Monday, June 30, 2008

Media Week26

Some headlines from last week: June 23 - 30, 2008

Guardian: Investors and Wall Street institutions would be forced to rely less on credit ratings under new rules proposed by the SEC. Rating agencies such as Moody's, McGraw-Hill Cos' Standard & Poor's and Fimalac SA's Fitch Ratings could be negatively impacted by the rules.

FoxBusiness: Interactive Data Corporation a leading provider of financial market data, analytics and related services agreed to acquire Kler's Financial Data Service S.r.l. (Kler's), a leading provider of reference data to the Italian financial industry, for a purchase price of EUR 19.0 million (or approximately $29.5 million based on current exchange rates) in cash. IDC is majority owned by Pearson plc.

Forbes: ImageSpan Inc., which provides enabling infrastructure for digital content licensing, today announced that it has closed a second round financing of $11 million from a group led by Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments (BDMI).

Guardian: The boom in online news sites does not mean the UK should relax its media ownership laws, according to an influential House of Lords report. The report is a rebuke to media executives such as Rupert Murdoch, who believe the advent of online news should herald the relaxation of ownership laws. Murdoch himself told the committee that the UK's laws were "10 years out of date".

MediaDailyNews: Gannett has purchased a minority stake in Cozi, a Web site that allows families to communicate and coordinate schedules. The deal will give Gannett readers access to Cozi via the Internet and mobile devices, including various features like virtual family calendars, shopping lists, blogs and instant messaging.

PRWeb: Australian book printer BookPal has launched an audacious bid to challenge's Booksurge and for global market share in the rapidly growing book self publishing market, a market estimated to be valued at U.S. $13-$17 billion per year according to

FoxBusiness: Elsevier, the leading publisher of science, technology and medical information announced today that it will implement CrossCheck, the plagiarism detection service offered by CrossRef in collaboration with iParadigms. With plagiarism a growing problem for journal editors, Elsevier has invested in CrossCheck to develop, pilot and implement, a single database of published articles enabling publishers to easily verify the originality of submitted and published work.

The Telegraph: Executives from Amazon's MP3 store, which launched in the US last year, are understood to have been in London last week to thrash out details of the launch with British record company bosses. Amazon MP3 will compete directly with iTunes, Apple's online music store, and other digital downloading operations when it goes live. People familiar with Amazon's plans say its site is likely to be unveiled before the final quarter of the year, when a string of high-profile artists, including the Scissor Sisters and Snow Patrol.

TimesOnline: The American private-equity firm Hellman & Friedman has emerged as part of the consortium in talks to buy media firm Informa, publisher of Lloyd’s List. The Sunday Times has learnt that Hellman is part of a private-equity trio that includes Carlyle and Providence Equity.

TimesOnline: Springer Science & Media, the business-to-business publishing group owned jointly by the private equity groups Candover and Cinven, is still considering a bid for Informa despite the exhibitions group receiving an approach on Tuesday from private equity rivals. Springer, which previously made an offer in 2006, has been looking closely at Informa, the shares of which have fallen on concerns over its high debt levels.

TimesOnline: Helen Alexander, the outgoing chief executive at the Economist Group, is ending her tenure on a 23-per-cent rise in profits to £44.3 million. The profits increase for the 12 months to March 31 will allow the privately-held business to continue its policy of paying sizeable dividends. In total, £36.7 million in cash was handed over during the year to the shareholders, which include Pearson and members of the Rothschild, Schroder and Cadbury families.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

ISBN's On All Formats: Some Comments

Comments have been added to the original post from last week. Given the traffic reports several thousand visitors are transfixed by ISBN issues. Here are a few opinions from around the web:

Martyn Daniels at Booksellers Association (Brave New World):

Forget the posturing and politics this is about product identification and is a basic foundation to all inter-company ecommerce and communication. It is as much about upstream as it is downstream and is fundamental to trade. An old friend Tom McGuffog, Director of Planning and Logistics Nestle and ex chairman of the UK Article Numbering Association (the UK EAN standards governing body now know as GS1 UK), once said ‘ uncertainty is the mother of bad trading, only by removing uncertainty can we trade efficiency’. So what if there are; 10, 20, 30, different ISBNs against a work? Each will be a unique rendition, may have different rights associated with them; different commercial models, even have different features and apply to different channels. Surely identification and consistency is a must.

Today many believe that we also desperately need a work identifier and the best practices to adopt it and deploy it. Some believe that it exists today in the form of the ISTC but that it has stalled, lacks a champion and roadmap and now needs to be adapted, adopted, marketed and deployed. Is it an identification silver bullet? No, firstly it is an attribute associated with and ISBN (a secondary reference), but it can go a long way to enabling the consistent grouping of ISBNs under a work, which will help everyone manage more ISBNs and will also help consumers select and choose the right rendition, which after all is what its all about.

Adam Hodgkin at Exact Editions:

I have a suggestion: where titles go into a format where there are in effect many individual instances of the work then that format should have a separate ISBN attached to it. The ISBN system was introduced so that books would have a standard method of stock control. ISBNs are SKU's. So digital platforms where copies of books are handed/downloaded to readers/purchasers the SKU specific to that channel serves a purpose. For digital platforms which are based on an 'access' system, which would include Google Book Search, and Amazon Search Inside, there is no need for a separate ISBN, because there are no 'units' that need to be tracked. Exact Editions is another such access system and there is no need therefore for publishers to assign separate ISBNs to their titles in the Exact Editions platform. The identifiers that matter for 'access' systems are the urls which comprise the book's web presence.

The post was also noted on where in the comments Jon Noring had this to say:
The fundamental problem is that ISBN is not designed, nor intended, to be used for different renditions of a book, and each different format of an e-book is a different rendition. As a small e-book publisher myself, I am very sympathetic with the ISBN cost issue, though, and the entity to blame on this is Bowker. If Bowker wants ISBNs to be used per the standard, then it needs to set up a better pricing structure for small lots of ISBN numbers. I’ve not heard any justification for the current pricing structure.
(I think that point is partially noted in the statement from Bowker).

There is more feedback including a comment from the US ISBN agency on the original post here.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

John Hiatt On the Music Business

One of my favorite artists, John Hiatt has an interesting perspective on the music industry woes via Reuters:
"People have to be 'record men' again," Hiatt said. "They actually have to learn a living. You get a record out there, it sells 50,000 copies over the course of 18 months. You have to work it, because they don't buy 50,000 the first week. It's great to see people who actually love the music back in business in these smaller concerns. I've never seen people take more vacations than these big record company people." It also helps that Hiatt keeps his overhead low by recording his albums at his 97-acre (39 hectare) Tennessee farm. He spent about 10 days recording the basic tracks for "Same Old Man" a year ago with guitarist Luther Dickinson and drummer Kenneth Blevins. Since Hiatt owns his masters and his publishing, he has complete creative control.

