Inside Digital Content Provider Partnerships: Q&A with Rosemary Carlough, Vice President of Marketing, AMACOM Books
Books24x7—a SkillSoft Company located in Norwood, Mass.—is a provider of Web-based digital technical and business reference content, containing over 7,000 digitized reference books, research reports, documentation and articles. Books24x7’s hosted Web-based platform allows users to search, browse and read collections of content assembled through its partnerships with publishers.
One publishing partner is AMACOM Books, the book publishing division of the American Management Association (AMA). The New York-based publisher specializes in critical business topics and leadership challenges of today and tomorrow.
Book Business Extra interviewed Rosemary Carlough, vice president of marketing, about AMACOM’s partnership with Books24x7 and the services it provides for publishers.
EXTRA: What are some of the areas you oversee at AMACOM Books?
ROSEMARY CARLOUGH: I am responsible for all the revenue that comes from our books area. We are strong in trade sales and also very active in selling translation rights for our titles. I was previously in periodical publishing, so I’ve been working with digital content providers for a long time, since journals had digital content many years before books did. When I moved back into the book area at AMA, the digital growth was just beginning, and it’s been an interesting decade.
EXTRA: How does AMACOM use a service like Books24x7?
CARLOUGH: Books24x7’s tag line is that they are the leading provider of “Referenceware,” and I think that does a good job of describing them. We tell our authors that they include our titles in databases of digital content, which they license to companies. Since they have focused their sales efforts on the corporate marketplace, their clients have been a perfect fit for our book list.
EXTRA: What do you feel other book publishers can gain from a service like Books24x7?
CARLOUGH: All publishers do a lot of work before a title gets to market, and the shelf life of many products, particularly trade books, is very short. But there is excellent content in many books that has ongoing value. And some users really only need a piece of your content, [and] probably would not have purchased the whole book, but will discover it in Books24x7. When that happens, both the publisher and the author get some revenue. Services like Books24x7 help keep content accessible for users and provide an ongoing income stream for publishers and authors. With some digital models you are only paid when the initial digital content is sold to someone, be it an individual or a library. But with Books24x7 we have an ongoing revenue stream based on the usage of our titles in their platform, which is very nice.
EXTRA: What tips or advice can you give publishers when searching for digital vendors to partner with?
CARLOUGH: I think one of the key things publishers need to do is understand what market the digital vendor is targeting. The reason working with Books24x7 has been such a win-win for AMACOM, is that they are selling to a market that is the same as our traditional business market. As we have expanded into other areas in order to grow our trade business, some of the areas we have gone into, such as parenting and personal finance, they are now offering as well. Their software platform is very easy to use and navigate around in, so it provides good value to the companies who license it, and they have a reputation for good service. As a supplier of content, we have found them very easy to work with, which is a real plus for a small publisher like AMACOM.
EXTRA: Do many of your titles earn past their prime with a service like Books24x7?
CARLOUGH: That’s a good question, and I’ve never done a historical analysis by title and published date. I do know that titles in certain subject areas, particularly project management, have very long legs in Books24x7, as do our AMA self-study products, which do very well and cover many basic management subjects. On one hand, some of our most popular books in trade are also popular in Books24x7, but there are other titles that are slow sellers in our traditional channels but get lots of traction in Books24x7. Books24x7 allows customers to search for and use this content easily long after it may have disappeared from the shelves of a local bookstore, because the content never expires there.
EXTRA: How is a price determined for a publisher to partner with a company like Books24X7?
CARLOUGH: Every digital content provider has a business model, and you need to understand their model and work with them. The nice thing about Books24x7 is that the revenue stream is ongoing and based on usage, not just on the initial purchase of a title. Models based on sales rather than usage still tend to favor frontlist books and don’t help your backlist revenue, which is what really pumps your profit.