Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Baker & Taylor Vendor Summit Meeting

Hello from North Carolina, where library distributor Baker & Taylor has spent the day filling me (and hundreds of other publishers) with good food and great information. Our trade sales rep, Tom Doherty, invited me to come along to the summit to learn more about doing business with B&T, and to talk to librarians about our books at tomorrow's vendor fair.

Baker & Taylor is the #1 distributor to library and academic markets, retailers, and international accounts. They do business with 82% of all public libraries, 95% of academic libraries, and 15% of school libraries.

The first two hours were overall introductory remarks from the senior management team, where we learned about trends in the library business ("flat is the new up"), value-added services that B&T offers (such as collection development), and other branches and initiatives of the company. Among nonfiction topics, they cited Business & Economics (our category) as the second-largest-selling category. They even went so far as to point out that "Resumes and job search guides dominate, with emphasis on social network[ing]."

Later we learned about their new e-book reader software, Blio, which works on all hardware platforms and enables publishers to easily and cheaply add video, links, and other amazing interactive features to their e-books. I think it might be just what we have been looking for. So when I get back, I'll start working to get approval to get some of our titles converted and distributed on Blio.

It was very interesting to see how they have ramped up their marketing efforts to push our titles into the hands of libraries. This apparently new strategy seems aggressive and sharp, and it was interesting to hear the steps they took toward rebranding the company.

Then tonight was the vendor appreciation dinner, peppered with 10 best-selling authors, with David Baldacci topping the bill. His books really aren't my preferred genre, but he was highly entertaining and charming, telling stories of what happens when a best-selling author goes out in the world, mingling with Italian mayors, presidents, and more than a couple loonies. Top it all off with some Baked Alaska and you've got a really great day.

Looking forward to meeting our customers directly in the booth tomorrow. I scoped out the exhibition hall earlier and we will be among the who's who of trade and academic publishers. Should be entertaining.

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