Monday, July 31, 2006

Pearson Announces Second Half Results

As expected, Pearson announced strong half year results reflecting growth in all segments. Revenues were up 8% and operating profit up a mighty 57%. The company is confident about the full year and commented that due to the seasonality of the book business the preponderance of revenue and most of its profit is in the second half of the year. The company continues to have good organic growth and is growing faster than the markets they serve.

In Education, the company expects to grow revenues in the 3-5% range (which is a wide range but reflects their need to be conservative at this stage) but also commented that the first half was stronger than expected. Operating margins are set to improve further in k-12 and remain constant in Higher Ed. Both K-12 and Higher Ed were strong during the prior six months with both segments performing better than expected. Additionally, both have continued to beat the competition in key adoptions, open territories and with new editions of important College subject titles. The company continues to expand its online online and assessment programs in Higher Ed with a 29% increase in registrations for their online learning systems.

The trade group at Penguin is also doing well with a record number of titles on the NYT best seller lists and 43 top ten titles in the UK. They also won a number of literary prizes including their second Pulitzer in a row, Orange and Whitbread Awards. Operating income is higher than the prior period and they expect further improvements.

The Financial Times group, which has come under fire from analysts for at least the past 12 months is showing improvement with more expected. Circulation is up 5% and advertising revenues are up 11%. They expect further operating income improvements over the balance of the year and continued steady organic growth. They have made recent announcements about integrating the print and online publishing operations which will improve content, raise efficiencies and reduce some expenses.

In the first half of this FY, the company has spent over $500mm on acquisitions in Education and the FT group. As the company stated in their annual report, it is their intention to invest in testing and administrative software companies which are compatible with the strategic goals of the education unit. This they have done with the purchases of National Evaluation Systems, Chancery Software and PowerSchool. (The last two are noted in prior posts). Incredibly, Pearson believes they have an installed based of half of all students in US schools which is over 29,000 schools and 25mm students. This must represent a long term strength of their US School business. At they FT they purchased earlier this year.

There was no word on additional acquisitions for the full year.

Here is the Pearson web site with their earnings press release and powerpoint presentation.

Here is a summary of their comments:


  • Good start to the year. Sales up 8%; adjusted operating profit up 57% to £73m.
  • Sustained organic growth and market share gains. Pearson Education sales up 11% with
    leading position in US School new adoption market and 4% growth in US Higher Education; FT Group sales up 6% with FT advertising revenues up 11%; Penguin sales up 2%.
  • Strong profit growth in all businesses. Pearson Education, traditionally loss-making in the first half, breaks even (loss of £21m in 2005). FT Group profits up 23% to £55m and Penguin profits up 38% to £18m.
  • Full-year outlook maintained. Pearson’s profits are always heavily weighted to the second half of the year. With this first-half performance, we continue to expect strong earnings growth and cash generation and a further significant rise in our return on invested capital in 2006.

Marjorie Scardino, chief executive, said:

“These results provide further evidence of the quality and potential of our business. All parts of Pearson are making strong progress, and our steady investment in new content and services is paying off with sustained organic
growth, market share gains and margin improvement. We remain confident that 2006 will be another good year for Pearson both in competitive and financial

Sunday, July 30, 2006


Hearing George Pelecanos speak about Washington, DC you hear him reflect on how the life of the city since WW II has mirrored all of what has been good and bad about the American experience during that time. It is as though Washington DC is microcosm of everything going on in the US over those years. In his novels, which are all set in and around DC, he touches on all the big themes; the returning soldiers in The Big Blowdown and the small business explosion, the sixties Race Riots in Hard Revolution and the 1980s drug wars in The Sweet Forever. Pelecanos is getting some attention this month with the release of his new title The Night Gardener. It is well justified and I have been reading his books for a number of years now and have all of them in my collection.

This week there were two articles in the New York Times and I suspect there will be more over the coming months in news titles across the US. As the articles point out, his writing life has not been easy but I am glad he has stuck with it. I was also in DC around the time he began to write full time and it was very hard to like the city. Everyone was on coke; we had a mayor caught in the act, newscasters were in trouble for it and a top athlete killed himself with it. The city had one of the largest murder rates in the US with over 2000 killed in 1988 - and it is a very small city. I couldn't wait to get out, but Pelecanos' novels offer a truer, more complex view of the city that in the 1980s was hard to appreciate. Gentrification has come to DC in subsequent years and I wonder how he will deal with this trend.

