Book Business Conference‘Strikes Chord’ With Publishing Executives
Not even a George Clooney sighting could disrupt the 2006 Book Business Conference and Expo, which took place March 20-22 at the Hilton New York. The celebrity was filming his latest picture just feet away from the conference’s registration area and—predictably—attracted all sorts of ogling from attendees and passers-by, but it was the conference and expo that were the stars of the week.
Much like the industry it serves, the conference found itself in an unprecedented state of evolution when it kicked off on Monday, March 20. In its 10th year and amid revolutionary changes in the world of book publishing, this year’s conference expanded with the theme “How to Manage the Evolution” to include entire conference tracks addressing book publishing management, and marketing and distribution, in addition to its traditional focus on book manufacturing, workflow and production. The industry took notice, as registered attendance rose 126 percent over the previous year, and sitting in on a number of sessions actually meant standing.
“The outstanding growth in attendance this year demonstrated that the topics and the speakers lined up really struck a chord with our audience,” says Noelle Skodzinski, Book Business editor in chief and director of the conference’s educational program. “We expected a significant increase due to our expanded focus and more in-depth programming, but this surpassed our expectations.”
Publishing executives continually find themselves juggling heavier workloads and toting around lengthier job descriptions, all the while trying to navigate the uncertain future that is the book industry. The 2006 Book Business/BookTech Conference set out to help alleviate this apprehension. Many months of preparation went into lining up speakers from some of the industry’s most successful companies—from representatives at powerhouses like HarperCollins, Simon and Schuster and Random House, to success stories from mid-size publishers such as Quirk Books and Allworth Press. Panelists presented and debated such hot-button topics as new business models, global sourcing, multi-channel marketing, XML and environmental sustainability, among others.
“[The conference offered] clear, concise and informative content that directly helps our business,” says Jonah Spegman, business development manager, Lorman Business Center.
The expo drew increased interest this year as well. Vendors offering solutions and services from printing to prepress, e-publishing to packaging, crowded the Hilton’s exhibit hall. New exhibitors came out in droves, with 27 companies setting up shop for the first time at the show.
“I found BookTech 2006 to have a steady flow of qualified traffic,” says Ken Wollins, vice president of sales and marketing, Green Point Technology, a business process and data-services company. “I met with several high-level decision-makers who were genuine in their interest to consider new vendors.”
“As usual, [Book Business] 2006 was everything we expected—and more,” says Megan Giuffrida, marketing coordinator, Thomas Technology Solutions, Inc., a systems integrator and publishing-services company. “Our leads increased from previous years, and we found the leads to be not only ready to purchase or looking to purchase, but the individuals with recommendation or purchasing power. We were busy throughout the entire show, with very little down time, which is a good thing. We are very excited for next year’s show.”
Post-show surveys showed that 65 percent of conference attendees said they found new publishing solutions at the expo, and 88 percent intend to use the information they compiled in their upcoming purchasing decisions.
book publishing: the new business model
The conference’s programming kicked off on Monday with a star-studded panel addressing “Book Publishing: The New Business Model.” Margery Mayer, president of Scholastic Education, John Morse, president and publisher at Merriam-Webster, and Dan Weiss, publisher and managing director of Barnes & Noble’s Spark Publishing, discussed the business models that have garnered their respective companies such successes in recent years. The panel’s moderator, Peter Kreisky, chairman of the Kreisky Media Consultancy, set the tone for the rest of the conference when he kicked off the session noting, “The future is already here. Companies who expect a glorious past to shield them from the forces of change driven by advancing technologies will fail and fall. Power is moving away from the old elite in our industry, and a new generation of savvy media consumers has risen, demanding content delivered when they want it, how they want it and as they want it.”
Morse summed things up perhaps most succinctly when he asserted, “We are publishing in the Age of Also.” He acknowledged the fact that content will to continue to be output in the form of printed books and magazines, cable TV, satellite TV, computers, DVDs, etc. His message? “There isn’t a best answer for things anymore. There’s not a best way to have transportation, there’s not a best way for communicating, there’s not a best way for anything. There are just good ways.”
Morse adds that Merriam-Webster “celebrates the fact” that they are print publishers predominantly, but says, “We are print publishers contingently, which is to say that we are print publishers for so long as—and to the degree that—that’s the way users want to get their language information. And because we know that users want to get their language information in many different ways ... often in the same day.”
Weiss, who asserts that his company’s Spark Notes are “the foremost brand in underground supplemental education,” discussed the backwards route to his business model. “Barnes and Noble is traditionally a distributor, a retailer, not a publisher. So the model here is rather backwards ... we’re a distributor, looking for new ways to distribute to our customers ... and, by the way, if there are new products that can be pushed through those channels—digital or otherwise—let’s be in those businesses too.”
Weiss also answered a question of Kreisky’s that is among the most prevalent ones facing publishers today: Will there be enough book readers in the future to support the industry? Weiss said yes. “Kids need content in a variety of formats, and the book is a brilliant format for certain kinds of content .... There’s not a novel in the world I’d want to read online.”
