With Russia’s online book market growing about 30% annually, more households having Internet access, and consumers becoming increasingly comfortable purchasing and paying online, it is logical to see print on-demand coming into play.
One dominant player is Pubmix.com, formerly known as Kniga po trebovayniy (or “books on demand” in Russian). Established five years ago, with rapid growth recorded in the past three, it serves around 400 companies (including publishers, universities, and literary agencies) and boasts 1.6 million titles in its database. Recently, CEO Yevgeniy Khata led a massive rebranding effort to ensure that “we have a name that is pronounceable by everybody and one that encompasses the integrated system and varied formats that we offer. Our goal is to help authors and copyright holders reach consumers in emerging markets in the fastest and most profitable manner possible, whether print or electronic.”
Over half of Pubmix’s sales currently come from overseas. “The Russian POD and e-book markets are underpenetrated,” Khata says, “with under 1% of Russia’s total book sales. That leaves much room for expansion. We printed and sold approximately 300,000 titles in Russia last year. But with a growth rate averaging around 15% per month, we are just starting.”
Besides its own Moscow-based printing and binding facility toward one-off production in hardcover or softbound, Pubmix has five partners in different geographic areas (St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, Rostov, Novosibirsk, and Khabarovsk). “Our respective platforms are fully integrated to minimize costs and maximize production efficiencies,” adds Khata, whose team also works with such companies as Amazon.com, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Buy.com, the Book Depository, Gardners, Alibris, Half.com, Ingram Content Group, Books-a-Million, and Indigo. “We are linked to POD providers such as BoD Libri, and finalizing negotiations with KNV, Publidisa, and Singular Digital. We also have partners in Japan, Australia, and Singapore. All these have allowed us to reach different markets worldwide.”
Pubmix started collaborating with Ingram about two years ago, but the integration process took a long time. “It was both educational and challenging as we had to drastically tweak our system, especially for content creation and management,” says Khata. “That done, we are now negotiating to integrate our production and distribution network in Russia with Ingram’s Global Connect program. Given Russia’s $2.5 billion potential book market, we certainly hope to seal the deal soon.”
Self-publishing is one area that Khata believes will grow within the next two years. “Pubmix will help to introduce and promote new writers, especially potential bestselling authors. Also, our new animated e-book service will enable customers to create affordable animated e-books—another segment with huge potential given the growing children’s market in Russia.”
Turning to business challenges, he finds that persuading large multinational publishers to go into POD in emerging markets an uphill battle. “They are scared off by the many misconceptions about copyright protection, market size and overall opportunity here. Sometimes, they prefer not to take risks at all, or they are too busy with the traditional business to think about POD. I think it is even harder than persuading large Russian publishers to license their entire catalogue to us, something which I believe we will manage to do sooner than later.”
Piracy is another issue that Khata has to deal with. “We launched four legal proceedings in the past 12 months and settled out of court for two of them,” he says. “Copyright laws in Russia call for criminal injunctions if statutory damages of more than $25,000 can be proven. Pirates are getting bold because multinational publishers would not put their precious resources into pursuing them in Russia, but Pubmix will.”