I first came across his work, while walking through the aisles at a BookExpo (Los Angeles) and I happened to pick up a ARC which was two titles bound together. The book sat next to my bed for six months and when I finally read Hell To Play I immediately read the other novel Right As Rain. I was hooked and I have been able to pick up first editions of his first three novels which are hard to find. Interestingly, St Martin's was his initial publisher and he didn't do so well with them. In my experience, St Martin's seems to find good mystery writers but can't take them to the next level. Pelecanos has been compared to Richard Price and Denis Lehane - both excellent authors - but I believe Pelecanos breaths more culture and texture into his novels that either of these authors.

Pelecanos has also recently edited an omnibus of short detective crime fiction published by Akashic. DC Noir follows on from Brooklyn Noir which refected short stories located in Brooklyn NY and was excellent. I haven't got the DC one yet but will be looking for it.

Here is an interview with NPR on the novel True Grit which is one of Pelecanos' favorite books.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Reed Elsevier Reports First Half

It all seems to be coming good for Reed - other than the Educational market that is. Reed released their mid term results this week and they are quite good. (McGraw Hill also seems to be having a good year and Pearson is to report on July 31th). Revenues are up 8% and profit is up 14%. While they are not over exuberant about the full year, it would seem they are in a strong place to exceed their full year budget. Here is their presentation.

Their first half was expected to be stronger but they haven't down played the full year results. Sir Crispin:

"The first half of 2006 has seen a good financial performance and further
encouraging progress in the development of our business in an increasingly
digital environment. Trusted information, technology enabled, and increasingly
integrated into customer workflows, is making our customers more effective
professionally and making Reed Elsevier a more valued partner. The first half
financial performance provides a good platform to meet our 2006 financial

Organic growth is 1% greater than their budget at 6% over the first half last year and their adjusted EPS is up 16% versus their budgeted expectation of 10%. The EPS number has been due to more favorable tax payments and better performance in Exhibitions versus last year. They are however cautious and expect some of this to reverse in the second half.

All their business segments performed with strength with the exception of Harcourt which had much lower operating profits than expected. Management suggests that the second half is far stronger for revenues and profit - although they would have budgeted that way. Operating margin was down more than 1ppt versus last year while revenues were actually higher. Management is also saying that operational issues are being addressed.

Reed also mentioned that they may speed up and add to the share repurchase plan thay have in place. (Incidentally McGraw Hill also have a similar repurchase effort underway). Reed have also built up an employee share benefit plan. The divisional results were summarized as follows:

  • Elsevier: Good subscription renewals and growing online sales
  • LexisNexis: Strong growth in legal digital solutions, risk and international
  • Harcourt Education: Encouraging success in US textbook adoptions; supplemental building; assessment underperformed
  • Reed Business: Strong growth in online and Exhibitions; benefit from biennial show cycling
  • Phasing of business this year benefits first half growth
  • On track to meet 2006 financial targets
  • Reed Elsevier PLC and Reed Elsevier NV dividend up 11%; total of £288m/€420m shares repurchase

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

McGraw Hill Reports Second Quarter; Scholastic FY 2006

McGraw Hill:
McGraw Hill reported their second quarter results and they are quite good. They have now had two strong quarters this FY and as a result they have improved thier guidence for the full year EPS. Terry McGraw:

"Our new EPS guidance for 2006 is $2.44 to $2.49, and again that also excludes
the incremental impact of all stock-based compensation. To be clear, that
excludes $0.13 per incremental stock-based compensation this year and $0.04 for
the one-time charge for the elimination of the restoration stock option program,
which was already announced in the first quarter. With more robust opportunities taking shape next year, we expect to return to double-digit earnings growth in 2007."

This is a transcript of the call from Later in the call they discuss the education unit which they indicate has later adoptions this year but which they must believe will be stronger than budget. During their second half is education represents a larger percentage of total revenue, but margins are lower than their information business. The information businesses appear to be driving their first half growth.

