September 11 Tragedy
The events of September 11, 2001 were of such a horrific and shocking nature that they did not allow for the careful planning that is often associated with the publishing industry. Rather, the devastating terrorist attacks, and their aftermath, demanded quick action to satisfy the public's need for information—and answers. To fulfill this need and to raise money for Red Cross relief efforts, BookSurge.com, BlueEar.com and the New York University (NYU) Department of Journalism joined efforts to produce 09/11 8:48 AM; Documenting America's Greatest Tragedy. The book recounts stories of those who survived the attacks and those who are involved in the civic aftermath.
With a guideline of approximately 300 pages, faculty and students at NYU worked directly with BlueEar, an editorial partner committed to publishing international journalism and writing in a variety of digital formats, to compile the oral history. At first, Mitchell Davis, president of BookSurge, was concerned that they might not be able to gather enough information to produce a compelling book in such a short period of time. "But then we started getting in so many stories and we knew we had the makings of a great book," notes Davis. The stories deal first hand with how life has changed for the rescue workers and the families of the victims. The book, available since September 30, is published and sold by BookSurge. All publisher and bookselling net proceeds are being donated to ongoing relief efforts of the Red Cross at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon crash site. The goal is to raise at least $1,000,000.
The quick turnaround of the project was made possible due to BookSurge's print-on-demand (POD) capabilities. The three parties utilized innovative digital communication technologies to integrate journalistic, editorial and publishing efforts within an extremely tight editorial and production schedule. The book shipped in paperback to individual customers and bookstores only 19 days after the terrorist attacks occurred. "Often it takes a tragedy to bring something like this together," says Davis. "The separate components existed before this happened but there was no single point of poignancy to act as a catalyst."
History of BookSurge
The genesis of BookSurge is best described as organic, according to Davis. He, along with three other partners, originally started a company that would operate in the space of publishing. The partners' backgrounds included books, digital printing, mergers and acquisitions, and the Internet. "When we came together, we knew we wanted to start a publishing business using the Internet," recalls Davis. "We didn't believe that 600 years of reading habits would be changed, but knowing about the low distribution charges of e-books we wanted to get in that market." The group began looking for POD and fulfillment vendors who could suit their needs as publishers. This proved to be more difficult in practice than thought. Davis explains, "We knew machines existed and naively assumed that the machines had been put together with services to help companies like ours. But we couldn't find anyone who would print and ship one title at a time without sending it through a wholesale channel."
To account for this gap in the marketplace, the company partnered with Digitz.net. After that, in May 2000, GreatUnpublished.com was launched. "For the first three months, we were printing our own books. Then, we started working with a core group of grass roots e-book publishers who realized that e-books alone wouldn't make a business. We dealt with the challenge of working with people who had no expectations for what the books looked like," recounts Davis. "We helped people become print publishers and we taught ourselves what not to do and what to do better." In August, a separate print and fulfillment business was spun-off to cater to other publishers. Later that year, the group ran into another obstacle: no profitable POD Web channel through which to sell books. To satisfy this need, BookSurge was created to be the front-end for the process and to avoid traditional inventory problems.
How it works
The system used by BookSurge to produce 09/11 8:48 AM; Documenting America's Greatest Tragedy, and other books, is relatively simple. States Davis, "It's not one big machine sitting in the middle of the room. We run a cluster print system that is cobbled together based on the needs we see as we grow." The separate components include Hewlett-Packard black-and-white laser printers, Tektronix color laser printers, a Foliant single-side laminating machine and Duplo perfect binding machines and cutters. The system relies less on machinery than it does on a group of people thinking of ways to do things more efficiently and intelligently.
It is this book production and printing system that allowed the completed manuscript to be delivered as a paperback book less than 48 hours after delivery. "The manuscript was delivered at 6:00 p.m. EST on Saturday, September 29. We had a rough draft printed when we left the office in the wee hours of Sunday morning," recalls Davis. "We came back to the office early Sunday and worked all day to complete the book. We were shipping copies Monday morning. The process usually takes 10 days, but we condensed it into a weekend." Books are printed and shipped to customers as they are ordered.
Every little bit helps
After the book became available, BookSurge partnered with Powell's [www.powells.com] to sell the print book and Amazon [www.amazon.
com] to distribute the e-book. Independent bookstores and retailers looking to carry the book can also help raise money for Red Cross by placing orders directly with Booksurge, at a 40 percent discount. The order will then be drop-shipped. Any seller who buys the book from the site must agree to donate all the proceeds to the specified charity. To fulfill European orders, the company has a facility partner in the United Kingdom.
To date, the book has been well-received critically. According to Davis, orders from retail customers and bookstores are surging. To keep up with the demand, the company has added two shifts, purchased new equipment and developed new software to handle the rush, which they are hoping will continue through Christmas. "When events like this happen, we look at them objectively as to whether or not we anticipate the experiences changing. The fact is they do change," emphasizes Davis. "For that reason, we wanted to get this book out while the experience is still real and raise money, which is an incredibly important element."
Webmasters, online communities, corporations and other parties interested in linking to the book to raise funds for Red Cross relief are encouraged to contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information. Bookstores and other retailers interested in placing orders for the book should e-mail email@example.com.