His new album is titled Same Old Man and I'll be seeing him in August.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

ISBN's On All Formats

According to ISBN official standards, each format of an e-book should be given its own ISBN. This means if a book is sold in mobi-pocket and Adobe formats each would be given a separate (unique) number by the publisher even if the content is exactly the same. During the revision process for the current standard, this point received intense discussion mostly focused on the burden that applying what could amount to several hundred ISBNs to a single work would have on publishers' processes. We resolved this issue for the standard with judicious use of words such as 'shall' and 'should' but the issue was raised again recently when the ISBN board released a 'policy statement' reaffirming the need for separate ISBN's on each format of an eb0ok.

The reasons for this action is simple. Downstream supply chain business such as wholesalers, distributors and retailers require a unique reference to all products that pass through their operations. If one doesn't exist these businesses tend to apply their own numbers. In actuality, the practice of downstream partners applying their own numbers has been going on since the establishment of ISBN and isn't unique to e-books, but the issue is coalescing now around the obligations of a publisher to 'correctly apply' the ISBN standard to e-books.

At a meeting this week at AAP NYC a number of publishers expressed doubts about the need for this requirement. As a participant in the revision of the standard my view was simple. A publisher should want to manage and control the meta-data associated with all their products and enabling - by omission - the need for someone else to apply their own information never seemed prudent to me. Secondly, the veracity of the ISBN system is brought into question if more than one entity applies separate numbers to the same content. This occurs if B&N and Amazon sell the same e-book in the same format but in the absence of a publisher number they apply their own identifier.

At least one major publisher at the AAP meeting is not following the standard and after several years of distributing e-books and applying one ISBN irrespective of format (.epub for example) they are seeing no issues with confusion or misuse of their meta data. This is a powerful argument and comes from a publisher that is highly protective of their bibliographic information. If reflective of a general consensus the ISBN board should reconsider the wording of there directive. For example, simply changing the wording by inserting the words 'publishers may apply ISBNs to separate formats' would give enough latitude to those publishers that see a need to apply separate ISBNs and those that do not.

There are several qualifications (and others may raise more). Firstly, the issue of downstream partners which need identifiers for their internal process requirements must be governed. For example, in those cases where a publisher expects detailed sell-thru data they may provide ISBN's. If a downstream partner can only use a 13 digit identifier in their systems the publisher may require the partner to use an ISBN provided by the publisher. If the partner can use a non-ISBN (but NOT a dummy ISBN/13 digit id) such as letters and numbers the publisher may see no need to apply ISBN's. Secondly, the danger that rogue ISBNs that are intended to operate only within the operating systems of specific partners (wholesalers, vendors, etc.) escape into the supply chain causing confusion and much remediation is a real one and should be recognised. Currently, there aren't that many e-books and there aren't that many publishers working outside the recommendations of the standard. As e-books explode in distribution, data integrity problems that are virtually non-existent today may become very relevant issues very quickly.

Lastly, in a supply chain world where suppliers and retailers are racing (admittedly not a sprint more a marathon) to apply unique identifiers on individual items via RFID, this discussion runs counter to the logic other more sophisticated industries are following. Quite rightly, with volumes as small as they are, it may not be interesting to know which e-book versions seem to perform better, or get less customer service/help desk calls, or which package of products seem to show up on what platform or which segment of buyers seems to have what behavioral characteristics, or which partner seems to sell what types of products or formats, or which formats tend to be pirated more or less, and on and on and on. As the chain becomes flatter - as it is - publishers are going to want to know this stuff and tying a user to a format may be critical to all aspects of what they do.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Reed Business Sale Delay

The FT reports that Reed is delaying the circulation of information relating to the sale of their Reed Business unit in advance of finalizing a financing package that could be made availale to prospective buyers. The newspaper also establishes expectations that the unit could sell for $2.5Billion. From the article:
Another source close to the situation said that there is ”an irrational fear of a downturn in advertising revenues,” and there is a lot of advertising in the group. The source added, however, that Reed is still an attractive deal with senior leverage unlikely to be more than 3x EBITDA. Those low leverage levels should be enough to encourage bidders against a possible downturn in the economy, specifically advertising revenues, the source added. While Reed Elsevier is hoping to encourage a sale of the whole of RBI by offering a financing package to prospective buyers, it is also offering financing packages for parts of the business, one source said. The source said he thought that Reed would ultimately still sell the business as a whole despite marketing a sale of parts in tandem. This way, mid-sized players would also be in the process to drive up the end price for the asset, the source explained

Monday, June 23, 2008

Generational Chasm

Publishing used to be predictable across generations. Parents read the same books in the same manner as their children and grandchildren. Not so today. Today's publishers for the first time in their history have no confidence that their child's generation will be (or are) interested in their published output. It is not that publishers aren't making an effort; however, I have a disturbing belief that there is an preponderance of focus on forcing existing content into a format and delivery mechanism (e-books and e-readers) that is not ideal only to have that e-book content used by a market - my and my parents generation - that is in long term decline.

In other words, migrating content so that it is available on an e-book may provide a false sense of security for publishers who believe this is enough to 're-launch' their content to the newest generations. No publisher should not have an e-book strategy just like they shouldn't have an Ingram or POD strategy but today's one dimensional content is no longer enough. This is why experiments like the recently announced agreement between Harpercollins and 4thStory are so interesting. From the press release:
4th Story Media and HarperCollins Publishers today announced their partnership in The Amanda Project, the first multi-platform series to be written in part by its audience, girls ages 12-14. 4th Story Media, which owns all rights for the property, will produce the content for The Amanda Project with a creative team including web design agency Happy Cog, young adult authors, artists and graphic designers. HarperCollins Publishers, which is a strategic partner in the venture and an investor, has acquired the rights to publish an eight-book The Amanda Project series worldwide."It feels like the art and craft of publishing great stories for children is on the brink of revolutionary change," said Lisa Holton, founder and CEO, 4th Story Media. "We are exploring new ways of using the web to tell stories, while also leading kids back to the joys of reading. By combining talented authors with creative web designers we are fusing traditional storytelling with the interactive world of social networking, online games, and user-generated content. We are thrilled to introduce 4th Story Media with the launch of The Amanda Project and are delighted to be partnering with the exceptional team at HarperCollins to bring this series to life."

More of this 'web first' publishing will be seen as the normal way to launch a new product or title. Harpercollins is one example but the methodology is appearing across the publishing spectrum. For example, the publisher of Bass Fisherman (no I don't subscribe) creates targeted web sites that combine social networking, a minimum of editorial content and rely on users to power the content build with their own youtube videos and podcasts. Having built an interest group, the publisher is now planning a print product targeted at this group. Doing it the other (traditional) way would have been expensive and speculative; moreover, it wouldn't have engaged the market in the manner that the web-first approach does.

