Optimizing Your Web Presence
“We have two competing missions,” Jensen says. “One to disseminate as widely as possible the works of the academy. The other is to be a self-sustaining publisher. They say give everything away, but make enough money to survive. But in this case, the books are perceived by our institution as a way to get the ideas out in the public-policy land, to advise the nation on science, technology and medicine. The books are a means to that end. We don’t craft them to be salable commodities. That’s a different thing than a lot of publishers. The private sector tends to have a lot more of that [kind of] publishing than the commercial sector, naturally.”
The NAP’s experiment showed that its audience was willing to accept an electronic version of the work without completely destroying the print sales. The result was increased online traffic and greater dissemination of information. They found the right balance of openness and marketing, and the conversion ratio of visitors to purchasers is growing.
Despite all the breakthroughs that Jensen has bared witness to in the past few years, he concedes there still will be an audience for books for many years to come.
“It’s certainly true that paper is not going to go away,” Jensen says. “Part of this transitional period is that it’s going to be shades of gray. It’s not going to be all digital or all paper. Books will be around for my lifetime. … The Web is not the best medium for book material, but we can use the Web to promote and advertise and let people taste and sample.”