No Rest for the BISG: Book Industry Study Group’s annual meeting highlights the achievements of a busy year.
If anyone has doubts about the Book Industry Study Group’s (BISG) influence and impact on the book-publishing industry, sitting in on the organization’s annual meeting Sept. 12, at the Yale Club of New York in New York City, would have likely changed their mind.
In the past year alone, the organization published five publications (including three new publications) and launched two new certification programs, among other efforts to fulfill its mission of “creating a more informed, empowered and efficient book industry.”
“This fiscal year was another very successful and productive year for the BISG,” said Dominique Raccah, BISG co-chair and publisher/CEO of independent publisher Sourcebooks, as she welcomed the 145 BISG members in the audience.
“Our message has never been more relevant than in tough times, and tough times are on us now,” said BISG Executive Director Michael Healy.
Healy discussed BISG’s recent activities in-depth, highlighting the publications BISG published this year:
•“Book Industry Trends”: BISG’s annual report provides detailed estimates on book sales and publishing revenue, as well as financial projections for the years ahead. An advisory group was established this year to conduct a review of the report’s methodology, and significant changes will be made to the 2009 report.
•“BISAC Subject Headings”: Published in Oct. 2007 (with a 2008 edition scheduled for publication in the next month) to set a standard that can be used throughout the supply chain to categorize books based on topical content and determine where the work is shelved in a retail store, among other uses.
•“The Identification of Digital Book Content”: Published for the first time in January, to initiate a discussion of issues relating to e-books and how e-book content should be identified in the supply chain to support discovery (search), sales and reporting, and to encourage the development of standards in this area.
•“Environmental Trends and Climate Impacts: Findings from the U.S. Book Industry”: Published for the first time in March, to provide a systematic look at the book industry’s carbon footprint and recommend steps companies can take to improve their environmental performance. (Healy noted that BISG also is a founding partner of the newly formed Book Industry Environmental Council.)
•“From Experimentation to Innovation in the Digital Age”: Published for the first time this year, to coincide with BISG’s “Making Information Pay” event in May, to explore a series of 10 case studies in innovative publishing approaches and share the results of a study on innovation conducted by BISG and The Idea Logical Corp. earlier in the year.
Healy also outlined BISG’s new certification programs, both launched in February:
•Product Data Certification Program (PDCP): Publishers can submit files of product information to BISG for “testing” for the presence or absence of mandatory data elements and feedback on the file’s data quality.
•Product Label Certification Program (PLCP): Evaluates companies’ product labels for compliance with BISG and Guidelines for Shipping Container Labeling (GS1). Simon & Schuster was the first company to received PLCP certification, and other applications are currently under consideration, said Healy.
BISG’s committees—including its Book Industry Standards and Communications (BISAC) committees, which work to facilitate best practices, and set policies and standards for maximum efficiency and accuracy along the supply chain—continue to be among the organization’s key focus areas. Healy noted the establishment of a new research committee this year, the Publishers/Independent Wholesalers Interest Group (PIWIG), chaired by Phil Madans of Hachette Book Group USA. PIWIG’s mission is to collaborate on issues and opportunities facing publishers and wholesalers, including the Global Data Synchronization Network and related metadata and transactional standards.
Guest Speaker Highlights
Several guest speakers took the stage, including Anita Alberse, associate professor at Harvard University Business School, who outlined the results of her research to explore the validity of author Chris Anderson’s “long-tail” business theory, which suggests that the tail of sales-distribution is getting longer and fatter due to online sales channels (meaning blockbuster products—whether movies, books, music, etc.—will make up less of a market’s overall sales compared to the lengthening “tail” of niche products that are now easier for people to find). Alberse said her research supports the theory that the “tail” is getting longer (meaning that more niche books are selling now than ever before), but she has found no evidence that the tail is getting fatter. Rather, “the average sales for those titles are getting lower and lower,” she said.
Susan Danziger, CEO of DailyLit, explained the intent of her company to address the needs of the changing reader, who today is “time-starved, with short attention spans.” “All other diversions don’t take a lot of time. Is there something wrong with books?” Danziger said she asked herself when coming up with the idea for DailyLit. DailyLit offers readers the option of reading books in tiny pieces; they can sign up to receive book content in small daily morsels, selecting what time of day they want to receive the installments, sent directly to their e-mail inboxes. Danziger sees this as a way to engage potential readers who otherwise would not spend the time required to read a book.