Strategically Speaking: Surviving Volatility
As for higher-education, a former colleague suggested that the year-to-date decline may be the first clear evidence that textbook rental is taking hold, and with digital textbook options growing exponentially, who knows what the fall rush will bring.
What does all this mean in practical terms? It certainly doesn't mean that you should be selling off what's left of your 401K, but this is perhaps the time to start looking at your business—the fundamental processes, the organizational structure, and the bricks-and-mortar infrastructure—and evaluating all of those elements against a future that's likely to be very different three to five years from now. Start evaluating the possible outcomes, and your personal and organizational options for responding to an industry landscape that's unlikely to have any of the predictability we have come to expect.
Some might see this volatile environment as anxiety-provoking and the end of the world as we know it. However, this new era we are entering has the potential to be an extraordinarily exciting time for the book publishing industry, and more is to be gained by embracing the changes than fighting them.
The publishing industry has many traditions that have long outlived their usefulness, and if we keep an open mind and are willing to ask the tough questions about the status quo, the industry will be the better for it. BB
David Hetherington is director of major account sales for Baker & Taylor's Digital Service Group and an adjunct professor at the Pace University Graduate School of Book and Magazine Publishing. He was previously managing director for strategic business development for Integrated Book Technology, and has held senior positions in finance, operations and manufacturing with some of the industry's largest firms, including Simon & Schuster, Reader's Digest Association, BearingPoint Consulting, Wolters Kluwer Health and Columbia University Press.