Are You Ready for the Future
The one thing that remains constant in the book publishing industry is change. That seems to be the underlying response from book publishing industry leaders interviewed by Book Business magazine in various market segments—trade, educational, professional, scientific, technical and medical, university presses among others. These top executives describe the challenges they foresee in the industry, and their strategies for making the years ahead profitable:
• William J. Pesce, president and CEO, John Wiley & Sons Inc.
• Lisa Holton, president, Scholastic Trade Books and Book Fairs
• Philip Shaw, managing director, Elsevier Science and Technology Books
• Eric Beck, vice president of sales and marketing, Continental Press
• Tina Weiner, publishing director, Yale University Press
• Jim Jordan, president and director, Columbia University Press
• Patricia Schroeder, president and CEO, Association of American Publishers.
William J. Pesce is president and chief executive officer of John Wiley & Sons Inc. (www.Wiley.com), a position he has held since 1998. The Hoboken, N.J.-based company is a publisher of print and electronic products, specializing in scientific, technical and medical books and journals; professional and consumer books and subscription services; and textbooks and other educational materials for undergraduate and graduate students. Among Wiley’s most well-known books are the highly successful “Frommer’s” travel guides, the “for Dummies” books, including “Home Buying for Dummies,” “Home Networking for Dummies,” “Troubleshooting Your PC for Dummies,” and hundreds of others. The company has published thousands of e-books.
What are some of the challenges you anticipate will impact the book publishing industry during 2006?
Pesce: Some of the challenges facing publishers include customer concerns about price and value, the ongoing evolution to the digital world, the impact of world events, and changing ordering patterns by intermediaries.
What are your strategies for making the year profitable?
Pesce: Wiley’s strategies include exploiting our global positions and brands by collaborating across organizational and geographic boundaries, and constantly striving to improve the quality of our products and services around the world; capitalizing on the connections among our core businesses to better serve customers and drive growth; pursuing partnerships and alliances with highly regarded organizations to add content, services and capabilities to our portfolio; building on our successful track record with acquisitions by consummating transactions that are strategic and financially responsible, and executing our integration plans effectively by adhering to a best-practices approach; and leveraging our investments in technology to create value for our customers, facilitate communication with our stakeholders, and increase productivity throughout the company.
What kinds of changes have you implemented to prepare for the years ahead?
Pesce: As we continue to meet the needs of the global marketplace, our role as content provider is evolving. The demand for academic, professional and general interest information in digital form remains on the upswing, together with wide acceptance of the Internet as an effective channel for ordering products and services. Increasingly, we are making our content available on the Web and linked to a wide variety of sources available on the Web. Over the past five years, we have introduced more new business models than we had in the previous 193 years, in part because we are no longer limited by the physicality of books or journals. Our investments in technology are enabling us to make our must-have content available to our customers to use in their professional and personal lives with greater immediacy, utility and flexibility than ever before.
Lisa Holton is president of Scholastic Trade Books and Book Fairs—part of the New York-based publisher Scholastic Inc. (www.Scholastic.com). Scholastic is the largest publisher and distributor of children’s books in the United States, publishing more than 750 new hardcover, paperback and novelty books each year, including some of the most well-known and widely read books in children’s book history. Its publishing properties include the “Harry Potter” series, “Captain Underpants,” the series “Clifford The Big Red Dog,” “I Spy” and “The Magic School Bus,” as well as licensed properties such as “Barney,” “Star Wars” and “Scooby Doo.”
What are some of the challenges you anticipate will impact the book publishing industry as a whole in 2006?
Holton: Books are competing with other media for the time and attention of even the most avid readers. Capturing the reader, particularly the young reader, requires getting the right book into the right hands at the right time.
What are some challenges that you foresee in your segment of the industry?
Holton: Obviously 2005 was a big year for children’s books with the publication of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” and with many new readers of the series starting in on book one, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” In 2006 we will need to keep those Harry Potter readers engaged with our exciting new titles, while at the same time educating new parents about the importance of sharing books with their babies and toddlers.
What are some of your strategies for making this year profitable?