Tomorrows version of the monograph is unknown but it is not the e-book version of today's book. The hype around Bezos' appearance at BookExpo was troubling to me because of the manner in which we hang on his every utterance. Certainly Amazon is important, but we are the content providers and I hope we are all looking forward to the day when a panel of publishers gets up and serially announces game shifting developments in content and content delivery. Will it be next BookExpo?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Resilient Bookshelf Motiff: Done Better

Read Write Web takes a look at a new 3rd party application of data and services. A company named Zoomii has developed a book browsing UI that mimics the experience of walking through the isles of a local bookstore. (As a side note, with technology implementations like this why would Amazon need to buy Borders)? As RWW notes,
Launched to the public earlier this week, Zoomii is one great bookstore browser. Built on Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3), interacting with Zoomii is reminiscent of Google Maps. You can zoom in and out of bookshelves or pan around to navigate the service. The site design feels just like you're browsing a bookshelf at any bookstore except the books are facing cover-forward instead of spine-out. To keep up with the feel of a bookstore, books are organized by author and you can also compare book sizes to get a feel for how big or small a book is.
And gosh, my Canadian readers will be happy! (Via Brantley-again). Also Amazon Web Services Blog.

Note: The product is subject to's meta data which is why Simon Winchester's book The Man Who Loved China comes up on the "Mystery" shelf.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Blackwell to Implement Espresso Book Machine

News from The Bookseller that Blackwell will be implementing the Espresso Book machine in their 60 store chain of retail stores. From the article,

"The deal makes Blackwell the first UK retailer to install the EBM. The academic chain will trial the machine from this autumn at a yet-to-be-determined launch site, and will then roll it out across its stores. It is also looking at possible international retail sites and library supply for the machine."Blackwell c.e.o. Vince Gunn described the technology, the brainchild of former Random House US editorial director Jason Epstein, as "trailblazing and pioneering". He added: "From a retailer's point of view, even allowing for the first--generation technology and publisher challenges, this is a fantastic opportunity—sell to demand with no risk to inventory and an opportunity to create incremental revenue streams for ourselves and publishers."

"The EBM is already installed in 11 sites worldwide. It can access around one million titles, of which more than 600,000 come through a partnership with Lightning Source; the rest are in the public domain. It is also in talks with publishers about adding their content, although On Demand c.e.o. Dane Neller stressed the model was not to own content but to act a facilitator."

Clearly the EBM is rapidly growing in acceptance and existing users of the machines appear to be the biggest supporters and proponents of the technology. Close readers of this blog may recall my brain wave of book vending machines that I thought could be useful in non-traditional book outlets. Well this technology goes a significant step forward and I predict we will begin to see EBM in outlets outside the traditional publishing supply chain.

(Hat tip Brantley).

Food, Style and Felony

Apparently Martha Stewart will be denied entry into the UK if she attempts to travel there for some business meetings in the next several weeks. The denial stems from her conviction for lying to investigators over stock purchases she made back in 2004. A spokesperson commented that Martha loves England and hopes the matter can be resolved.

This was just too funny to miss. BBC

Wiley Reports Blackwell Benefits

Wiley released their fourth quarter and full year results yesterday. From their press release:

Revenue for the fiscal year 2008 increased 36% over the previous year to $1.7 billion. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. (Blackwell), which was acquired in February 2007, contributed approximately $485 million of revenue to Wiley's fiscal year 2008 results. Excluding Blackwell, revenue for fiscal year 2008 increased 5%. Favorable foreign exchange contributed two percentage points to the year-on-year growth excluding Blackwell. On a U.S. GAAP basis, earnings per diluted share for fiscal year 2008 was $2.49, compared to $1.71 in fiscal year 2007. Excluding Blackwell and various tax benefits, adjusted earnings per diluted share improved 15% to $1.89. Blackwell’s performance was accretive to fiscal year 2008 earnings per dilutive share by approximately $0.29, excluding non-recurring tax benefits.
Revenue for the fourth quarter increased 11% to $433 million from $390 million in the same period of the previous year, or 8% excluding foreign exchange. Blackwell's performance was included in the fourth quarter of both years. Earnings per diluted share for the quarter was $0.49 compared to $0.25 in the prior year.

More details here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Informa UBM Talks Collapse

After the close of the markets in the UK yesterday, UBM announced it had broken off talks about an all stock merger with Informa. Informa's shares have declined 7% this morning even though new potential buyers have emerged. Reuters cites a Times report suggesting Carlyle is behind a new bid but other parties Cinven, Apax, Candover are also potential entrants. At this point the most likely buyer would be Springer which is owned by Candover and Cinven. From Reuters:
A private equity consortium led by Providence is behind the latest bid approach to British media group Informa (INF.L: Quote, Profile, Research), media reports said on Wednesday. The Times newspaper, without citing sources, said that private equity firm Carlyle was part of the consortium and that talks were at an early stage.

Analysts must also be wondering what type of deal UBM would do if this one wasn't to its liking. The company has remained on the sidelines for much of the media buying frenzy of the past several years. It has no debt to speak off but it remains relatively small. Under what circumstances would they consider expanding the company?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Found In Books

AbeBooks has an interesting article about items found in books. My family (well, me and my father anyway) tend to leave boarding cards in books. They turn up some times nosing themselves above the edge of the boards. You take the book off the shelf to peak at the document and it says something like HNL - SFO or BKK - SYD. These always tend to be Pan Am boarding cards although many of my recent books have lots of BA cards - which are virtually all EWR - LHR or return. The older ones tend not to have dates; you are left to contemplate when the travel occurred and who was travelling where. I can sometimes remember but generally the circumstances remain a mystery.

The AbeBooks article is far more interesting;
Adam Tobin, owner of Unnameable Books in Brooklyn, New York, has created a display inside his bookstore dedicated to objects discovered in books. “It’s a motley assortment,” he said. “We’ve been doing it for about two years since opening the store. The display quickly took over the back wall and now it’s spreading to other places, and there’s a backlog of stuff that we haven’t put up yet. There are postcards, shopping lists, and concert tickets but my favorites are the cryptic notes. They are often deeply personal and can be very moving.” Used booksellers often take ownership of books that have been in a family or a household for decades or even generations. “It’s easy to find things in books that are very dated,” explained Adam,” Such as a newspaper advert for elastic bands from the 19th century. My personal favorite is an ad from the 1950s that reads ‘Rinsing Dacron Curtains in Milk Makes Them Crisp, Stiff, Just Like New.’

