The Book Industry Study Group Annual Meeting, held at NYU's Kimmell Center, highlighted a number of topics: the growing benefits of data capture and feedback; the rebound of indie bookstores; subscription and new business models; as well as the growing demand for video and other content beyond traditional book formats.
BISG welcomed a new chair, Tara Catogge, v-p, sales director at Quarto Publishing Group USA, who will take over from outgoing chair Ken Michaels, COO at Macmillan Science and Education. BISG also welcomed in 33 new publishing members, among them, Scribd, Quarto, Strothman Literary Agency and the Ann Arbor public Library, as well as a new executive committee that includes, in addition to Catogge, Maureen McMahon, president and publisher of Kaplan Publishing, Fan Toolian, founder of Firebrand Technologies, and Andrew Savikas, CEO of Safari Books.
BISG executive director Len Vlahos showed off Ground Rules, an entertaining stop-motion animated video that uses a baseball metaphor to answer the question, “what does BISG do?," and shows how the organization creates standards and best practices “so competitors can play together.” He went on to highlight new projects BISG will focus on the coming year, including new research, subscription, libraries, emerging markets and accessibility.
Unable to attend this year’s annual meeting, outgoing chair Ken Michaels sent a video outlining four areas of “focus” for BISG going forward: Collaboration and the dismantling of content silos, interoperability to help information to move and be shared easily, quality and the importance of “authoritative brands,” and data analytics and the insights it provides into reader behavior and publisher products.
After a short presentation by Elsevier chair Youngsuk “Y.S.” Chi on “the E-volution of publishing,” a survey of trends and challenges facing STM publishers, a panel comprised of the new BISG executive committee also offered at survey of trends. Catogge was particularly bullish on independent bookstores, noting they have grown to 4%-5% of Quarto business, “We see significant growth in our sales via independent stores and we’re looking at new ways to support them.”
Savikas outlined the growth of Safari, from a subscription service specializing in online books to a business focused on supporting training and development and content “beyond the book.” While Safari remains focused on content about technology and business, he outlined how many of the company’s big tech and media clients may not have a budget for books, but do have a growing budget for training and development. Video content, he said, is 50% of Safari’s top performing titles, and projects that it is “more an opportunity to book publishers than a threat.” He emphasized that the production of quality video products is attracting academics and other book authors.
McMahon agreed, pointing to data on students 8-18 years old that says they consume 7 ½ hours of media a day, she noted the popularity of flash cards as well as the growing popularity of video. She also highlighted the importance of using data feedback to improve content, “our products must evolve. Analysis is helping us create better products. We can see how students use our books.”
Echoing Michael’s video message the panel also urged more industry collaboration. Indeed the growing emphasis on collaboration between separate players in the supply chain and the emphasis on publisher/customer outreach can produce friction in an industry used to clear demarcations between manufacturer, retailer and consumer. But Catogge said publishers and retailers have to reassess the notion of “owning the customer,” and Toolian called earlier models of channel ownership, “outdated notions of customer relations. We need to share our understanding of customers though not necessarily their email addresses.”