Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sell 272,930 Books???!!!

BiblioBazaar: How a Company Produces 272,930 Books A Year

By Andrew Albanese  Reprinted with permission of Publishers Weekly

When Bowker's 2009 book industry stats were released yesterday many in the industry were stunned to see an unfamiliar company name, BiblioBazaar, leading a surging new segment of "non-traditional" publishing stats with a whopping 272,930 titles produced in 2009--almost as many titles the entire "traditional" publishing business cranked out last year. Could it be? Could one little-known company really produce so much volume?

"If by ‘produce' you mean create a cover file that will print at multiple POD vendors, a book block that will print at multiple POD vendors, and metadata to sell that book in global sales channels, then yes we did produce that many titles," said Mitchell Davis, president of BiblioLife, parent company of BiblioBazaar.

While e-books, iPads and Kindles have dominated the headlines, BiblioLife is one of handful of smart, new, technology-enabled companies driving an exciting trend in the publishing world. Working closely with libraries, archives and aggregators, the company puts out-of-copyright books back into good old-fashioned print, one copy at a time, using print-on-demand technology.

"We are really a software company that has books coming out at the end of our process." Davis explains. "We have built a large IT infrastructure and a proprietary platform where we take disparate inputs and turn what is essentially a picture of a book page, into what a reader expects a book will look like, and we do that for more than a thousand books a day for distribution through multiple POD channels, in multiple countries and markets."

All of the company's content is in the public domain, and are basically "historical reprints," Davis told PW, with foreign language books, and their "added layers of complexity" the fastest growing category of books. "Dealing with out-of-copyright materials lets us leverage our knowledge and relationships in the global bookselling industry more easily as we build out what is shaping up to be a pretty killer platform," he notes.

Speaking of killer platforms, Davis has some experience with those. Davis, along with BiblioLife CEO Bob Holt and CFO Andrew Roskill, were founders of BookSurge, POD software and publishing services company bought by Amazon in 2005. After that deal, Davis spent two years at Amazon in Seattle, working as a condition of the acquisition to help with the integration of BookSurge into a division now known as CreateSpace.

So how has Bibliolife, despite its major production, flown under the radar until this year's Bowker stats came out? For one, Davis says, the company simply isn't seeking publicity as much as good solid relationships and content partnerships. "We aren't a press release-centric company, and we are really focused on unique materials that are not part of mass digitization projects," he explained. "Who has that content and how we are getting it is something that is a competitive advantage."

So much for technology ending print, meanwhile. In fact, if anything the Bowker numbers show technology is driving print businesses for companies like BiblioLife, which uses numerous distribution partners around the world, to create a dynamic, new publishing business. "We are a classic long tail business," Davis notes. "We understand how to operate a lean, global publishing operation focused on process. I think it is more exciting for libraries who can leverage their content expertise into being publishers at a pretty massive scale. A few copies of each book adds up if you are running a business with lean enough operational overhead. The key is finding unique content and realizing that content does not sell itself. We get up every day looking for new sales channels, new products, and new packaging relationships."