Read the whole article. If you are like me and immediately on seeing an interesting book in a second hand bookstore you thumb through it in the hope of finding something significant you will be wondering when lady luck will present herself.

I have found and lost at this game myself. As a book buyer at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston we routinely bought job lots of remainders. One day before the store opened, I picked up a photography book from the remainder pile. This book had clearly been in a store somewhere and not simply shipped out of a warehouse. As I thumbed through the pages, the book opened up and there was a like-new sheet of writing paper from The Southern Cross Hotel in Melbourne Australia. Remember I am in Boston and it is 1985. If you will have read this post you will remember that I lived in that hotel as a child between 1973-77. I bought the book and I still have the paper, but how that writing paper got there remains a mystery.

On the downside, I believe I left a Manchester United signed team photo of their 1968 European Cup winning team between the pages of a book consigned to a second hand store. Worth several thousand by now and I just hope the person who found it knew what it was.

Hat tip to QuillBlog

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Politicans Royalties

Teleread takes a look at a number of high profile political leaders and wonder's whether they will be influenced on copyright legislation.
But what does it mean when, according to the Post, more than twenty of the 100 Senators are enjoying book-writing income? Oh, well, I suspect that other things count more—such as the Senate being home to dozens of millionaires, not to mention the number of lawyer-politicians.

Richard & Judy Sell Books

The UK has its own book selling machine similar to Oprah's Book Club. The Richard and Judy show's support of books has had an impressive impact on bookselling in the UK. The TimesOnline has a profile:
Franklin admits that, like many other “literary snobs”, he had regarded the start of a book club by daytime television’s supernormal couple with mild derision and not-so-mild scepticism. The audience didn’t read and, if they did, they restricted themselves to Jeffrey Archer and ghosted packs of lies by barely human celebrities. O’Connor’s, however, was a real book, as were others on that list - William Dalrymple, Alice Sebold - and R&J were shifting them like Tesco burgers. In fact, they were shifting them on a scale unprecedented in the long and undistinguished history of book-promotion scams. They were changing the entire market.
Four years and many real books later, the R&J Book Club accounts for 26% of the sales of the top 100 books in the UK, and Amanda Ross, the club’s creator and book selector, is the most powerful player in British publishing. Now, though, the club faces a crisis. Richard & Judy are ending their early-evening run on Channel 4 and moving to a new UKTV channel. Can the club survive the shift from a terrestrial to a cable channel?

Informa and UBM - Update

Informa and UBM are in discussions about a possible merger. It is anticipated that a financial player may enter the ring and compete and currently Apax is the likely contender (Independent).

Meanwhile the TimesOnline has a profile of Peter Rigby Informa's CEO:
No wonder colleagues say Rigby is different. “Peter’s an Alka-Seltzer dropped into water,” says Derek Mapp, Informa’s senior non-executive director. “You can’t imagine him ever sitting still.” You can’t imagine him ever sacking anyone, either. He’s too nice. The smile is handsome, the eyes twinkle, he cracks jokes with flat, near-Manchester vowels. “Born in Southport, now part of Merseyside, but proud to call myself a Lancastrian,” he laughs. Beneath, there must be a flintier core. The son of a painter and decorator, Rigby has built Informa into one of the biggest conference organisers in the world, and a leading technical publisher with titles including Lloyd’s List among its jewels.

Amazon's Tactics

The NY Times reports on the on-going feud between some UK publishers - specifically Hachette - and Amazon is doing the physical store equivalent of taking the books off the shelves or out of the front window and putting them in the stock room for all those publishers that will not give them better terms. The tactics point to Amazon's willingness to go after the biggest publishers as well as the smaller ones that have fewer resources. From the article:
The struggle comes at a time that Amazon’s power as a bookseller is increasing, with sales growing online in an otherwise tepid global book market. Some publishers fear that with the introduction of Amazon’s Kindle electronic reader, the company will rise into a position to be able to demand more concessions.
“The buy button is their weapon of choice and that’s how they impose market discipline,” said Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, an American trade group that also briefly lost the buy icon, for titles sold from, a print-on-demand service for infrequently purchased works. “This is such a clear indication that once they have the clout they are willing to use it to the full extent that they can. It’s ugly with Amazon and will probably get uglier.”

Friday, June 13, 2008

Youthful Folly, Jubilance and Hyjinx

I have been looking for a reason to post this clip of Russel Brand who is a UK comedian, writer and actor and now I have it. Brand's book My Booky Wook was a surprising hit for Hachette and he has now jumped to Harpercollins which will release the title in the US. In the UK, his title sold 600K units and topped charts for weeks. The deal also covers an expected sequel. Brand was in the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshal. released earlier this year.

Here is some video from Letterman.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Electronic Publisher Catalogs

Arsen Kashkashian is the Head Buyer at The Boulder Bookstore and has written a long piece on the way booksellers use publisher catalogs. First he explains how the current systems work and then proposes a better way to buy. The full post is definitely worth reading for publishers who strive to understand the bookstore process. He concludes thus,
HarperCollins held a meeting at the recent Book Expo America in Los Angeles with buyers from many of the top independent bookstores in the country to discuss their plans to implement an online catalog in the next nine months. It was a fascinating study in how people react to change. I was leading the charge into the online world with a handful of other booksellers. Many other buyers were much more hesitant to change a system that has worked for them, despite its inherent flaws. To them, the rush to change seemed reckless.My biggest concern is that bookstores are some of the most under-capitalized businesses you'll ever find. Most stores do not have state-of-the-art computers and speedy internet connections. If an online catalog features too many bells and whistles, (HarperCollins is planning on having video and audio components to many pages) it could take too long for bookstores to load the individual pages. Staring at a stuck screen for more than an instant is going to bring the whole appointment to a crashing halt. There has to be a quick-loading basic page, with the exciting, colorful features all offered as something booksellers can access only if they want to learn more.
On a related note, at Bowker we did a number of focus groups with Librarians to better understand their buying process in order for us to potentially build applications to improve efficiency. I was able to attend one of these all day meetings and was astounded by the obvious appreciation for the inefficiency, cost and lost productivity of the process exhibited by the participants (librarians), but at each suggestion of improvement (often made by the participants in the process) the glue of decades of institutionalized processes inexorably pulled us back to the status quo. It was torture.

One of the biggest negative impacts of this inefficient buying process is that it doesn't encourage deviation from a fairly static list of publisher products. (Or over reliance on pre-packaged buys from a wholesaler). Buyers simply don't have time to look at a wider range of material. Of course, having every publisher set up their own on-line catalog is in the long term not going to make buyers happy either because visiting several thousand imprints on the web will try anybody's patience. (And, I am assuming all kinds of order forms and added bells and whistles are included in these sites). Now, if I were a publisher of an industry wide books data base or transaction site wouldn't I be marketing and promoting this 'one-stop shop' solution really, really, really heavily? Probably, but with a lot of changes.