Scholastic FY 2006: Revenue up 10% versus 2005.
Scholastic reported their full year last week and the 2006 results retained some revenue from Harry Potter but not for the entire year. Here is their corporate presentation. In the presentation, management spoke of a challenging year and in looking forward spoke about an expense reduction plan designed to hold operating margins and EPS. Revenues for FY 2007 are forecasted to be flat ($2.3bill versus $2.1Bill and EPS lower (1.66 versus a range of $1.55 - $1.85). Management of the Scholastic balance sheets is a significant positive story for the year. They have $300mill in debt maturing in 2007 but multiple options to fund or refinance this debt.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

American News

I wrote a post a few month ago about the type of news reporting on offer by the US networks. Here is another more authoritative view point by the Director of The New Media Certer at Amercian University in Cairo. Given all the time and effort spent by network news in gathering and reporting, there seems to be a moron filter applied immediately before broadcast. It's almost like we can't handle the truth.

Laurence Pintak spent some time on vaction in California but was astounded at the lack of depth and base knowledge given to some of the reportage of the current Lebanese crisis. For example:
"At times, the coverage has seemed as much a fantasy as Disney's Space Mountain, and the level of Middle East knowledge on the part of some television anchors
only a few notches higher than that of the tattooed biker couple waiting in line
for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride".
He goes on further to address the lack of basic geographic knowledge and the rush to salaciousness in the declaration of "World War Three". Given the proliferation of news channels and reporting it is bizarre that so little time is given to each story no matter how important. (Although if you are pretty, blond and dead you might get more coverage). Just last night on the BBC news at 7pm, fifteen full minutes was given over to the Lebanese situation - interestingly from a Southern Lebanese view point. Nothing like the coverage on NBC that evening.
It is however great that we have The Daily Show and The Colbert Report to keep us all grounded. On the brink of war? it was Jon Stewart (here from Youtube) who told us he was scared as crap about the events and quite stark in his explanation. It is Steven Colbert who routinely makes fun of other reporters inability to correctly pronounce the names of foreign leaders, lack of basic knowledge and general yypocrisy. Here he is on World War 3 or 4.
It is not too surprising that generally speaking, as Laurence Pintak points out the US public really lacks an understanding of the issues at hand in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Floyd Landis - It's all about the Hip

Who will end up with the book deal. Most had barely heard of Landis three weeks ago, and it is amazing to believe that the Tour de France could have created as compelling a story as Lance Armstrong in back to back years. Collectively, we wondered if we would bother to watch this year after Lance retired, but this effort by Landis was incredible. Here is the Landis web site. Will the book deal publish now or wait until he has the surgery and makes his comeback? Either way there must be an announcement in the works.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Coping with Rejection

Having completed your version of The Great American novel, you mail it off to your favorite publishers. You may be happy to receive a response like ..."it will take us three months to review this." After all, at least you got a response and against the other nine rejections this may not seem so bad. That is unless you happen to have won a Nobel prize for literature and are one of your country’s preeminent cultural icons; namely author Patrick White of Australia.

With apparently little else to do except embarrass a number of large Australian publishing houses, The Australian set out to prove that Patrick White couldn't get published in Australia today. The article doesn’t' really get that far but nevertheless all kinds of recriminations and navel gazing have erupted from the story. Some may recall that the UK Sunday Times conducted a similar "survey" using a title by V.S. Naipaul.

Since A Fringe of Leaves has been sitting on my parents bookshelf since publication, I thought I would look up what is said about White and his style. Here is a review of Fringe which suggests this may be a hard book to get into and understand. Words like complex and [un]pleasant are used to describe an allegorical story. Perhaps I will give this a go. Of course, White won the Nobel for his body of work, but here is a review of Eye of the Storm which is the book The Australian used for its "experiment".

Missing from the Australian article is any reference to the significant amount of new Australian publishing that these publishers are partially responsible for. Examples include, Tim Winton, Peter Carey, Shirley Hazzard and Andrew McGahan. (Even Bryce Courtney - for some anyway). In a weird way, I am not sure this scam could be tried in the US because I don't think the American public has a view on 'literary' heroes the way the UK, other European nations and Australia seem to.

