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Publishers Weekly News

Staff -- 6/26/00

Sarnoff Gets New Post at Random | April Bookstore Sales Rise 7.4%
Ask Jeeves Book Line Debuts | Sierra, Gibbs In Kids Deal
New Distribution Model Discussed At Conference
New Kiosk Program for Indy Booksellers
Career Press Makes New Age Purchase | Phillips Retires at Little, Brown
Sales, Earnings Jump At Millbrook Press | Pegasus's Deal with Alibris

Sarnoff Gets New Post at Random
Richard Sarnoff, who has been Random House's chief financial officer since 1998, will add a new title October 1 when he assumes the newly created position of president, Random House new media and corporate development. Sarnoff will remain president of Random House Ventures, which he was named to head in March (News, Apr. 3), but will be succeeded as CFO by Steffen Naumann. Naumann, who will also start his new duties October 1, has been CFO for the Bertelsmann Book Group in Germany. He will relocate to New York and will report to Erik Engstrom, Random's president and chief operating officer, as will Sarnoff.

According to Engstrom's memo to employees, Sarnoff's mandate is to "strengthen and extend Random House's reach in the world of traditional publishing and to take Random House boldly forward into the digital future, supporting our publisher's own e-initiatives and creating new ones through investments and strategic alliances." Sarnoff will work with Engstrom and Random chairman Peter Olson on acquisition and investment strategy as well as worldwide new media/venture investments.

Members of Sarnoff's new unit include J rg Pfuhl, v-p, corporate development; Larry Weisman, director of business development; Amanda Kimmel, director of electronic publishing (based in San Francisco); and Adam Smith, newly appointed director of corporate development.

April Bookstore Sales Rise 7.4%
For the first time this year, the monthly sales gain posted by bookstores in April outpaced the sales increase reported by the entire retail sector. According to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, retail bookstore sales rose 7.4% in April, to $985 million, while sales for all of retail increased 7.0%. For the first four months of the year, bookstore sales totaled $4.60 billion, a gain of 5.5%, compared to an increase of 10.8% for the full retail sector.

Ask Jeeves Book Line Debuts
Ask Jeeves, the Emeryville, Calif.-based Internet search company, has launched its own book imprint, Ask Jeeves, which will be distributed by Publishers Group West. The first book, Jeeves I'm Bored: 25 Internet Adventures for Kids by Callie Gregory, was released this spring, and Just Curious, Jeeves by Jack Mingo and Erin Barrett is due out soon. Jeeves I Need Help, another children's title, will be released in fall, followed by Jeeves Simplify My Life by Niva Conin.

Founded in 1996, Ask Jeeves went public in July 1999, and since then has grown from a company of 70 people to more than 700. The widespread growth is in part the impetus behind the new book line. The Ask Jeeves site is a question-answering service featuring Jeeves, "The World's First Internet Butler." The site is distinguished by its ability to find answers to questions simply stated in plain English.

Expanding the Ask Jeeves name to books is part of national branding campaign to increase visibility in offline media. Wider brand recognition and appeal to new audiences, as well as customer loyalty, are stated objectives behind the books' creation. However, according to co-founder and I-deas manager Penelope Finnie, the books go beyond mere business ventures. She explained, "The books help to confirm and record the amazing ability Jeeves has. We have always been a company interested in humanizing technology, but we didn't realize just how far that could go. We didn't really foresee that the books would bring Jeeves more to life, but we are delighted they have."
--Barbara R ther

Sierra, Gibbs In Kids Deal
Sierra Club Books has reached an agreement with Layton, Utah-based Gibbs Smith Publisher for the two companies to copublish the Sierra Club Books for Young Children line. Under the arrangement, Sierra Club will handle editorial development, design and art direction from its San Francisco offices, while Gibbs Smith will assume responsibility for manufacturing and marketing as well as selling and fulfillment.

Helen Sweetland, publisher of Sierra Clubs Books, said the company had been looking for a copublisher for its children's line for some time and felt Gibbs Smith was the right fit. Sierra Club's adult titles are co-published with Random House. Gibbs Smith has also taken over the distribution of Sierra Club's children's backlist and frontlist titles, which had been distributed by Little, Brown. Sweetland said she expects to publish about five children's titles annually.

New Distribution Model Discussed At Conference
With all that has happened in the e-publishing world this year, how much more can happen? A lot, it seems.

At a recent conference in New York City, jointly sponsored by the law firm Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen and the International Radio and Television Society Foundation, FCC commissioner Susan Ness predicted that by the year 2002, there will be more wireless devices connecting to the Internet than computers. Which means that all those e-books that publishers are planning to distribute to a waiting world will, in many cases, actually be "broadcast" as they move from servers to customers.

As a result of this coming explosion in wireless transmission, there will be, as Ness explained, "an explosive demand for "spectrum"--i.e., usable radio frequencies allocated to industry by the FCC for wireless transmission. Recent "marvels" like Web sites, DSL, fiber optics and cable modems, will come to seem rather commonplace in a world in which you can receive your Stephen King through the ether direct to your PDA, Rocket eBook or some other device. Added to this will be new content from publishers that includes far more multiple-media elements. Why not stream an audiobook directly to your vehicle as you sit in traffic? What is the difference between a multiple-media "book" and a radio or TV show? On June 13, InterTrust Technologies announced the "first advanced digital rights management platform for the global wireless industry." The pieces are falling into place.

