Student Presentations, Papers, & Reports


Like, Tweet, Read

Like, Tweet, Read: Exploratory Analyses of Social Media Data as an Indicator for Readership Behaviour in the Newspaper and Periodicals Industries

 

By Tilman Queitsch

 

MPub Project Report, 2014

Abstract

Magazine and newspaper publishers benefit from readership studies conducted by large research organizations. They help publishing professionals keep track of readers’ habits and their competitors’ success. In most areas, surveys of readers and Internet users generate the findings that the publishing industry is interested in. In recent years, market research has developed a new approach combining such survey data with social media data. This approach offers new ways to analyze how social media audiences can be segmented, how readers choose between different media, how they use mobile devices, and how magazines or newspapers compare to their competitors.

Tackling each of these research scenarios, this report summarizes a series of analyses conducted at Vision Critical, a multinational market research technology company. By using basic functions in R, a freely available statistical programming language, the analyses show how this approach enriches results in a way that is useful for publishers.

Read the report:

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Ambit Publishing [Student Report]

Envisioning the Future of Publishing—Ambit Publishing, a student project from Pub401, taught by Juan Pablo Alperin—guest post by Holly Vestad, English major, publishing minor at SFU

It seems all student papers and year-end projects in publishing courses have a common theme: envision the future of publishing.

It’s not difficult to understand why the industry is going through significant change, and the Internet certainly needs no introduction. The future of print may remain a mystery, yet one group of students, when assigned the task to envision the future of publishing in Juan Pablo’s course Technology and the Evolving Book, ran with the assumption that print will hold an important place for decades to come.

Although the rest of our classmates designed elaborate and impressive business structures and new mediums that align with an increasingly techno-centric world, Karen La, Lauren Madsen, Alison Roach, Caili Bell and I (Holly Vestad) stuck with something perhaps seemingly more simple, yet infinitely more complex; a viable business plan for a print-only publisher.

ambit-publishingThe result of our research was Ambit Publishing, a theoretical publishing house whose central objective was to create brand loyalty.

Establishing brand loyalty was the most basic aspect of our thesis for the project, which sprang from our own noticeable lack of loyalty to any one specific publisher. As self-proclaimed bibliophiles and publishing students, we found ourselves to be the perfect market for publishers to reach out to in order to increase loyalty, and yet we felt unmoved by their efforts.

In order to establish loyalty for Ambit, we knew we needed to know our market inside and out. With research we discovered a niche market in Vancouver of affluent book lovers. From the information we knew about this market, we designed the company; our logo, clean aesthetic, mandate, book cover template and book synopses were all designed with these readers in mind. (Our full report can be seen here.)

To increase our brand recognition we decided all of our books would have the same cover, with only a central image that would change from title to title. We hoped this design repetition could work to increase tribe mentality amongst readers by helping them feel connected to Ambit’s aesthetic.

Ambit-bagIn addition, we created Ambit merchandise in the form of book totes and stickers with the intention of handing them out for free to our readers in the early stages of the company’s growth to help spread the word and gain that loyalty we were after. And we knew that if we could establish this loyal tribe, then authors would be attracted to the opportunity to promote and sell their book through the network of loyal Ambit readers.

Another significant aspect of Ambit’s business structure was that it explicitly positioned itself against Amazon. Ambit books would only be available through ambitpublishing.ca, our shop front or local retailers—no copies would be available for purchase on Amazon.

Ambit was designed with a specific hyper-local niche in mind; the global coverage that Amazon provides was not necessary. Our goal was to stay simple by tackling a local market and thriving within it. We also knew that explicitly defining an enemy would help to build tribe mentality. The very public battle between Hachette and Amazon only helped our case; Amazon’s true ugly and powerful colours really blossomed in 2014. Ambit positioned itself as a way for readers to stand against Amazon by supporting writers and a small, independent local publisher.