Perhaps some in the US would get excited if under similar circumstances Portnoy's Complaint was rejected; I hate to say it but I think largely the story would disappear rapidly.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Harpercollins Does Video Trailer

Londonstani, a book released recently in the UK which is generating critical discussion, is about to be released in North America. HC Canada is doing something unique in creating movie trailers for new book releases. This is something more publishers should do and is perfect for a YouTube type application - why leave it buried on their web site? While HC get an A for effort they get a C for execution. This needs to work as easily as YouTube. That's what we are used to; the download took way too long. But I should not be so critical since this use of video and audio to sell books in the staid world of publishing is innovative and Harpercollins deserves credit for developing this promotion. As far as I can tell they started this in March, and I hope they not only continue the effort with many other new releases but also push the content to other web sites and make the downloads faster.

As book readers become more readily identifiable via reading groups and sites like, publishers will have a ready market to focus promotional activities on. Enabling some level of direct contact with readers has represented nirvana to large trade publishers and in recent years, aided by the growth of internet use, publishers are finding ways to get direct access. For example, it is now very easy to gain reader notes and book club questions for front list titles from all the major trade publishers. Not so long ago, most readers didn't give a thought to who the publisher of their book was (unless it was Harlequin). There will be much more integration of audio and video content to sell books in the short term. Additionally, I hope we will also see low production 30+ minute video programs similar to the material produced by the BBC to promote The Big Read promotion in the UK a few years ago. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find any video examples of the books the BBC committed to video. (These were not the Masterpiece Theater type productions). They were great and were an important component in driving enthusiasm for The Big Read programs.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Rent A Book

At the Columbus, Ohio airport, Paradies Bookstore has a decent book collection for a store selling snacks, mementos and books. Having spent an unfortunate amount of time milling around the airport, I am reasonably familiar with the store and I was a little taken aback recently when I saw sticking out of every hardcover book this bookmark. While this is not a unique idea, what is interesting about this program is that it is national. This may be a chain you haven't heard of. You can buy your book in Columbus, read it on the way to San Francisco and return it at their store at SF International for a 50% refund. Repeat the process for the return home. It would be interesting to know what the stats on this program are. As a concept this isn't new; however, I suspect that this is more marketing gimmick than anything. Buyers may think they will return a title but I am betting that only a small percentage actually do so. Purchasers think of the 50% discount and impulsively make a purchase decision. Generally there are few discounted titles at your typical airport store and adding the discount to a return is an interesting way to use discounting without giving money away on every purchase.

Paradies has also announced a partnership with The New York Times to launch NYT branded stores at airports.

What's next a book version of NetFlix - perhaps not so far off.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Business Travel

When waiting for a plane at the airport, you notice the Pilot and Co-pilot arrive at the gate and introduce themselves. They have clearly never met before. I don't know about you but that doesn't give me a warm and fuzzy feeling. I think about that Japanese Jumbo jet careening into the mountain because no one in the co pit had any social skills. What about people who don't know each other?

Business travel is horrible. It is no secret to most that the gloss went off traveling some time ago (like 30yrs ago) and with good reason. Traveling in small aluminum tubes, interacting in closer proximity to strangers than you might with your own family and dealing with the socially inept who have such limited sense of themselves that within in a five minute conversation (or overhearing their phone conversation) you know they are getting divorced and are putting their parents in a home.

I am sitting in an airport in Ohio - nothing especially going on except I have entered the 'shortly' time zone. That is your inbound aircraft will be landing 'shortly', the cabin crew will be arriving 'shortly', traffic control will be giving us a slot! 'shortly'. Hopefully I will be getting home shortly.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Digital Rice University

