Content is King at World Book
Indeed, Childcraft is the first major revision of the series in 10 years; it went on press at the time Ross was interviewed in May. Also on press was the 10-volume series Animals of the World. Ten more volumes are scheduled for fall release, says Ross. Altogether, 40 volumes of Animals of the World are planned, in both print and digital format and for online distribution.
Online subscription service
Another new initiative is WB's online subscription service, available to consumers for $50 per year. The content, offered in American English and British English, is comprised of all articles from the 22-volume print set of the World Book Encyclopedia; about 3,200 additional stories; Web links to other articles, periodicals, newspapers, photos, maps, videos, bubble views and animation; and much more.
"All content is Web-enabled by a separate development team that handles programming and interface experience," says Ross. "The databases are in SGML, and are converted to HTML and XTML."
The service offers continually updated features such as "What's New," "Today in History," "Feature of the Month," "Behind the Headlines," "What's Happening This Month?" and "Subscriber News."
The differences between the American and British editions are many, Ross explains. For example, the British English edition has more in-depth information on other countries, while the American English version offers extensive state-by-state coverage.
This month, Ross reports, WB started offering a global version of its online service, which will allow users to go back and forth between the American and British English versions.
The sales revenue from WB's online service grew more than three times during the past year, Ross reports. "We don't see a huge increase necessarily in e-commerce as much as a sales increase from our online service, World Book Online," he muses. "That's our jewel."
"The question," he continues, "is, what's the right business model that will allow us to get the revenues we need to continue to put the quality we expect into the product."