(Hat tip to Nora Rawlinson).

Speaking of Desperation

Border Stores investor William Ackerman is providing some color commentary on the Borders sale process. As a major investor in Borders (over 30%) he is trying to gin up some interest in the bizarre idea that should buy Borders. Is there really so little interest that this idea is posited?

Handicapping the buyers:

Private Equity buy: Pershing to take it private 1:2 Odds on Favorite

Some other PE firm: 3:1 (Pacific Equity Partners, Others)

Follett Stores: 5:1 (Borders would be a good match with Follett College and a concern for B&N/ B&N College)

BAM: 7:1 (Interesting match with BAM store locations. Combo would would be impressive)

Indigo Books & Music: 7:1 (No where to go in Canada what better opportunity will there be to become a bigger more significant player - could be the dark horse).

B&N: 33:1 (Similar odds to the winner of the Belmont so anything's possible. Probably not a real contender unless Borders goes Chapter 11 then they can renegotiate the leases).

Ingram 100:1 (Would they try this again? The environment is significantly different than 1999 but this is a long shot).

WH Smiths: 200:1. They just got out of this market so unlikely they would get back in.

Target: 200:1

Walmart: 500:1

Amazon: 1000:1 (Maybe worth a flutter).

Well that was fun...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


This video takes video conferencing to a whole new dimension. Quite astounding.
The ‘Cisco On-Stage TelePresence Experience’ was an ambitious collaboration between Cisco and Musion Systems, which took place during the opening of Cisco’s Globalization Centre East in Bangalore, India. Musion seamlessly integrated their 3D holographic display technology with Cisco’s TelePresence’s system to create the world’s first real time virtual presentation. Cisco CEO John Chambers, who was live on the Bangalore stage, ‘beamed up’ Martin De Beer, the Senior Vice President of emerging Technologies, and Chuck Stucki the General Manager of TelePresence, live from San Jose, California. Chambers was then able to have a ‘face to face’ discussion with De Beer and Stucki on the future of Cisco TelePresence, demonstrating first hand the potential capabilities of the system in front of the watching audience.

Hat tip to Brantley.

Jane F - The Blow by Blow

The NY Observer prints their version of events leading to the resignation of Jane Friedman at HarperCollins.
That same morning Ms. Friedman received a phone call from someone at News Corp. asking her to please come see Mr. Murdoch at 4:30 in his office six blocks away. According to one of Ms. Friedman colleagues, who spoke to her recently, the caller did not explain what Mr. Murdoch wanted to talk to her about. And so Ms. Friedman, fresh off a triumphant turn at Book Expo America the weekend prior, and with strong fourth-quarter results expected at the end of the month, went to the News Corp. building and took the elevator to Mr. Murdoch’s office. When she arrived, he told her that he had given her job to her deputy, a talented young businessman named Brian Murray who had been with HarperCollins since 1997. By midnight that night, the entire publishing world knew that Ms. Friedman was out, and her spokeswoman issued a statement announcing that she had decided to retire and would do so immediately.
Some of this rings true from my own experience; maybe I'll elaborate one day although it is no where near as interesting.

Where the Web Is Taking Us: The Inevitable Future and the Publisher's Role In It

Mike Shatzkin has uploaded a transcript of a speech he gave to small and independent publishers at this years BookExpo conference. Here is the first paragraph (and you can find the rest of it here):
The basic premise under which we're operating here, I'll summarize for those of you have never heard or read my work before, is that horizontal, format-specific media entities are oh, so 20th century, and won't work very deep into the 21st. The reason for that is the web, which almost forces vertical organization. Horizontal presentations across subject matter -- like CBS, Random House, or The New York Times -- were the products of a capital-intensive, limited-distribution universe. CBS came out of an era when there were three national TV networks: they all tried to appeal to the broadest possible audience. Daily newspapers, to support their printing and distribution infrastructure, also had to appeal to just about everybody; the Times could get away without a comic strip page, but that was its only concession to verticality -- a more intellectual audience. And book publishers were relying primarily on promotional media -- newspapers, radio, and TV -- and distribution outlets -- bookstores -- that were also appealing to people across the board. It didn't matter what subjects Random House or Harper or Simon & Schuster published; what mattered is that each book have a large enough audience to be worth employing the powerful machine they controlled.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Borders Close Sale

Five days after announcing an agreement to sell their Australian and NZ stores, Borders has annouced the deal has closed. All regulatory hurdles were overcome in the first go-around earlier this year and substantial due dilligence must also have been completed before the original deal fell apart. Press release

Time to Re-Think BookExpo

Imagine the lone guy on the periphery minding his stand with only a solitary apparently lost attendee to keep him company once an hour. By some accounts that was the state of affairs sometime over the weekend at BookExpo America in Los Angeles. In advance of the fair Thomas Nelson, one of the largest publishers in the US decided to pass on attending the show. This action was different than the publisher boycott of several years ago; in this case, Nelson recognised that exhibiting at BookExpo is increasingly irrelevant in addressing the dynamics of the market place. In an age when the traditional publishing schedule is looking decidedly frayed, how BookExpo measures these dynamics will determine how many publishers continue to value their attendence.

In much the same way that Publisher's Weekly has seen their traditional advertising model change fundamentally as the bulk of bookstore book purchases are made centrally and six - nine months in advance of publication, BookExpo is in danger of suffering a similar dislocation. In PW's world there is no need to advertise and in BookExpo's world attendance becomes an expensive way to reach independents. More publishers will drop out - perhaps not next year as the show is in New York but it will happen, because the current show format is an old and increasingly ineffective tool. The decline will accelerate as more publishers take advantage of electronic marketing and promotions tools such as NetGalley (functionality will rapidly expand across the MarCom value chain) and more publishers will experiment with virtual trade shows , webinars and virtual worlds like Second Life.

There are two segments to BookExpo - the education program and the exhibits - and both need revamping. On the education side, BookExpo is losing ground to new upstarts like TOC and SIIA conferences. In both these cases, the conference organizers are successfully exploring the intersection of publishing and technology which many of us in the traditional publishing world continue to battle. Attending SIIA conferences with its breadth of content and technology companies all addressing new and old problems in unique ways can be a stunning business experience. At BookExpo we may see this in isolated cases but not comprehensively. In the traditional publishing market an education program similar to TOC or SIIA is still a market opportunity given the concentration of publishers attending BookExpo. On the other hand O'Reilly (TOC) may have already established the beach head. Consumers are decidedly lacking at BookExpo and in some other trade education programs panel discussions include consumers - in one memorable case they were all thirteen year old girls. Our business is in complete flux and that's the kind of education we should be looking for.

