Baker & Taylor has mounted an all-out effort to position itself to become a major player in the digital distribution of content. Beginning earlier this spring and running through last week, B&T completed a series of deals designed to align the wholesaler with leading companies in the digital space. “We're playing a game of catch up,” acknowledged B&T CEO Tom Morgan. The push into digital distribution is the latest manifestation of the changes brought to the wholesaler since Morgan took over last year. Morgan's first priority was to install a new management team and then to devise a new strategy for growth. The expansion into digital resulted from talks with customers and other industry members, Morgan said. “It wasn't a top-down strategy,” Morgan said, adding that now it falls on B&T to execute that strategy.
He believes the company is off to a solid start with its partnership agreements with ebrary, LibreDigital, OverDrive and, the most recent, R.R. Donnelley, which will work with B&T to establish a print-on-demand center in B&T's Momence, Ill., facility. While Morgan has brought more financial discipline to the company (“our cash flow has never been better”), begun to improve service levels and consolidated some operations, he said the development of a digital capability “is critical to keep us competitive.” The digital functions will be led by Bob Nelson, executive v-p for global business development. The agreements allowed B&T to put together an infrastructure quickly to reach its customers in the academic, library and retail markets, Nelson said. The different aspects of digital services will be B&T branded and offer services that are specific only to B&T, such as Title Source, Nelson added. While some of B&T's competitors have been in the digital market for several years, Nelson contends that with the digital market only now really taking off, the company has time to build a business. B&T's goal, Nelson said, is for its growth in the digital space to match the growth of the industry.
In addition to the digital initiatives, Morgan is also intent on moving the company deeper into the retail segment with an operation that will “mirror” the value-added services B&T offers its customers in the library and academic markets. Morgan called the retail initiative a “regrouping,” since some clients have taken over more sourcing of books themselves, and B&T has dropped others. “We made some tough decisions,” Morgan said, but believes things are now in place for B&T to begin adding new retail clients.
B&T has developed a new logo and tagline to match its various new initiatives. Kim Kuo, executive v-p of marketing, said the new look “reflects the material changes at Baker & Taylor. While we are continuing to focus on book distribution, we are making strides in digital distribution.” Kuo said B&T plans to devote significant marketing resources to promote the wholesaler's new look and new services. Part of the overall upgrade is a new Web site that has launched at Baker-Taylor.com. Morgan said he is eager to communicate to B&T's “vendors, customers and employees that things are changing.”