The Rowman &Littlefield Publishing Group had a banner year in 1998, with double-digit gains in both its book publishing operation and distribution group. Sales in its publishing unit rose 16%, to approximately $13.5 million, while sales in its distribution operation, National Book Network, rose 26%, to $34 million.

Company president Jed Lyons attributed the increase in the publishing group to dramatic gains in online sales as well as to acquisitions made during the year, including Ivan R. Dee and Lexington Books (News, Aug. 24, 1998). In addition to Ivan Dee and Lexington, other major imprints in the publishing group include Rowman &Littlefield, Scarecrow Press and University Press of America. The group published 550 new titles last year, but Lyons told PW that number will increase to about 660 in 1999. Significant increases in title output are set for Rowman &Littlefield, which specializes in college texts for the humanities, and Lexington, which is being realigned to focus on scholarly social science books. "Our goal is to brand an identity as an academic publisher," Lyons said.

The huge increase in Internet sales last year accounted for about 12% of Rowman &Littlefield's total revenues and has made Lyons a firm believer in the importance of the Internet as a sales vehicle. To that end, Steve Mitchell was recently hired as director of Internet marketing. Mitchell's mandate is to "create links with as many Web sites as possible," Lyons said. Lyons observed that the Internet was responsible for increasing the company's foreign sales in 1998 by bringing Rowman's titles to the attention of customers who had not previously known about the company. He hopes that by linking to hundreds of sites, Rowman will further increase its exposure to consumers.

The Internet also plays a role in Lyons's plans to expand sales at NBN this year. By June, Lyons expects that NBN's clients will be able to link their sites to NBN's site. Under the model being developed, when a customer orders a book through one of NBN's publisher's sites, that order will automatically be sent to NBN, which will handle all fulfillment functions.

NBN finished 1998 with about 80 client publishers and Lyons foresees that the distributor will stay at that level in 1999. He attributed last year's 26% gain to "across the board growth." "No one publisher in particular stood out last year, but many publishers had growth in the 20%-30% range," Lyons told PW.A new computer system to improve productivity is scheduled to be installed this spring. "Our top priority this year is to develop a system which will allow us to ship books to consumers within 24 hours on a routine business," Lyons said.