Holton: At Scholastic, we are focusing on bringing the right books to the right market. The children’s book market is made up of a lot of different channels, each with its own marketing, promotion and customer needs. We are focusing our spending on individual markets, while cutting back on more generalized promotion. At the same time, this channel focus is helping us reduce our returns, which in turn, improves profitability.
What changes has Scholastic made to prepare?
Holton: We are in the process of decentralizing our creative team, and have realigned the sales and marketing department to more closely serve our customers’ needs in bringing books to market in each channel.
What kinds of trends do you see beyond 2006?
Holton: The convergence of print media and electronic media will continue to be a trend beyond 2006. What form that will take is yet to be seen. To date, kids have not embraced e-books, but with the right gadget, it is conceivable that kids will ultimately move to more technology-based reading. Despite the technology, however, families and kids are looking for ways to spend time together, and books are still one of the great human connectors. So, I think kids and adults will continue to be drawn to beautiful, quality children’s books.
Philip Shaw is the Oxford, U.K.-based managing director at Elsevier
Science and Technology Books (www.Elsevier.com), part of Elsevier Group PLC, headquartered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, with locations in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, Africa and Latin America. Elsevier is a global multimedia publisher of scientific, technical and medical information products. It is a pioneer in information-sharing, creating advanced technologies to deliver research and clinical information to the desktop. It is a publisher and provider of more than 20,000 products and services, including journals, books, electronic products, services, databases and portals serving the global scientific, technical and medical (STM) communities.
What are some of the challenges you anticipate will impact the book publishing industry as a whole during 2006?
Shaw: The biggest challenges I foresee are related to the rapid changes in the electronic delivery of information, and to striking the right balance between copyright control and the protection of author and rights-holder’s interests versus the customer’s expectation to have content available free via the Internet.
What challenges do you foresee for your segment of the industry?
Shaw: Some of the challenges STM publishing faces for the future also represent important growth opportunities for publishers like Elsevier. For example, the integration of reference and research content into information tools that support the workflow of both scientists/researchers and health-care practitioners to improve productivity and efficiency. Two examples of our product development that are designed to respond to these needs are Engineering Village, [which] incorporates and integrates professional content from 300 books in a reference library known as REFEREX. The other is MDConsult, which has 275,000 registered users, includes 40-plus key reference texts covering 27 major specialties, 1,000 practice guidelines, and patient education materials. One-hundred percent of physicians surveyed said MDConsult improves patient care and helps answer clinical questions more quickly.
Another challenge is the unlicensed distribution of professional and textbook content on peer-to-peer networks and the Internet. Elsevier continuously seeks out new ways to optimize our reference and educational tools in print and electronic formats that are tailor-made to the specific information needs of students, faculty and health-care practitioners worldwide. This way we aim to add value to the content through format and functionality. For example, in addition to print formats, Elsevier publishes many reference works via ScienceDirect and other platforms to allow for extensive browsing and advanced searching across subject, theme, alphabetical, author and cited author indexes, as well as internal cross-referencing between articles in the work. This also allows for dynamic linking to journal articles and abstract databases, making navigation flexible and easy, and the breadth of information broader.
Finally, another challenge is managing the integration of textbook content into institutional virtual learning environments (VLEs) without impacting textbook sales. In addition to licensing some of our educational content for use in institutional VLEs, Elsevier has launched and is continuing to develop a range of products, which are designed to enhance the student’s learning experience. For example, Virtual Clinical Excursions, now in its third edition, is a software-based system that allows nursing students to enter a simulated clinical setting, work with a set of complex patients and access very detailed patient records. Students are required to collect and review assessment data, determine priorities for care, observe and analyze nurse-client-family interactions, administer medications competently, and practice time-management skills.
What are some trends you see for the years ahead?
Shaw: The trends for 2006 and beyond will undoubtedly include increasing acceleration of new distribution channels for electronic book content and the discovery of that content through search; accelerated growth of VLEs within education institutions; and the continued integration of scientific journal and book content into productivity tools for researchers and professionals.
What changes have you made in your organization to plan for the future?