Other Conference Highlights
Attracting the BookTech Conference’s traditional audience of book production, manufacturing and workflow professionals was a particularly popular session on Tuesday titled “Global Sourcing: Exploring Your Options.” Craig Bauer (Houghton Mifflin), Ken Coburn (Global Interprint), Andy Hughes (Knopf Publishing) and Dave Mead (Banta Book Group) spoke to a standing-room-only crowd about the benefits and risks of sourcing work overseas, what a publisher should expect and what could go wrong.
Perhaps the highlight of the conference’s marketing and distribution track came on Tuesday as well, when a panel of seven marketing mavens led a double-session on “Multi-channel Marketing for Book Sales.” Deb Allen (Black Dome Press), Sue Fleming (Simon & Schuster), Nicole Gallo (Rittenhouse Book Distributors), Jeff Gomez (Holtzbrinck), Peter Knapp (Wiley), Suzanne Murphy (Scholastic) and Sol Rosenberg (Dynamic Digital Content) spoke about the multi-pronged approaches to marketing their companies are employing. Among these channels were Web, e-mail and mobile marketing, in addition to partnerships and e-commerce.
On Wednesday, long-time industry scribe Eugene Schwartz, editor at large of ForeWord Magazine, moderated a double session and was joined by Bill Clockel (Integrated Book Technology), Bruce Miller (Pubnet and PubEasy), Phil Ollila (Ingram Book Group), Bob Ronk (Banta Book Group) and Marcella Smith (Barnes & Noble). The panelists discussed the challenges of and strategies for getting books into retail channels and into the hands of consumers.
Another highlight from Wednesday was “Book and Multimedia Packaging Up Close.” David Coho (Univenture) and Kevin Timpson (R.R. Donnelley) discussed everything from coordinating multiple vendors to managing production cycles to protecting and leveraging intellectual property. Attorney Charles Tolbert detailed many of the legal issues a publisher must consider regarding consumer products liability, including choking hazards, warning labels and proper product testing. He also strongly advocated a third-party tester.
“You really want to go with a product-safety testing agency,” he said. “[Have the agency] test your products. Make sure you have your attorney review the products to make sure there is no potential liability. Assess the risk .... Make sure that you safeguard against any injury or liability.”
A lively question-and-answer session with the audience presented the question of whether CDs and DVDs will remain relevant in a time when flash drives and iPods are becoming increasingly more popular. Coho pointed to recent studies alleviating these concerns, saying, “Statistics show that CD sales and production is going to continue through 2017, and then it is going to level off.”
So while the 2006 Book Business/BookTech Conference and Expo’s expansion led to the most diverse collection of attendees in its 10-year history, Kreisky touched on a common theme affecting nearly everyone in today’s industry: “The challenge for traditional media is how to engage with this new audience by using our skills to create and distribute dynamic, exciting content,” he said. “As long as publishers create must-read, must-have content and deliver it in the medium that suits the reader, they will endure.”
Above, the “Multi-channel Marketing for Book Sales” panel, featuring (left to right) Sol Rosenberg (Dynamic DC), Suzanne Murphy (Scholastic), Deb Allen (Black Dome Press), Jeff Gomez (Holtzbrinck), Nicole Gallo (Rittenhouse Book Distributors), Peter Knapp (Wiley) and Sue Fleming (Simon & Schuster). At right, this year’s exhibit hall featured the industry’s top companies and two days of steady traffic.
Tuesday’s “Global Sourcing: Exploring Your Options” drew a packed room of attendees. The panel featured (left to right) Ken Coburn (Global Interprint), Craig Bauer (Houghton Mifflin), Andy Hughes (Knopf), Dave Mead (Banta Book Group) and Samir Kakar (TechBooks).
- Allworth Press
- Banta Book Group
- Black Dome Press
- Dynamic Digital Content
- ForeWord Magazine
- Global Interprint
- Green Point Technology Solutions
- Holtzbrinck Publishers
- Ingram Book Group
- Integrated Book Technology
- Knopf Publishing
- Lorman Business Center
- Quirk Books
- Rittenhouse Book Distributors
- Scholastic Education
- Scholastic Inc.
- The Kreisky Media Consultancy LLC
- Thomas Technology Solutions
- Andy Hughes
- Bill Clockel
- Bob Ronk
- Bruce Miller
- Charles Tolbert
- Craig Bauer
- Dan Weiss
- Dave Mead
- David Coho
- Deb Allen
- Eugene Schwartz
- George Clooney
- Jeff Gomez
- John Morse
- Jonah Spegman
- Ken Coburn
- Ken Wollins
- Kevin Timpson
- Marcella Smith
- Margery Mayer
- Megan Giuffrida
- Nicole Gallo
- Peter Kreisky
- Phil Ollila
- Samir Kakar
- Simon Schuster
- Suzanne Murphy