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VIA Books Offers Titles On Cars, Travel
Roxane Farmanfarmaian -- 7/17/00

The California State Automobile Association, the original car enthusiast club that launched the now-nationwide AAA, has launched VIA Books, a line of travel and leisure publications. "We plan to publish books, calendars and gift and stationery products," said publisher Peter Beren, previously licensing director at the Sierra Club and publisher of Sierra Club Books. The idea was the brainchild of Don Patton, v-p membership and branding, who relaunched CSAA's magazine Motorland as VIA in 1997 and has continued to develop the CSAA information franchise.

The new imprint will publish about 10 books a year, and all VIA Books titles will be produced through strategic publishing partnerships. "By establishing these strategic publishing alliances, we save on overhead," Beren explained. Pilot projects with Ulysses Press and Tahabi Books have already been marketed to the CSAA membership. In September The Spirit of the Road: 100 Years of the California State Automobile Association, its first title to be marketed to the trade, will be published in conjunction with Lena Tabori's Welcome Enterprises and distributed by Andrews McMeel. "Lena Tabori and Welcome will be a permanent part of our program," Beren told PW, adding that a jointly produced calendar line will debut in 2002, and a line of illustrated gift books is in development.

VIAalso has other copublishing programs in the works. In partnership with Chronicle Books, it plans a series of destination-guide gift products debuting in the fall of 2001 that will include AAA Destination Decks. In conjunction with Ulysses Press (distributed by PGW), VIA Books has two series scheduled for release this fall: AAA Hidden Highways, a line of lively illustrated itineraries, and a new take on an existing Ulysses series, Hidden Guides, which will include colorful AAA maps.

VIA Books has nine titles on leisure activities currently in development with San Diego- based Tahabi Books, a packager and direct marketer of illustrated books. The books will be released beginning in fall 2001. Tahabi will also be running all of VIA Books' direct-mail and online marketing programs. Books are also marketed to the CSAA membership and the national AAA membership (currently 43 million) through VIA. Beren told PW that VIA Books is working on a trilateral AAA publishers alliance, which would include Northern California, Southern California (with a total membership of 12 million) and AAA itself.

VIA Books is located in the VIA magazine offices in downtown San Francisco, and the firm is currently hiring a core staff of five.

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