Industry Innovator: A Q&A with Larry Bennett of Bookmasters
Larry Bennett is president of Distribution Services at Bookmasters, responsible for global distribution of print and ebooks, as well as editorial services for the company’s domestic and international client publishers. He also manages the company’s foreign-language book development and distribution.
Book Business: What are some of the key challenges you are facing today as you try to grow your distribution business?
Larry Bennett: The printed book business is shrinking (numbers from a variety of sources indicate that ebooks represent approximately 20 percent of the trade market). As it shrinks, there is growing pressure on publishers, authors, wholesalers, distributors, sales reps and retailers to maintain margins. In order to do this, we need to continuously improve in many areas, including operational efficiencies to minimize cost, effectiveness in the sell-in of our better titles, aggressive pursuit of non-traditional markets and expanded services.
What are some opportunities you see for your customers?
Our client publishers have many more opportunities for incremental revenue than they did five years ago. For example, through digital printing, we can eke out incremental sales on deep backlist that in the past would have gone out of print. Our global POD program offers worldwide distribution. Our ebook Connect program allows them to sell their ebooks to the majors as well as to key retailers throughout Europe and Latin America.
The biggest changes have been the improving technology. We have invested heavily in a state-of-the-art inkjet printing system that allows for high-quality printing of one- or four-color books of one [book at a time], paperback or hardcover, at economical rates.
How has the advent of the ebook changed the distribution business?
Ebooks are having a profound impact. For wholesalers and distributors heavily invested in warehousing and logistics assets, if ebooks represent 20 percent of trade sales, then to maintain utilization rates, those wholesalers and distributors need to increase their title base by 20 percent a year to make up the shortfall. In the print business, systems have been developed to be able to send out one title feed to all trading partners through ONIX. In the Wild West of ebook distribution, the major resellers all have different metadata requirements, making it more challenging to get new titles loaded quickly and efficiently. Bookmasters is one of the few ebook distributors today that can nimbly do this because of our proprietary systems.
What about challenges in domestic v. global distribution?
The major U.S. resellers introduced their reading devices in the United States first, and then expanded internationally. Therefore, major retailers throughout Western Europe and Latin America have developed their own proprietary ebook programs. Bookmasters’ ebook distribution program provides these retailers with Adobe DRM-protected ebooks to give our client publishers maximum global penetration.
How does U.S. ebook adoption compare to what you’ve seen globally?
In Europe it varies country by country but it’s about half of the 20 percent market share in the U.S. In Latin America it’s been much slower to catch on because of the limited proliferation of credit cards.
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