Many of you will have seen the announcement that Rice University is re-launching their Academic Press as an entirely digital publishing operation. One thing they might think about is removing the announcement that they shut it down back in 1996. The recent pr announcement is here. This is an ambitious and in some ways courageous effort. As their Provost points out, very few Academic Press make money and most loose a lot. Often their only function often seems to be the aggrandizement of certain academics. Assuming Rice is able to fulfill their goal of truly looking for new models of scholarship and publication this could become a model for other presses to follow. Certainly some are already going in the e-book direction but what Rice hints at in their announcement is an acknowledgement that academic publishing has been constrained by the physical print product. What is on offer is the capacity to engage the author, other scholars (peers) and students in an active relationship facilitated by the content produced. As Rice University and others experiment we will see less publish and hope than publish and republish and republish (or revise) but probably without the long term publication delays which are common in academic journal publishing. The resulting published products will become interactive with link resolvers interlacing all the supporting content and perhaps data sets supporting the conclusions thereby allowing others to recreate the results. The social aspect will enable feedback on relevancy and ranking. Cool stuff - they better get to work on it.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Publishing News: Steinbeck, E-Books and The Long Tail

It has been a slow two weeks in the publishing world due to the July 4th holiday.

There has been more reporting on the Steinbeck’s retention of their fathers material. This article focuses more on Thomas Steinbeck’s budding literary career. A book of short stories has been completed and it this success that has emboldened Thomas to be more forthright about his plans as an author.

Speaking of old literary history, I came across this article about a Canadian author who was incredibly successful in her day but is now largely forgotten. Mazo de la Roche wrote 16 novels - making her "rich and famous" - about an upper Canadian rural family named the Whiteoaks. She began the series in the 1920s as an entry in a writing contest and by the late 1940s she was one of the biggest selling English language authors. She sold over 11million copies and she even had a miniseries. On her titles are readily available but don't have a very impressive rank. Similar to Margaret Mitchell in Atlanta the town of Mississauga has created a museum out of the authors residence.

A number of news sources quoted this story from Bloomsbury in the UK about e-Book titles mainly because they are the publisher of Harry Potter and the word "spellbinding" appeared in the headline. The story picks-up on the continuing confusion on e-book formats but notes Bloomsbury is ready to jump when a standard emerges. Bloomsbury currently produce 24 titles which even given the format issue appears tepid at best. Related to this article (but not noted in it), an industry wide format was recently announced by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), and here is the website for review and comment on the draft standard. The IDPF has evolved into a very important industry group that is addressing format and other important issues relevant to e-book publishing. On the association website are presentations from their recent industry forum including a session that addressed why publishers aren't publishing more e-books particularly from their back list.

There are two articles this week in the UK Guardian on Chris Anderson and The Long Tail.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Publishing News: Waterstones, Google and Copyright

Waterstones: It's the World Cup's Fault
I know it can't get over England's premature exit from the World cup, but I don't blame the world cup for a decrease in my productivity. (That would probably be due to the quad combo of US Open, Wimbledon, WC and Tour de France). Waterstones can't seem to catch a break, and as we noted when the Ottakars deal went through, the shine has gone off the UK book retailer market and this isn't good news for Waterstones. Remember Borders also referenced slower UK sales in their report a few months ago - no mention of the world cup though.

Google vs the Publishers - reprise
No idea why the Guardian is rehashing this story about Google being sued by the US publishers for their indiscriminate copying program. What is interesting is the sub-head suggests this could be a really interesting article about the future of publishing say 2020 but no. The article restates what many have already said about the Google program. What should be interesting to everyone is whether Google will change publishing and if so what does that mean? What will publishing companies look like? What will libraries be? Where will bookstores be? I have yet to see an article presented in the national press that thoughtfully discuss these issues.

Free with Purchase: Ferrari
I will have to look into this. The owner of Charterhouse Publishing is selling the business and the purchaser gets to keep the company car - a 308 Ferrari.

Is a Blogging Academic Publishing?
Interesting view point from the NY Observer and perhaps an accurate reflection of the direction of academic publishing. While blogs will retain significant attention when topical and intelligent, if the writer wants to condense the subject into something like book form it seems to me the book is still the answer. This is definitely not a bad thing since publishing via a blog is of course kinda like market research.

Gourmet Magazine to Publish Summer Book List
Phillips Electronics is sponsoring a 102 page supplement to be distributed with the August issue of Gourmet. Authors Conroy, Pratchet, Smiley are just some of the authors writing about food.