By Brian Holding
June 10, 2011
In 1988, I attended my first U.S. book show for Human Kinetics. The event, then known as the American Booksellers Association Convention (ABA), was a massive celebration of the publishing industry. Nearly 50,000 publishers and booksellers attended annually. Representatives from some of the more than 30,000 independent booksellers existing then and major bookstore chains like B. Dalton (eventually became part of Barnes & Noble) and Waldenbooks (eventually became part of Borders) clogged the aisles, and publishers generously passed out hundreds of thousands of free books. It was the one event where HK staff would return with more books than we sent as we stocked up on our summer reading.
Two weeks ago, I was in New York for the same event, now known as Book Expo America. Only about 23,000 people attended. Booksellers and free books were rare sights. However, as the face of publishing is changing, the future of publishing is coming more clearly into focus. The days of selling books primarily through bookstores are well behind publishers. The bookstore is now just one, dwindling, sales channel for publishers who are changing the way they build products and deliver them.
For most publishers, including HK, the past three years have been the most challenging in history. Among the forces battering HK have been a worldwide recession; the rapid decline of brick-and-mortar bookstores, including the bankruptcy filings of Borders and the largest retail group in Australia; severe slashes to school and college budgets; and a fundamental shift in the way many readers buy and read books. HK is evolving to respond to these changes. Our product mix is broad, and includes nearly 500 e-books, more digital ancillaries for textbooks, and new apps for the iPhone and iPad. In addition, HK hosts 10 company websites, 27 journal sites, and 28 partner organization sites. To provide for our digital future, HK just completed construction on a new, 1,292-square-foot Technology Center. The new center contains over 250 virtual and physical servers, a state-of-the-art cooling system, 29 offices and work spaces, increased power systems connected to an emergency generator, and the construction strength to withstand an F3 tornado.
The publishing world has come farther in the 37 short years that HK has been in existence than it advanced over the previous 600+ years since Johannes Guttenberg invented the printing press. In 1974, HK’s first book, Psychology of Motor Behavior and Sport, used a process and resulted in a final product that more closely resembles the first book that came off Guttenberg’s press than it resembles Human Kinetics’ current information products and packaging systems. Guttenberg would be awed by how information is delivered today. Just over a year ago, HK staff began discussing our first applications for the iPhone and the iPad. Today, we have seven apps for those devices and over 10,000 individuals have downloaded one of them. Several apps are actively in production, and many more are being planned.
HK has refocused its mission and has merged our seven divisions into four: Consumer (formerly Trade and now including our American Sport Education Program); Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (now includes Aquatic Education); Higher Education and Professional (formerly STM and Professional Education); and Journal. This consolidation allows us to focus our product acquisition and development on a greater variety of products, deliver that content through more channels, and do so much more rapidly.
You will become familiar with the term “suite of products.” No longer will we acquire outstanding content to publish only a book. Now, you will see that content produced for a variety of delivery methods, including these:
• Print books
• Mini e-books
• Online courses
• Apps for the iPhone and other phone platforms as sales channels emerge and digital rights management improves
• Enhanced e-books (blended book/video products) for the iPad and eventually other tablets coming onto the market
• Multimedia ancillaries for students and instructors
• Video for books, enhanced e-books, DVDs, and online streaming
We are not abandoning print; instead we’re providing you with many more options for how you consume our information. This new publishing era will allow HK to serve you in more ways and in more places around the world as we strive to accomplish our mission of helping others lead healthier lives.
-- Brian Holding, CEO, email@example.com