In the mid-1990s, Simon &Schuster was just one of a number of major book publishers to enter the mutimedia market, but unlike most of its competitors, S&S remains active in the field. According to S&S president Jack Romanos, S&S Interactive "turned the corner" in 1997 and has had two consecutive profitable years, with another expected in 1999. S&S's nonprint operations -- primarily interactive and audio -- are approaching 10% of the publisher's total revenues, Romanos said.

Giles Dana, senior v-p and publisher of S&SI, told PW the division has fared well by leveraging some of S&S's and parent company Viacom's most successful brands -- Star Trek, of course, topping the list. The company has published a wide range of Star Trek-related titles and has sold more than 1.5 million units. New for 1999 will be S&SI's biggest Star Trek project to date, Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Fallen, which will be released in the fourth quarter. The Fallen is the first of three Star Trek titles being jointly developed, distributed and marketed with GT Interactive. The company is also upgrading its Star Trek Starship Creator program for release later this year and is repackaging six early Star Trek titles, which will be sold for $19.95 apiece.

Star Trek is far from the only successful brand on S&SI's list. The company's Busy Town titles, which are based on Richard Scarry books and TV shows, have sold more than one million units worldwide; a Windows 98 edition is being released this year. S&SI has also had a hit for girls with Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, based on the character in the TV show produced by Viacom's Paramount subsidiary. More than 200,000 Sabrina units have been shipped worldwide, and publisher Dana told PW that rights have been sold to several foreign countries. Sabrina II is set for publication later this year, and a new title for girls will be released this fall when S&SI ships Daria's Life Central, based on the MTV (another Viacom property) sitcom.

Considering the recent attention given to the violent content of many video games, Dana is proud that "we don't do violence." Their products get no rougher than the hunting parody Deer Avenger, which has sold more than 300,000 copies; the sequel, Deer Adventure II, is due out this summer. In the reference area, S&SI released its first interactive encyclopedia last Christmas, shipping 80,000 units. Simon &Schuster New Millennium Encyclopedia is fully downloadable, and the publisher plans to introduce S&S's New Millennium Children's Encyclopedia this year.

S&SI's titles are distributed to the retail market through Macmillan Computer Publishing, and software stores, mass merchandisers and warehouse clubs are the major retail channels. S&SI reaches the school market through Davidson &Associates. Dana makes no secret, however, of his desire to see bookstores once again give CD-ROMs a try. Currently sales through bookstores "are gravy," although, Dana noted, some multimedia stores that sell books -- such as Hastings, Zany Brainy and Noodle Kidoodle -- are doing well with S&SI product. In 1998, S&SI put together A Joy of Cooking CD-ROM/book package that was distributed by the S&S trade sales force, and it sold 10,000 units.

"We'd love to get back into bookstores. Simon &Schuster has such great distribution into the market, yet we are not reaching many of their customers," Dana remarked. He said that it is frustrating when bookstores have a Star Trek book section, but don't want to carry the software, or that S&SI can't convince book retailers to carry CD-ROMs based on the popular David Carter's bug books. Dana thinks S&SI has a perfect product for bookstores this Christmas -- Douglas Adams's Starship Titanic gift set that comes packaged with a CD-ROM, book and audio.

Dana has no major plans to shift from the company's current course of exploiting well-known brands. It has a backlist of about 66 titles and hopes to release about 20 a year. "We're sticking to what we know how to do," Dana said, predicting that sales will increase at a double-digit rate in 1999.