Nominations for Book Business' third-annual list of Best Book Publishing Companies to Work For are currently being accepted
Who hasn’t tried the excuse, “My dog ate my homework,” on a teacher? Success with that excuse now is nearly impossible, according to experts in educational book publishing. So much of what teachers currently do involves digital materials and tools that, short of a network failure or computer glitch, a student would be hard-pressed to come up with a similar excuse.
"We’ve almost become accustomed to an uninterrupted flow of bad news,” said Michael Healy, executive director of the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) at the organization’s sixth-annual Making Information Pay event, held May 7 at the McGraw-Hill Auditorium in New York City. Falling sales, shrinking margins, closing bookstores and job losses are among the negatives facing the industry, noted Healy.
I am galvanized. Not only have I always wanted to say that, but it’s true. I am in awe of what is happening in this industry. Attending Making Information Pay (MIP) a couple of weeks ago fueled this feeling. A few things, in particular, struck a chord.
Book businesspeople are about to make the same mistake that has devastated the music and newspaper industries: worrying about whether a new digital format will cannibalize their traditional business rather than focusing on how to make the new format more competitive with other digital media.
Maybe divine intervention will reverse the profit slide for religious book publishers. But industry experts believe it also would be prudent to consider scaling back on titles, reducing returns, making intelligent use of data, investing in digital opportunities and otherwise adapting business models for future success.
"Wherever women are, we are,” says Malle Vallik, director, digital content and interactivity for Harlequin Enterprises. You’ll hear this mantra uttered by other Harlequin executives, but it is much more than corporate speak. It is part of a “deliberate strategy,” says Vallik, and the driving force behind Harlequin’s evolution over the past 60 years.
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.