The second C word is cannibalization. Here we followed a simple principle: create the products people want. That means it is better to cannibalize your own products than to have a competitor cannibalize them.
Accordingly, we created a range of products, each designed to appeal to a different kind of reader: the bundled version for trade distribution, a print-only edition for some institutional sales, a more fully featured CD-ROM for sale in software channels, and standalone subscriptions for the new Web site.
Do these versions compete with each other? Absolutely. Have we sacrificed some margin in making this bundle available? Probably.
But sooner or later some hungry publisher willing to sacrifice profit margin for market share would exploit this same opportunity. We decided that it is better to be the one who makes the bold move than be the one who has to respond to it.
Finally, there was the cross-platform development challenge, which can be best described as having to create three integrally related products that will roll out the door on the same day.
The actual number of products was even higher, because there would be three versions of the CD-ROM, as well as licensed products for e-book readers and handheld devices.
But in the end, it all worked. By the end of the first week of July, we had launched a print edition, a CD-ROM edition, a new Web site, a handheld edition from Franklin Electronic Publishers, and downloadable e-book versions from Franklin and Palm Digital Media.
To the best of our knowledge, no reference work has ever been launched on so many platforms at the same time. It's possible the 11th edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary is the first title of any kind to have a simultaneous, massively cross-media launch.