in the current system.
It can’t have escaped the attention of anyone in the book business that we’re working through the toughest trading conditions that any of us have experienced. In the course of just a few months, we have become accustomed to a flood of bad news from our industry—declining book sales in most outlets, significant job losses, traditional sales channels shrinking and consolidating, and consumer confidence at an all-time low. If you add into the picture declining literacy skills and the apparently irresistible attraction of other types of media, it’s tempting to succumb to persistent pessimism and certainly to abandon the view that comforted many for so long—that we work in a recession-proof industry.
The Harry Potter Lexicon (HP-Lexicon.org) was started by librarian and “Harry Potter” enthusiast Steve Vander Ark as an online index of everything you ever wanted to know about the famous boy wizard and his imaginary, magical world, as told in the mega-selling “Harry Potter” book series.
White River Junction, Vt.-based independent publisher Chelsea Green received strong criticism from retailers, both large and small, last August after it made a deal with Amazon.com to exclusively sell one of its new titles, Robert Kuttner’s “Obama’s Challenge: America’s Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency,” for the first few weeks of its release. In response, Barnes & Noble cut its initial order for the book, selling the title online, but not in its stores, while some independent booksellers vowed not to order from the publisher again.
There are a host of practical tips for managing print production in the digital age—many are highlighted in this issue of Book Business. While working on a list of such tips—from effectively positioning outsource partners to support your supply chain goals to building content workflow around an XML-based strategy—I was diverted by a conversation with Howard Goldstein, vice president for strategic sourcing at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). Goldstein was recently relocated from Boston to Orlando to help oversee HMH’s major transition to outsourced manufacturing management and offshore manufacturing.
It’s a meltdown out there. Financial institutions are crumbling, the government is stumbling and your customers are about as bearish as a grizzly the day before it hibernates. When your retail customers’ sales are down, it means yours will be too—along with higher returns and slower payments. So how can you protect yourself? How can you hedge (do we dare use that term anymore?) your cash position and get payments more quickly? Here are 15 tips you can implement tomorrow to help you through this slough of despond.
Implementing a new content management system (CMS)—whether a traditional CMS, a Web CMS (often called a WMS), or both—is, to say the least, a daunting task. Integrating past content and anticipating future needs, all while trying to meet the requirements of present constituents, leaves the process riddled with potential for missteps. It’s no wonder experts in CMS implementation stress the need for adequate preparation.
It is a challenging time to be a publisher, to be sure. David Hetherington, a 25-year book publishing veteran, describes the current climate as a “perfect storm, as various forces converge to create what may prove to be a truly unique ‘weather system’ for the book publishing industry.” He believes that the combination of the credit crisis and an economy in recession, coupled with a skittish consumer mentality, rising oil prices and the fluctuating dollar, will have a different impact on each major industry sector. “The question will be one of degree. Which sector,” he questions, “will have the toughest time, and how will they respond to the challenges?”
The "Best Book Publishing Companies to Work For" is a project conducted by Book Business in conjunction with the Best Companies Group, an independent research firm that specializes in finding and recognizing great places to work. The study was free and open to all public and privately held organizations, either for-profit or nonprofit. To be eligible, companies had to be book publishing companies that have been in business for at least one year and are based in the United States, with a minimum of 15 employees.
Average number of years the highest-ranking official has been in office: 15.7 89% offer performance bonus or incentive programs to all employees 70% offer telecommuting options 70% offer the option to work compressed work weeks 70% provide an Employee Assistance Program, which offers counseling to employees on a range of issues, such as stress management, family or parenting issues, smoking cessation, elder-care issues, financial management, etc. 70% have on-site facilities that promote exercise and fitness 60% offer on-site fitness/wellness programs 40% pay all or part of employees' costs for health-club memberships or fitness/wellness programs 80% provide cafeteria or meal subsidies, free daily snacks or beverages (a few even provide free cafeteria meals) 50% provide adoption assistance, usually in the form of reimbursement for adoption-related expenses, up to $2,500-$5,000 80% provide domestic partner benefits 90% offer tuition reimbursement (a couple pay 100%)But it isn't all about benefits.
"I think publishing is the greatest team sport invented," says David Young, chairman and CEO of Hachette Book Group (HBG). "We work hard to have fun and celebrate success, and deal with problems as a team. That's what we try [to] foster here."
Teamwork: To Young and others at Hachette, it's much more than just a vague notion. It's a guiding philosophy, a strategy cultivated during difficult, transitional times, and one that has helped the company grow. It's also one of the main reasons Hachette has been selected as this year's "Best Book Publishing Company to Work For."
Durham, N.C.-based Duke University Press (DUP) is hoping to reverse the trend of declining hardcover-book sales to libraries by offering those libraries its full list—approximately 100 new scholarly titles per year and a backlist of over 900 titles—electronically on Ebrary (ebrary.com). By purchasing through Ebrary a subscription to DUP's list, called the e-Duke Books Scholarly Collection, an unlimited number of simultaneous users at the subscribing library can access the content and utilize Ebrary's searching, navigating, archiving and other research tools.
This year’s Frankfurt Book Fair was held Oct. 15-19 in Frankfurt, Germany, and drew 299,112 attendees. That number represented a 5.6-percent increase over last year, and also set a record since the fair moved to five days from six in 2004. The event, which celebrated its 60th anniversary, also featured a total of 7,373 exhibitors from 100 countries. “Digitization draws people to Frankfurt,” says Juergen Boos, book fair director, in response to the record-breaking attendance. “One of the main reasons for the increase in trade visitors is the need for guidance with regards to the new business models and fields of business which digitization
Richard E. Abel is a publishing renaissance man. From establishing publishing companies and owning his own bookstore to founding a book marketing and distribution company and writing his own works, Abel has had his hand in nearly every area of publishing. At age 83, time has not put a dent in his passion for the industry, even after his cardiologist’s advice to slow down after his third heart attack led him to sell Timber Press, the Portland-based horticultural niche publishing house that he started 30 years ago. Abel will receive the Publishers Association of the West’s Jack D. Rittenhouse Award at the organization’s
Startup publisher Flat World Knowledge has secured $700,000 in new funding from independent investors, bringing its total funding to date to $1.4 million. The company, which was launched in August by textbook-publishing veterans Jeff Shelstad and Eric Frank, publishes free, open-source college textbooks online, with the option to purchase alternate formats of its content, including print and audio, and other study aids. Shelstad, who serves as chief executive officer of Flat World Knowledge, says he was “pleased” with the amount of funding raised. “Our investors recognize that higher education is one of the few markets that actually benefits from recessionary economic environments,” he says.
Merriam-Webster’s President and Publisher John Morse likes to think of the reference giant not just as a publisher, but as an information provider. “You have to know that your core competency is your ability to develop new content for which there is [a] clear and present need,” he says of the company, which he has led for more than a decade. One of Merriam-Webster’s latest endeavors in developing new content is the recent introduction of its “Advanced Learner’s English Dictionary”—an entirely new dictionary created by Merriam-Webster’s editorial staff, and the first advanced learner’s dictionary from an American publisher. The 1,994-page dictionary features in-depth coverage
Imagine being able to tell your grandkids that you worked on the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper” album, or on “Star Wars”—playing an important role in the creation of a cultural phenomenon that anyone would be proud to claim as the capstone of their career. Francine Colaneri, the book industry’s 2008 Publishing Executive Hall of Fame inductee, is just that lucky. As vice president of manufacturing and supply chain at global children’s education and media company Scholastic Inc. (New York), she was instrumental in coordinating the manufacture and distribution of all seven books in the “Harry Potter” series published in the United States. “We