At a time when many businesses dependent on the retail book trade are struggling, 35-year-old Booksource’s decision to concentrate its wholesale operation on the school and library market is starting to pay off. Last year the St. Louis, Mo.-based business saw a sales increase of 7%; in 2009 co-president Neil Jaffe projects that revenue will be up more than 17%, to $40 million. And Booksource is one of the few companies hiring. It is adding eight more employees for its distribution center, which will bring the total number of employees to 215.
Jaffe attributed part of Booksource’s rapid growth to its school business. “We are pleased that Booksource was selected to be a primary vendor of trade books to the New York City Department of Education,” he said. Beginning late last year, Booksource was awarded preferred vendor status for three large classroom-library contracts. Jaffe estimates that they could bring in between $9 million and $20 million.
Another growth factor Jaffe cites is the company’s recent purchase of the commercial binding business of Topeka Bindery in Topeka, Kans., which previously operated as Tandem Library Books and Sagebrush Books. In addition to scooping up thousands of children’s books that had been converted into hardcovers for school and library use, Booksource acquired 75,000 ISBNs and 150 existing distributor relationships, as well as the Turtleback Books brand, which had been dormant for the past few years.
To maximize the potential of this new business, Booksource has created a separate Turtleback Books division. “We are excited by the opportunity to resurrect Turtleback Books using our company’s strengths of binding, distribution and EDI capabilities and expect that wholesalers and resellers will be excited to offer high-quality, library-bound editions of their favorite paperback series and titles,” said Jaffe. He has already begun purging Topeka Bindery’s database to 20,000 active titles and plans to add fresh inventory to fill the gaps in its children’s series. In addition, Jaffe promises an improved fill rate and a co-op program for accounts.
The new Turtleback division joins the company’s three other units: Booksource, which focuses on books for k-12 classrooms; San Val Inc., which offers short-run hardcover binding services to book distributors in the school and library markets; and Peaceable Kingdom Press, which provides children’s retail products.
At the same time, Booksource is moving ahead with its succession plan and transitioning the day-to-day operations from founder and CEO Sandy Jaffe to his three children. Neil Jaffe and his brother, Gary, have been named co-presidents. Neil will be in charge of customers and vendors, while Gary will oversee human resources and internal operations. Donna Jaffe continues to work out of Berkeley, Calif., where she heads Peaceable Kingdom.