On the exhibits side, BookExpo must lead in the expansion of marketing and promotion programs that go beyond the physical limits of a three day event in a location not everyone can attend. The BookExpo America site should be a 365 day exhibit space. Many publishers and some websites are hosting e-versions of their catalogs. Coupled with more product details, ordering facilities, merchandising tools, etc. the traditional conference attendee should be able to visit and interact with all publisher products on the BookExpo site. (I do mean all publishers). The experience can and should be better than visiting the physical show. The traditional publishing calendar is disappearing - it serves no purpose (just as television has eroded their producer driven schedules) other than as a reminder of the formulaic approach to publishing. The physical exhibit can continue but it must change unless it is to devolve into a middling trade show for small and medium sized publishers.

BookExpo also needs to think strategically about exhibitors and to seek new categories of attendees. There should be more technology companies, service companies and others. Since the market is retail what is more logical than encouraging more vendors who market store systems and products? On the technology side there are many vendors who want to expand into the publishing business but do not attend BookExpo. They do attend SIIA, TOC and Book Business conferences. Expansion along these lines is a double-edged sword since a target audience needs to be in attendance. For that, a stronger education program and specific outreach programs need to support exhibitors and attendees. First time exhibitors should get two years for one paid year for example. (As an aside, I also believe the central exhibit floor 'neighborhood' where the largest publishers congregate should be broken apart to encourage more interaction).

Anyone who has stayed over the weekend at the Frankfurt bookfair (as I did on my first visit - and never again) will hiss and blubber over the idea that BookExpo be open to consumers. This issue has previously been debated by BookExpo managers, and indeed at Frankfurt, the issue of consumers attending the fair has long been controversial with the UK and US publishers. My suggestion is based on simple logic. Book reading is declining so what better way to introduce consumers to what publishers have to offer than showing them. Look at the success of the various city wide book fairs including the one in DC.

I have always enjoyed attending BookExpo but seeing the lack of traffic in many areas this year I doubt I would be the only one considering rethinking my exhibition participation for next year. The fact that BookExpo is in NYC next year will cover over the troubling issues because of the influx of many publishing staffers. In reality the addition of 10,000 publishing staff attendees from NYC is not really what will help return BookExpo to the preeminence it deserves.

Ian Fleming

There is an exhibit opening at the Imperial War Museum this weekend on Ian Fleming and James Bond. There have been several news reports about Fleming and Bond (aside from the new book by Sebastian Faulks). Here are some links to those items:

Telegraph: Joseph Connolly got hooked on 007 when he was 12 and has been busy collecting the novels - from paperbacks to first editions - ever since. Here he provides a bookworm's guide. (I did something of the same thing last year: "Noting the release of the latest James Bond movie Casino Royale, the December issue of Rare Book Review included a spread on first editions of all the James Bond books. Collecting true first editions of the set is likely to set you back $150,000. (Sniff...time for that raise). What is useful about the article is that each edition is described so that should you come across one of these at a local thrift store you will know what to look out for").

TimesOnline has an interactive exploration of the exhibit.

International Herald Trib: Ian Fleming, had he lived, would have celebrated his 100th birthday on May 28. James Bond, his greatest invention, is probably a bit younger, strictly speaking (the evidence in the books is a little contradictory) - except that Bond, of course, is ageless and immortal. Never mind those three packs a day; he has wind to spare. His liver, astoundingly, is still holding up. He has survived not only Fleming but Kingsley Amis and John Gardner, who, among others, kept on publishing Bond novels in Fleming's stead.

Times Online: Bond never goes out of fashion.

For the insatiable:

Monday, June 09, 2008

New Links

In the last few months or so I have started reading a couple of new blog sites.

Tools of Change: Is published by the O'Reilly TOC conference organisers. They have been nice enough to mention me once or twice. Here is there article on Treating E-Books like Software.

Alison Pendergast is an executive at Pearson and has many interesting insights into Educational publishing. Here she speaks about digital music - slightly off topic but minic my own experience and I thought interesting.

Abbeville has launched a blog to support their publishing activities. I liked this post on The Art of Rocking Podcasts. In this post is also a link to a series of podcasts entitled "so you want to work in publishing". Listeners are advised to ignore the sound of tinking glasses, laughter and smoking.

WSJ Interviews Bezos

This interview may not be avialable for long: (some of this has been reported already)

Jeffrey P. Bezos, as chairman, president and chief executive of Inc., made e-commerce mainstream when Amazon started selling books over the Internet in 1994.
Since then, he has turned the site into a virtual shopping mall, where the company and thousands of independent merchants sell just about anything from abacuses to zithers.
He spoke with The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg about cloud computing, streaming movies and why books are like horses. Here are edited excerpts of that conversation.

OUP Believes E-Book Sales are Huge

Evan Schnittman on the OUP blog has some interesting analysis on ebook sales for the balance of this year. He concludes thus,
Success in technology, like everything else, leads to more success. It’s not uncommon to see five-fold growth the year following a successful technology product launch. Think iPod, think Wii, think Blackberry. Whole micro-economies emerge around products that range from accelerated content creation, and all sorts of aftermarket products and services. Versions 2.0 and beyond create better and better devices. The better the devices, the more accessories, the more content there is, and soon a whole world of business opportunity is rolling downhill picking up speed. With this in mind, I can easily imagine the success of Kindle and Reader dramatically expanding next year and growing by a factor of five. If that happens, then the formula above leads to a completely new ebook economy. Five million devices would mean ebook sales of $1,200,000,000, which, by my estimation, is 1.3% of the current global book market of $90,000,000,000.

Call in Sick

From this mornings Chicago Sun Times.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Avoid emotional discussions about politics, religion, racial issues or even matters related to travel, foreign countries, publishing and education. These discussions will either go in circles or die on the vine. People are quick to take offense or assume that something is personal.

Shouldn't the and education be or education. Image people in publishing taking things personnally.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Controversy Continues to Dog BBC Aquisition of Lonely Planet

Earlier this year the commercial arm of the BBC purchased the travel publisher Lonely Planet from the founders Tony and Maureen Wheeler. At the time the purchase raised eyebrows since it represented a particularly overt foray into competitive publishing by an organization that historically did not seek commercial advantages. A number of publishers took issue with this purchase even though the acquisition was made by the for profit business operations of BBC Worldwide. This type of expansion had been published and discussed by BBC Worldwide unit as part of its strategic plans.