A key question is who will control this bandwidth: publishers, traditional broadcasters, Internet service providers? These battles lines are beginning to form, and the FCC is looking to reorganize itself to serve a world of converging media.

Yet even as the need to deal with wireless distribution looms on the book industry horizon, Ness offered a comforting observation. In the past, technology defined content, she noted. Now, the rules are turned upside down. In the age of the Internet, the customer rules, and thanks to digital technologies, content can be "unhooked" from the specific distribution channel "conduit." In fact, conduits will compete for content. As you knew all along, content is king.
--James Lichtenberg

New Kiosk Program for Indy Booksellers
Hank Jones, a former marketing manager with St. Martin's Press and currently the owner of two independent bookstores in suburban New York, has developed an in-store kiosk program that he hopes will help independent booksellers increase sales. But unlike other services that hunt for a specific title, TitleSmart will be category driven.

The TitleSmart kiosk will feature 12 broad categories, such as cooking, history, young adult, fiction and general nonfiction, that will be broken down into 500 subcategories. Each subcategory will list six books that will initially be chosen by publishers, but which Jones hopes eventually will be picked by publishers in collaboration with booksellers. Each title will be accompanied by its cover and a descriptive line, and when a customer clicks on a specific book, the publisher's synopsis plus reviews will appear. Publishers can place their titles in the "What's New" section or the backlist-oriented "Featured Titles" section that will run systemwide, and the kiosk also has room for a "Store Picks" area that will be promoted in individual stores. There is a range of fees for placing a title on TitleSmart: an "A" title in the "What's New" section costs $1.25 per kiosk per month, while a "D" title in "Featured Titles" costs 15 cents per kiosk per month. Advertising spots are also available.

Jones said he hopes to start beta-testing the system in late summer in 25 stores, and plans to have no more than 100 stores on board by the end of the year. "We have to be aware of publishers' budgets," Jones noted. Jones said he was "very encouraged" by publishers' response to the system at BookExpo America; several said they will participate once booksellers sign on. Jones has a commissioned sales force calling on stores, and is optimistic he will have enough stores to begin the test on schedule. TitleSmart costs booksellers $100 per month with no set-up fee.

Jones can be reached at (203) 431-9299.
--Jim Milliot

Career Press Makes New Age Purchase
Career Press has completed the purchase of Newcastle Publishing Co., the Van Nuys, Calif., New Age publisher. Approximately 50 titles were part of the acquisition, including such steady sellers as The Creative Journal by Lucia Capacchione and the Connolly Tarot series by Eileen Connolly.

The Newcastle titles will become part of Career Press's new general nonfiction imprint, New Page, set to launch this fall with 16 titles. As Newcastle books are reprinted, they will appear under the New Page imprint, and Career Press hopes to publish new titles by Newcastle authors.

Phillips Retires at Little, Brown
Bill Phillips, a Little, Brown veteran of 34 years, most recently as editor-in-chief and then senior executive editor, retired June 23 at the age of 58.

Phillips joined the company in Boston in 1966, beginning in the marketing department and becoming assistant publicity director before moving into editorial. He scored early successes publishing novelist James Carroll and PBS-TV's gardener, James Crockett, with his Victory Garden and its successors. Promoted to senior editor in 1978, Phillips had another success with Berke Breathed's Bloom County series, and later published Robert Lacey's bestselling Ford: The Men and the Machine.

Phillips became editor-in-chief in 1988, and moved to New York three years later to consolidate the editorial office there, hiring Michael Pietsch, now editor-in-chief. Over the past nine years, he has edited bestselling books by Dr. Bob Arnot, Pete Hamill, Malcolm Gladwell, Herman Wouk and others; he was also responsible for crash publication of George Stephanopoulos's All Too Human, and acquired and edited the Nelson Mandela memoir Long Walk to Freedom.

Sales, Earnings Jump At Millbrook Press
Millbrook Press reported that sales rose 19%, to nearly $5 million, in the third quarter ended April 30, 2000, helping to turn a $166,000 net loss in last year's third quarter to net income of $212,000 in the most recent period. Net income for the nine months ended April 30 was up 450%, to $852,000, on a 15% sales gain to $15.5 million.

While sales were up in Millbrook's trade operations, company president Jeff Conrad said sales were particularly strong in the publisher's school and public library unit. "Libraries are currently well funded and have been a strong market for us," Conrad noted, adding that Millbrook has done especially well with the roughly 500 titles it publishes that are tied to the Accelerated Reader program.

The company has also signed its first e-publishing deal, reaching a distribution agreement with netLibrary. Under the agreement, netLibrary has the rights to distribute about 310 Millbrook titles and Conrad told PW he hopes to eventually have all of Millbrook's list available through the e-distributor. "They're an excellent fit for us," Conrad said.
--Jim Milliot

Pegasus's Deal with Alibris
Pegasus Wholesale has signed an agree- ment with Alibris, through which Pegasus will integrate the Alibiris inventory of hard-to-find books into its own selection.

Under the deal, Pegasus will forward all orders for hard-to-find books, including out-of-print and out-of-stock titles, to Alibris. Alibris will source the books from its network or own inventory and will then send the requested book to Pegasus, which in turn will ship the book to the retailer or library.

Pegasus has similar arrangements with barnesandnoble.com as well as Ingram, which holds a minority stake in the company.
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