Shaw: Elsevier recently completed a comprehensive strategic review of its science and technology division, and identified opportunities to better align our organizational structure more closely with the evolving needs of our customers in a rapidly changing and dynamic market environment. To ensure that we can consistently deliver the highest-quality content, products and services that meet our customers’ needs, a new organizational structure was introduced to mirror the communities we serve. Five business units have been created to serve specific customer segments, including academic and governmental institutes, research-intensive industries and individuals working at these organizations. We are confident that this new structure will support Elsevier Science and Technology in capturing new growth opportunities in both traditional and new markets.
Eric Beck is vice president of sales and marketing at Continental Press (www.ContinentalPress.com) in Elizabethtown, Pa. The family owned company has been publishing K-12 educational materials for students, teachers and administrators for more than 65 years. It acquired Seedling Publications in 2002 and currently has approximately 100 employees.
What challenges do you foresee in the book publishing industry as a whole for 2006?
Beck: [The] cost of producing books from inception to manufacturing has increased dramatically, however the market has been reluctant to accept higher prices.
What challenges do you anticipate impacting your segment of the book-publishing industry during 2006?
Beck: Shrinking school budgets, more federal oversight for districts trying to get federal dollars, which hurts the supplemental companies.
What kinds of trends do you see in educational book publishing beyond 2006?
Beck: Continuation of testing of students in all disciplines. More small and mid-size companies forming partnerships in creating full-service packages.
What are some of your strategies for making the year profitable for your company?
Beck: [We have] created a careful marketing plan and paid more attention to our current customer base as opposed to prospecting for new customers. Over the last two years, we have tracked [purchases by] current customers for prospecting purposes, and hitting our current customers more often has paid larger dividends.
Are there any other changes you have made?
Beck: We have streamlined in all areas and consistently try to add new personnel as we continue to grow.
Tina Weiner is publishing director at Yale University Press (www.Yale.edu/yup) in New Haven, Conn. The press was formally made a department of Yale University in 1961, but remains financially and operationally autonomous. It has published more than 7,000 titles, including scholarly books on history, literature, economics and language, and books of poetry and even children’s books, during 95 years of operation. Yale was one of the forerunners of electronic publishing, as one of the first university presses to publish a multimedia CD-ROM, “Perseus.”
What challenges do you foresee in the publishing industry?
Weiner: The amount of time readers spend surfing on the Web and reading online versus reading in print form.
What challenges do you anticipate in your segment of the book industry?
Weiner: [The] impact of the used-book market on course books and declining sales to libraries.
What do you foresee impacting academic publishers in the years beyond 2006?
Weiner: More availability of information online instead of in print form.
What are some of your strategies for 2006 to make the year profitable?
Weiner: Selling more bulks through creative promotion, greater use of radio interviews and electronic outreach, and seeking out nontraditional sales outlets.
What are some of the changes that you made at your organization to plan for the future?
Weiner: [We have] increased [our] staff in [our] publicity and electronic marketing departments.
Jim Jordan is president and director of Columbia University Press (www.Columbia.edu/cu/cup) in New York. It is a nonprofit corporation separate from Columbia University, although it is closely associated. It is the only university press to publish music, and it distributes books on behalf of other organizations and publishers. It ventured into electronic publishing in 1990, when The Concise Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia went online on the Columbia University network. Currently, it publishes a variety of CD-ROMs. Its first four publications online are “Columbia International Affairs Online (CIAO),” “The Columbia Granger’s World of Poetry Online,” “Earthscape” and “The Columbia Gazetteer of the World Online.”
What challenges do you foresee impacting the book publishing industry as a whole over the next year?
Jordan: The biggest immediate challenge is facilitating the widest possible access to and usage of copyrighted materials online without undermining copyright and the control of intellectual property, or eroding the revenue streams to authors and publishers that reward and encourage creative work. Google’s plans for Book Search need to be re-examined and refined through compromise with libraries, publishers and authors to sustain a vibrant book industry in the future.
What challenges do you anticipate in your segment of the book-publishing industry?
