global markets & university presses—keys to international success

Vendors, distributors, printers, subsidiaries, and sales reps; we had shelter from high-tech b-model evolutions (somewhat) in this session, as presentations focused on new strategies and logistics for bringing more of our books to foreign markets.

Fascinating to me, as foreign book sales is vastly different from rights; with statements like “we can put 170 feet on the ground for you [in country]” and discussion of firing up factories in proximity to target [markets], it sounded like sim-city-powered business maneuvers; felt like being in a war room—in a good way. These logistical concerns and supply chain metrics, economies and pressures of scale, are what set foreign content sales apart from IP rights negotiations; if foreign sales is the Pentagon, rights may be more like CIA headquarters. The session was perhaps doubly eye-opening as a result.

Printing as close as possible to the consumer—a trend stressed by two of our speakers—seemed most notable. Carter Holiday (Ingram Content Group) and David Hetherington (Baker & Taylor) both emphasized the need for publishers to shorten the supply chain to domestic or regional lengths whenever possible; this to manage costs to reasonable limits.

“Publishers are moving away from front-mid-back list models for making printing decisions in preference for low/high-volume title assessments,” was next. Trend being: high print runs are no longer a given for new titles, with numbers tailing off from there; it’s more fluid these days, calling for a case-by-case title-to-market cost assessment.

“Discoverability and availability [in all venues, on all platforms, and through all delivery channels]” was billed as the “key to success,” as it was in many sessions.

Exciting to hear that there is great and increasing “hunger for American content!” Hetherington gave us a quick assessment of Asian markets for English-language and specifically US-generated content: Japan = strong but static; SE Asia and especially China = growing nicely; with India = growing wildly at 40-50% annually!

Hetherington added that he had gone to the Beijing Book Fair for the first time last year and felt that this was a strong venue for AAUP member presses to get a feel for and introduce their products to the these markets.

The growth in the global markets, printing closer to our customers, and knowledge of competitors' subsidiaries in active regions (SAGE, Oxford, Routledge) had me wishing we had a South East Asian subsidiary of our own to work out of; wondering if some number of us might come together on a joint-venture. Together we’d more likely have projects enough to feed it, and we could share costs; so, I’d wonder what numbers might look like alongside continuing regional distributions & co-pubs.

However, let me go on record as saying that if the AAUP or some subset of us ever did open such a facility, it would be vital to even passing dreams of brief success for us to have our rights managers visit the offices. Annually.