The Sunday Times is reporting that Time Out founder Tony Eliot has written to the Office of Fair Trading demanding that the office launch an investigation into the purchase. Eliot believes that the acquisition breeches the BBCs obligations under their fair trading and competition guidelines. From the article:
In the letter, seen by The Sunday Times, Time Out founder Tony Elliott says he fears that the BBC will provide Lonely Planet with “an inexhaustible fund of factual, technical and editorial information and expertise quite beyond the resources of any privately funded organisation such as Time Out”.
The article also notes that Penguin, which also publishes travel guides might also support the action:
Penguin, owner of the Rough Guide travel series, is also frustrated. It requested further details from the BBC Trust last October, under the Freedom of
Information Act, on how the Lonely Planet deal was endorsed and how the company would operate in future.
The larger issue regarding BBC Worldwide's ability to expand and extend their commercial activities has already been established; therefore, it is unlikely that this action will generate any support at the OFT. No doubt Time Out has attempted to galvanise some additional publishing support behind this effort, but has evidently not been able to do so otherwise, the PA would have been party to the complaint.

In related news Judy Slater who had been CEO of Lonely Planet since 2000 has left the company to join an investment advisory group.

Informa and UBM in Take-Over Discussions

Several UK newspapers (Telegraph) are reporting that United Business Media has initiated discussions on a £3billion take over of Informa. UBM has not been as active as other media companies over the past several years in expanding their business offerings, on the contrary the company has deleveraged the business and is now a company with relatively low debt. In the US, UBM owns PRNewswire and runs conferences, trade magazines and data and information products through the CMP and Commonwealth Business Media brands. From The Telegraph:

The Sunday Telegraph has learned that United Business Media (UBM), which has a market value of £1.5bn, has approached £1.6bn Informa about a merger that would establish a powerhouse in the increasingly competitive world of business-to-business media. Discussions between the two companies are at a very early stage and are not yet thought to have progressed as far as substantive negotiations about the structure or price of a potential combination. UBM and Informa may come under pressure to confirm the talks to the London Stock Exchange as early as tomorrow morning.
Informa has been considered a buyout candidate over the past several months since their long time CEO David Gilbertson left to run PE led Emap Communications. Business media and conferencing companies have become hot properties because their subscription based business models mitigate much of the variability in advertising based businesses. Steady cash flow is highly desirable.

More Informa

In the ebb and flow of big media deals it is interesting to note that having spent the last several years on the sidelines unable to compete with the very large multiples that PE players were prepared to pay, some operators like UBM may be well positioned to make significant strategic acquisitions as those same PE companies become skittish in the current market. Last week we saw CQ Press acquired by SAGE and an effort by Reed Elsevier to sweeten the pot for potential acquirers of Reed Business. Analysts are now suggesting that RE may be unable to sell the RBI unit in one piece which would have been unheard of only 18mths ago.

Update Monday: Telegraph confirms discussions and notes share price jump

Other reports:
Forbes picks Candover but not until summer.
Earlier report from The Telegraph proposes other bidders including Axel Springer.
TimesOnline: Informa Garners Attention

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Lost Theatres of Los Angeles

I like neon and in walking along Broadway in Los Angeles there is a feast of it adorning the front of the many old theatres that formed the core of LA's theatre district from approximately 1910 - 1940.

LA city government has announced a $30mm restoration project for this area. It would be great if they could recreate the glamor and excitement that pervaded this area in the 20s and 30s.

Each picture has some description sourced from a variety of sources including the theatre's websites and expert sites such as and

Links for BookExpo

A few items of interest from BookExpo.

BookTour: Set up by Chris Anderson (Long Tail) to aggregate information about Author tours. (Around for a while but I've never mentioned it). Here are all the publishing clients and their videos using the BookVideos format. (Also around for a while).

MuseStorm: Widget maker working with publishing clients.

Mobifusion: A mobile platform that several publishers are using.

EarlyWord: A new blog/website launched by ex- Publisher's Weekly Editor & Chief Nora Rawlinson and ex- PW Publisher Fred Ciporen. The site aims to help Libraries with Collection Development and you can find out more about their philosophy on the site.

BigUniverse: Children's books that you can create yourself. Interesting collaborative writing project.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Green Data Centers and Space

Nation, like me and astronauts everywhere you will be immensely relieved that they have fixed the toilet on the space station. Now I'm a true believer in colonising space, after all what could be better than performing circus tricks in a small tubular room, experimenting with compounds that only a HS science student could understand and riding up there on a huge tank of nitrogen that blankets South Florida with exhaust. In fact, pretty soon those space monkeys aren't going to want to come back and that's why I was interested to hear from fellow traveller Karen Christensen who is co-chair of the first Green Data Centres Conference.

No, they aren't looking to abolish the space program (after all where would we put all those tubes of nitrogen), this conference is all about making computing more green and sustainable.

Karen tells me she is,

particularly passionate about green computing because of my work on community and sustainable business, and as a publisher increasingly involved in social media and online distribution. For years I've felt that the environmental impact of computing needed much more attention, and the conference will bring together experts from some of the world's major technology companies, as well as from banks and other international institutions.
The two day event is being held in London July 1-2 and if you travel there make sure you carbon offset. Karen is offering a 15% discount on the fee.

Here is some of the agenda and registration information is here:

Valley Conferences have brought together a stunning group of speakers from companies that are setting out to be leaders in sustainability. As someone who grew up in the Silicon Valley, I'm thrilled to chair the first day of the first Green Data Centres conference in the city where my publishing career began - this definitely feels like coming full circle." Karen Christensen, Conference Chairman and CEO of the Berkshire Publishing Group.

Day 1: Tuesday 1st July 2008
How Green Data Centres are Changing the Face of Business
Per Bahr, EMEA Business Development Manager Public Sector, AMD (Advanced Micro Devices). Data Centres are going green, helping reduce costs and increase efficiency. This presentation will look at how new technologies such as virtualisation are changing the the face of business, and what other measures companies can put in place to meet today's European Green IT standards.
Case Study: Sun Microsystems: Green Data Centres, The Million Dollar Prize... Richard Barrington, Head of Public Policy, Sun Microsystems UK.
Sun Microsystems has received a Million Dollar 'Cashback' from PG&E in addition to on-going utility bill savings because of the energy efficiency demonstrated in the design and construction of its new Data Centre in Menlo Park, California. This presentation will explain and analyse how Sun's internal IT ops organisation has developed a blueprint for the successful creation of a modular 'eco-DC'.

What can I say, its Friday...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Reductions at Reed Business

Folio is reporting that 41 positions have been eliminated at PW, Variety and Broadcasting & Cable. From their report:
Shortly after the announcement, RBI CEO Tad Smith, in an internal memo, tried to reassure RBI staffers that their jobs would be intact—including his own. "I am committed to leading our business as your CEO during the sale process and thereafter," Smith wrote in an internal memo. "In the meantime, business will continue as usual and everyone's jobs, benefits and pay will be unaffected."

