Cover Story: Embracing a Different Publishing World
And … with the rapid development of digital printing technology, whereby it's possible to print single books at a time, this whole question has lost some of its bite.
NS: Do you have other significant revenue drivers?
Pfund: Oxford boasts a pretty diversified portfolio …, including higher education, Bibles, medicine, law, etc. The upside of this is that in some years, some areas are up, as with higher education this year … and some areas are down.
What was once our reference division has, within a decade, transformed itself into a largely online publishing unit, and this is one of the most exciting areas in the press.
We have a thriving translations, digital rights and new-business development arm that has been extremely successful in recent years, and changed the way we think about acquisitions and content development.
NS: What is its fastest-growing product segment or area?
Pfund: State secret. Although I will say … that, in a very challenging retail environment, our trade book sales increased over last year, due in part to a few particularly strong copyrights … and a very strong and steady new backlist.
NS: In which area of your business is OUP investing most heavily?
Pfund: We tend to invest aggressively in our core areas of academic research, higher education and online/reference.
NS: What do you see as the biggest threat to book publishers today?
Pfund: Anyone can get a book printed these days for a few hundred dollars. … Accordingly, publishers need to justify their role in the process not through words, but deeds—to show why editors, copy editors, designers, production, sales, marketing, publicity, etc., are critical to the success of a new book.
In the university press world, we already exist in a very nuanced and stratified subculture, and I think we do add considerable value …: soliciting expert outside advice to … improve submissions, developmental editing, line editing, copy editing, marketing to the very specific readerships to whom we cater, and … trying to keep our authors abreast of all these changes.