Since the announcement in May anointing him successor to Larry Kirshbaum as head of the Time Warner Book Group, David Young has spent a lot of time on planes. Not only is he shuttling between the U.K. and U.S, but he's also visiting TWBG outposts in Boston, Nashville and Indianapolis to familiarize himself with the scope of TWBG's operations. And even though Young officially took over the helm from Kirshbaum November 1, he has continued his transatlantic ways, something that won't wind down until January 1 when he takes up permanent residence at TWBG's U.S. headquarters.
Young, 54, began his publishing career in 1970 with Thorsons, and has been with TWBG since 1996, directing the U.K. group since 2000. His first close look at the American market has left him impressed with its dimensions. "The size of the market is astonishing. The numbers are impressive," he said.
Some of the most imposing figures Young has seen come from TWBG itself, which has had another stellar year in 2005, following a banner 2004. "Larry set the bar so high, I'll need a pole vault" to break his records, Young said. Not that Young isn't looking forward to the challenge; he noted that one of the divisions that helped drive TWBG's record 2005 was his U.K. group.
During his time in the U.K., Young served as chairman of World Book Day 2004, and he would like to see something similar developed in the U.S. as part of a sustained effort to get more people to read. In true TWBG style, Young is a proponent of spreading the word that books are entertainment. He is very high on the company's audio operations, not only because the division has had steady sales gains, but because it introduces non-readers to books and gives the company a chance to convert listeners to readers.
Other growth areas Young sees include the Christian segment, a market that doesn't really exist in the U.K. "Warner Faith is a solid business and one we expect to grow," he said. TWBG will also continue to monitor the digital arena to make sure that the publisher is positioned to take advantage of new distribution possibilities. Although Young seemed ambivalent about the prospect of selling books directly from TWBG's own Web site, the company will likely enter that area. "Amazon and Barnes & Noble.com do a great job, but if people are at our site, there's no reason they shouldn't be able to buy a book," he said.
With TWBG operating on all cylinders, Young does not plan on making many changes. "We have a great team," he said. Young met many management members two years ago when the book group was up for sale, but that situation has turned around. If the right company comes along, Young said, he has the okay from Time Warner executives to make a deal. "It's a great affirmation by Time Inc. of the book group," he said. It also gives Young a running start toward leaping that high bar.