Jordan: For academic publishers, the goal is as always to publish books that bring the outstanding scholarship being written in universities, think tanks, print publications and other centers of critical thought to the wider community of scholars and general readers. Whether the topic is poverty, climate change, terrorism or the translation of important foreign works of literature, university presses have a vital role to play in disseminating knowledge. Universities are under assault in some quarters for being remote and disconnected. Book publishing can and should provide a necessary corrective.
Another challenge? The Internet has great potential that remains untapped for book publishers. Among other things, Columbia is developing more targeted marketing campaigns using its Web site and electronic outreach, and will make more of its publications available to readers from its own Web site in the future.
Plus, together with other university presses, Columbia sees a leadership role for scholarly publishers and university libraries to take in fostering an understanding and appreciation for the value of copyright among scholars, students, and the general public.
Finally, finding new models to support the cost of publishing academic work that may enjoy only limited readership beyond the academy. In order to thrive in this environment and remain competitive, creative thinking is essential both to produce this work less expensively and to finding more cost-effective means of bringing it to readers. Columbia’s strategy for online publishing is intended to supplement declining print monograph sales in libraries with new forms of electronic access to this material.
What are some trends you see beyond 2006?
Jordan: Trends I hope to see [are that] readers and researchers will increasingly use the Internet as their primary source of information on every subject, and will find and read books as a byproduct of their online explorations. More publishers begin to make initial publication decisions and marketing plans based on their expectations for the digital lives of their publications. Substantial sales of electronic books, both as complete books and as disaggregated chapters begin to accrue.
In the future, most, if not all books will be perpetually available through print-on-demand, and agents and authors will recognize print-on-demand and digital editions … as viable publications …. Electronic sales will complement rather than compete with print sales. Print book publishing will continue to thrive.
What are your strategies for making the year profitable?
Jordan: Continue to publish the most outstanding manuscripts we can lay our hands on. Drive more of our content online. And finally, learn what online users want and adapt to better suit their needs.
What changes have you made in your organization?
Jordan: Columbia University Press has been publishing for 112 years. We expect to grow as a top-tier scholarly publisher in future years by focusing on our core, enhancing key programs in the life sciences, finance and economics where Columbia University is strong, and by strengthening and building our reference and electronic publishing programs. In addition, we are working to provide new electronic and distribution services to our fellow publishers through our newly renovated warehouse facility in Irvington, N.Y.
Any other parting thoughts you want to share?
Jordan: The most important advantage a university press can have is a conviction among its university’s faculty and administration in the contribution publishing makes to the intellectual life of the community and the world. There is no more eloquent statement of this belief than the several million dollars Columbia University will invest over the next few years in the growth of our publishing program. I think this relationship makes both the university and the press better equipped to handle whatever may come in the future.
Patricia Schroeder is president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Publishers (www.Publishers.org). The trade group, based in Washington, D.C., represents more than 300 members, comprising most major commercial book publishers, and smaller and medium-sized houses, nonprofit publishers, university presses and scholarly societies.
What’s the biggest challenge facing the book publishing industry in 2006?
Schroeder: The Internet challenge is a huge one …. We currently have a lawsuit against Google. Google claims it can make two full digital copies of any book in any library without the copyright holder’s permission. If Google is not stopped, publishers can only sell the paper product, not a digital one. Publishers and authors don’t own paper and print companies; the business is providing content and intellectual property. … It would be devastating for the book community to be locked out of any other form of delivery of their writings than delivery by print on paper.
If Google is able to change the law, everyone can … make full copies of books without permission …. Since publishers and authors are basically investment bankers in intellectual property, if Google can change the laws, the business model crashes. This lawsuit’s success is critical to the book publishing industry as a whole for the future.
What other challenges does the industry face beyond 2006?
Schroeder: The trends in the market are always changing. Book publishers eagerly embraced e-books … way before the public was ready. Now the public seems more accepting, so gradually the market will adjust. Publishers’ announcements that they will sell books by the page are an interesting new idea. I think there will be a lot more creative ideas coming to the market.
Brian R. Hook is a St. Louis-based freelance journalist. He has written for dozens of publishers, including Dow Jones, U.S. News & World Report, and Kiplinger’s. Contact him by e-mail at BRHook@msn.com.