Cover Story: Embracing a Different Publishing World
NS: What do you see as the biggest opportunity?
Pfund: What has been too often overlooked in recent years, given the barrels of ink devoted to e-books and e-book devices, is the transformative role of digital printing and print-on-demand technologies. For a "long-tail" publisher such as OUP, this is arguably the most revolutionary development since the roll-out of the paperback. I'm not sure this is actually really an opportunity at this point, since at most presses it … has now been fully realized …, but it has been a major, major factor.
NS: What is the best decision you've made in the past year?
Pfund: Keeping my editors happy, or at least trying. We have a spectacularly good group of people at the press—smart, professional, driven—and our success is squarely tied to the continuity we've enjoyed.
NS: What keeps you awake at night?
Pfund: What makes me a bit anxious is the advent of patron-driven acquisitions (PDA), a new methodology via which college and university libraries are beginning to order books [based on patron requests]. But, as with all the other various changes that have buffeted us in recent years, I have every confidence we'll figure out how best to continue fulfilling our mission in a PDA-influenced environment.
NS: What is your best tip for others navigating a rapidly changing market?
Pfund: … Publishers sometimes … presume that being an early adopter is preferable to sitting back and waiting to see how certain things shake out.
We're in this pre-Cambrian era of innovation, during which new products and platforms and business models are coming at us fast and furious. … But the old chestnut about incremental change often being more effective than radical change comes to mind here. … Over the last decade, if we'd leapt at every new business opportunity dangled in front of us, we'd have spent an inordinate amount of time and resource on projects that soon evaporated, and so I think there's a real utility to being at the table, but not necessarily being the first player to make a bet.