Berrett-Koehler, known for its innovative business sense, launched a new program, BK Communications, eight months ago, as part of an expansion that will focus on new publication formats as well as the Internet. Headed by Charles Decker, formerly of the Executive Program at Doubleday, the new company will publish a series of business pamphlets and booklets focusing on the time crunch faced by business readers. Special sales will be directed at corporations and business associations. "It's something we can do that Amazon can't," said BK publicist Karla Swatek about the new company. Berrett Koehler and BK Communications will be wholly owned subsidiaries of a new entity, the BK Group.

Behind the launching of BK Communications is an ambitious plan to implement a Business Literacy 2000 program. According to Decker, "It will establish reading clubs for business people who feel they are working in a vacuum."

The new BK Communications series will publish 50-60 pamphlets and booklets a year. (Pamphlets will cost $3-$4, booklets $7-$9, and will be sold in packets of six to eight per series, with a minimum order of 12). Fiscal Fairy Tales by Tom Brown was its first release, on April 15.

Berrett Koehler, a seven-year-old company, publishes 20 titles a year and has sales of more than $4 million. Steven Piersanti, BK's president and publisher, expects BK Communications to reach a similar sales level in the next four to five years. Decker has hired an initial staff of three, with two more employees expected to come on board in the near future.

Dialogue Held

Responses to the changes in publishing were discussed at BK's recent Community Dialogue, held in San Francisco. The key word of the event, and the future of publishing for small companies, was "collaboration," said Piersanti. More than 60 authors, publishers, suppliers and booksellers discussed ways BK and other independents might tackle the challenges facing small publishers today.

One concrete result of the dialogue was the establishment of an Authors Council and Supply Chain Council, both of which will meet regularly throughout the year. The Authors Council, composed of BK's own business authors -- as well as three BK Group employees -- will work to improve relations between authors and publishers and to brainstorm new ideas of marketing books. The Supply Chain will bring together key players in production, printing and distribution. BK's distributor, Publishers Group West, is a primary backer. Among the immediate goals is to close the "connection between printers, distributors and warehouses," explained Piersanti.

Another result of the discussions is a plan to expand and redesign the BK Web site ( by an outside company to make it more of a community hub for stakeholders and customers. It will provide interviews and information as well as links to kindred sites and news about BK.