Since the completion of Reed Elsevier's sale of its R.R. Bowker division to two separate companies more than three months ago, the new owners of the book publishing industry's reference works have been striving to establish their new identities.
Michael Cairns, who was recently named president of Bowker, said the transition has gone more smoothly than anticipated. Bowker, which is home to the Books in Print and Ulrich product lines, remains "on the same floor and in the same building" in New Providence, N.J., now that it is part of Cambridge Information Group, Cairns said. Approximately 10 industry directories that had been published by Bowker, including Literary Market Place, American Book Trade Directory and The Bowker Annual, are now owned by Information Today. Most of their personnel remain in the same New Jersey location as well.
Cairns said that Bowker is working to upgrade services to its three main constituencies--publishers, booksellers and libraries. In the publishers' marketplace, Bowker has created online catalogues where publishers can list their titles in a free area on the company's subscription products, such as booksinprint.com and ulrichsweb.com . The online listings "provide great visibility" for the titles among librarians and booksellers, Cairns notes. As part of the service, publishers are given their own URL so they can advertise the location of the titles in their publicity materials. Bowker has also increased its efforts to ensure that publishers' data is accurate and up to date, and it recently hired Andrew Grabois as director of publisher relations to oversee that initiative. In addition, the company continues to promote the use of BowkerLink, a software application that permits publishers to edit their own information in the Books in Print database (which now has 4.5 million books, audios and videos listed). There are now about 20,000 BowkerLink registered users.
In the retail area, Bowker is nearing completion of a test with one of the country's largest bookstore chains, under which Bowker will become the sole repository of book information for the company. "Booksellers receive title information from a wide array of places and in different forms," Cairns said. "Under our new service, booksellers can migrate away from submissions from individual publishers and receive one submission from us." As part of the service, Bowker will make ONIX the standard language for submitting title information.
Bowker's most significant initiative for libraries is the expansion of booksinprint.com to fit the workflow of the library. To that end, Bowker is adding ordering capability and links to the library's catalogue via a standard protocol.
While Bowker will focus on upgrading its online services, Cairns said the print and CD-ROM editions of Books in Print remain popular. At $695, the hardcover edition of BIP is the most affordable, and libraries like it because it is easily accessible to patrons. Many booksellers use the CD-ROM edition as part of their point-of-sale infrastructure.
Bowker also continues its contract to assign ISBNs. Cairns said Bowker won't be raising the prices for new numbers in 2002.