By Brian Holding
July 6, 2012
No one can predict the future, but great companies can create it. That is exactly what we are doing at Human Kinetics. Imagination, creativity, and innovation have been hallmarks of our success, and they’ll be vital to our continued growth. Being able to anticipate what our audiences will want and then teaching ourselves how to build it have enabled HK to innovate in many ways. We published college textbooks with an array of ancillaries before courses existed to use them. We developed a series of fitness titles that turned consumers on to the world of anatomy and have sold over 2 million copies in the past 10 years. We created an online course that improved the quality of experiences for baseball players, coaches, umpires, and parents. We are building and marketing fitness assessment software used in testing millions of K-12 students in the United States each year.
As the marketplace demands more digital products, HK is in the midst of a learning frenzy that is touching nearly every member of HK’s staff, from acquisitions and editorial to production and technology to fulfillment and shipping. The focus of today’s publishing house is very different from yesterday’s, which focused largely on print products. Everyone used to know what a book was and how to make one! That has changed. The questions confronting our staff can be dizzying. How do I make an e-book? How do I put video and animation into an electronic product? Should I put video and animation into a product? Can all e-book platforms support the kind of product I want to offer? Can I make an e-book interactive? And what does that cost? To uncover the answers to those questions, HK acquisitions and technology staffs, who had only limited interaction in the past, now talk every day. Technology and production staff members lead seminars on new applications and systems. Consultants from tech firms are regular visitors to our campus.
The time we’re investing in learning has been combined with an investment in real dollars for new technical tools and infrastructure. For example, HK purchased a content management system that makes an XML-based workflow possible and allows us to output multiple e-book files for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Ingram, Dawson, our own website, and many other partners at the same time that we send the book files to our printers. Another recent investment is a $1.2 million technology center that our technology staff moved into a year ago. The technology center is home to 28 staff and 250 physical and virtual servers. The investment is critical to ensuring that HK’s websites and digital products are always up and running.
These investments are already proving their worth, because we’re producing an ever-growing array of e-books and apps. Our staff’s creativity with its new tools has led to the development of such innovations as anatomical animations layered over fitness video and then placed in e-books. Tomorrow’s digital products will come to life and allow readers to interact with them. If you are ever in the Champaign-Urbana area of Illinois, please stop by. We would love to show you our workplace and the new products we are building.
-- Brian Holding, CEO, firstname.lastname@example.org