No doubt that sets everyone's mind at rest. Folio used the work 'slashed' but it would be hard to characterise it this way especially since in the same article they quote an insider saying that the division has been able to replace most (if not all) open positions since the start of the year. These amounted to over 200 positions so 41 job eliminations seems minor (unless you lost your job obviously - and apologies etc.)

During a sale process the seller would want as few disruptions as possible and what this action suggests is that Reed is now resigned to a much longer sale process than originally thought. HQ is most likely demanding that the operating unit achieve their budgeted profit numbers at all costs since the unit may linger around for a full financial year.

Jane's Gone

Jane Friedman, CEO of Harpercollins is leaving her post after an impressive 10 year run at Harpercollins. She joined the company from Random House having been lured to Harpercollins by Rupert Murdoch himself. Harpercollins had been struggling under Murdoch up until that point but Friedman invigorated the business and ultimately produced a strong profitable publishing company.

Brian Murray has been named as her replacement and he has been key to executing their current long term strategy to transform the business from print to electronic distribution. From the press release:
"We are enormously grateful for her contributions over the past 10 years and understand her desire to seek new challenges at this point in her career," Murdoch said in a statement issued late Wednesday.

Murray, 41, has been president of HarperCollins since July 2007. He joined the publisher 10 years earlier and held several positions in the General Books Group until 2001, when he was named CEO of HarperCollins Australia/New Zealand. Murray returned to HarperCollins in the U.S. as group president in 2004 before his promotion to president. "In his 11-year tenure, Brian has demonstrated an impressive track record of growing publishing companies," Murdoch said. HarperCollins said he has led the publisher's digital efforts, including the development of its direct-to-consumer marketing.

Borders Sell Australian Store Group

The only surprising thing about this announcement was that it was so long in coming. Borders have agreed to sell their store operations in Australia and New Zealand to Pacific Equity Partners the private equity firm and owners of Angus and Robertsons and Whitcoulls (NZ). The price paid is a disappointing $90mm in cash and deferred payments of $14mm. Earlier in the process amounts as high as $120mm were suggested and importantly this purchase price includes the rights to use the Borders brand name throughout the region.

Further details of the transaction may become clearer but to sell the branding without any long term licensing deal supporting a supplemental revenue source for Borders seems unfortunate.

There is also no comment from Borders on whether they will use the cash generated from this sale to repay the emergency financing provided by Pershing earlier this year.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

CQ Press sold to Sage

The decision to sell the publishing unit of Congressional Quarterly Inc. was announced in January together with a promise that the sale process would be completed by months end. Yesterday CQ Inc. and Sage announced a sale agreement had been completed. The long process seems to reflect the slow nature of M&A in the publishing business at the moment: Haights Cross is still awaiting a purchaser after placing itself on the block in December. In their joint announcement Sage and CQ promised to keep CQ in tact and in Washington DC (although their location is less important to this division than the rump CQ business).

Commenting on the acquisition, Blaise Simqu, SAGE’s President and CEO said the following:
“We’re very pleased CQ Press is joining the global SAGE family,” said Simqu. “CQ Press and SAGE enjoy a shared mission and values. Both are driven by a passion for scholarship and innovation that impacts education and public policy. John Jenkins and the rest of the CQ Press executive team have created an impressive publishing enterprise that will further enhance SAGE’s presence in the marketplace.”
Despite the long sales process, interest in CQ Press was high with a number of publishing companies actively involved in the purchase process. Terms have not been announced.

AARP and Borders

Like me you you may believe that this agreement of a marketing agreement between AARP and Borders is at best bad timing based on the company's announcement of headcount reductions and the general problematic bookselling environment.
AARP and Borders(R) announced today a long-term agreement that will provide unique benefits and discounts to AARP's more than 39 million members. The nation's largest membership organization for people age 50 and over and Borders
will combine forces to expand access to information on health, financial security, travel, and other issues important to personal growth and quality of life for those over 50. In addition, Borders will offer AARP members in-store and online discounts on select merchandise and will encourage AARP members to take advantage of the benefits of membership in the Borders Rewards(R) customer loyalty program, which now has over 26 million members.

On the surface, and as a marketing agreement, this may be mutually beneficial; however, I would argue this group doesn't need too much additional motivation to buy books. Getting this group into Borders to make their purchases is not a problem unique to this segment and that's the bigger issue at the crux of Borders problems. Separate from bigger issue, whether offering membership discounts in addition to the Borders Rewards program is required to encourage this group is debatable. On the other hand, this program may compound the view that the industry is catering to the wrong market. Envision the flyers that will now populate your local Borders: won't it begin to look like the waiting room at your doctors office?

Regrettably, the marketing department also thought it a great idea to organize an essay writing contest around the idea of "Your Next Chapter". While this is clearly suggestive of a 50+ person contemplating life choices, there is the distinct possibility that any number of current or past Border's staffers will consider entering the content on behalf of the corporation.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Reed's Loan to Buy Offer

The Telegraph is reporting that Reed Elsevier is facing such a problem selling Reed business that they are organizing a consortium to provide funding for a potential purchase. Initially, the company said it would sell the entire division (excluding the Exhibitions Group) then they annouced that they would consider separating the UK and US operations. Outside appearences indicate the sale isn't going quite as well as planned. Ultimately, the division will be sold but Reed may have to give up on their price expectations or consider further break-up scenarios.

If the current approach is succesful it could limit or slow down a potential buyers ability to carve up the company and sell off the pieces they don't want. Any potential buyer is likely to want to sell several properties in an effort to focus the group on a number of core industry segments that have already shown potential for electronic publishing. Any buyer taking advantage of this financing model to be as flexible as if they had negotiated the terms themselves and whether this is possible remains to be seen.

Borders Axe Falls

Rumors were rife this weekend at BookExpo about the situation at Borders and the news was confirmed today regarding a significant headcount reduction. The company released a press statement that said in part,
As part of this expense reduction program, management reported that the company is today implementing a corporate payroll reduction that includes the elimination of 156 corporate positions spread across virtually all departments of its Ann Arbor headquarters. Employees at the company's headquarters were informed of the job eliminations this morning. In addition, Borders Group has eliminated 118 corporate posts that are based outside its headquarters, impacting primarily corporate employees in distribution centers, the field marketing organization, and the corporate sales division. These employees were informed yesterday. In total, the corporate payroll reduction eliminates approximately 20% of the company's corporate positions but less than 1% of its total workforce. The job elimination, with the exception of less than a handful of positions, is limited to corporate employees and does not involve store employees at the company's 547 Borders superstores and 475 Waldenbooks Specialty Retail stores worldwide.

Naturally, this news will only make publishers more nervous about extending credit to the company. A deal to sell the business can not come too soon.