The financial aspect of Ambit is the area we think still needs the most help; although we created profit and loss statements, a financial statement and advertising budgets (as seen in our final report), we were worried of the projections for the second year. Regardless, we truly believe the structure behind Ambit provides a successful model for reader, author and publisher alike.

Related Links:

Ambit Publishing: http://ambitpublishing.ca/
Syllabus for Pub 401: http://tkbr.ccsp.sfu.ca/pub401/
Instructor Juan Pablo Alperin


Take a Fresh Look: Marketing & Promotion Strategies for Book Publishers

Find out what Regina, Ryan Gosling, and Bundling have to do with book publishing, and other sales and marketing tips shared by industry experts at ABPBC’s recent professional development day in this guest post from MPub Candidate Paulina Dabrowski.

book-publishing

On Thursday September 11th the students in the Masters of Publishing program were given the opportunity to sit in on a seminar put on by the ABPBC (The Association of Book Publishers of BC), which focused on marketing and promotional strategies for Canadian publishing.

Bruce Walsh of the recently re-branded University of Regina Press (formerly Canadian Plains Research Centre Press) gave an inspirational keynote address on how to stand out in a crowded marketplace, including pioneering the first reality tv show on publishing.

Joanna Karaplis, marketing and communications manager for BookNet Canada, provided insights into the latest BookNet Canada publications and research on marketing to the Canadian book buyer.

And after a collegial lunch at Steamworks, the attendees dug into the nuts and bolts of working with a sales rep and bundling eBooks.

The professional development day concluded with a roundtable discussion on the questions, frustrations and lessons learned by the members and presenters in attendance.

For those readers interested specifically in the “how-to” component of the day, here’s a recap of the session run by Kate Walker, sales rep and former owner of Ampersand, and Cheryl Fraser, VP Ampersand Inc. and manager of the gift division for the agency.

Everything you ever wanted to know about working with a sales rep but didn’t know what to ask

Kate and Cheryl have decades of experience in the industry and have worked with booksellers, librarians and specialty customers, authors and publishers. They described being a sales rep as follows, “we work with everyone in the publishing company, connecting book publishers to their customers, and customers with book publishers. Our goal is to get the books publishers acquire to the right customers in the perfect markets.”

In order to do this efficiently sales reps work hard to be good mediators. They spend most of their time communicating the right information from publishers to booksellers and back, and in order to do this they are constantly reading, and keeping updated on the book world. They need to keep track of which books are selling, which books are winning awards, and predict needs before they arrive. Kate describes sales reps as “adaptable chameleons” in that they must be responsive to the customers or book publishers’ needs.

Utilizing sales reps effectively can save publishers a lot of time and money. Sales reps have a more personal relationship with book buyers than publishers, and they use this in-depth knowledge to place books where they will sell. Sales reps create and distribute lists on “hot topics” making it easier for book buyers to see a single collection of comparable titles from multiple publishers (books by First Nations People, for example). They make it a priority to visit and build professional relationships with book buyers, creating what Kate refers to as a “bankable trust relationship”, which is a huge benefit to publishers both immediately and for future productions.

Kate and Cheryl also took the time to explain ways of creating good relationships with sales reps. Many times this relationship begins at sales conferences, when publishers present their books for the season. It’s important for publishers to be prepared and speak clearly. Reps will be asking what they know their customers will ask so they expect presenters to know intimate details such as the author’s hometown, or sales history for previous books by the author. Kate notes, however, that it’s important not to make “promises” to sales reps about acquiring information they are missing in their presentation. It’s better to come with a thorough knowledge of the book, and enthusiasm to get sales reps excited. Publishers should know the competition as well as comparable titles, and be open and honest with sales reps as to where the promotion money will be focused, as well as be transparent about any pre-arranged special sales.

The next stage in an important publisher-to-sales-rep relationship is to keep the doors of communication open, and to share information about updates with the book such as pushed release dates, nominations for awards, or upcoming events. It’s also important for book publishers to have easily understandable terms of sale and distribution channels.

In planning author events, it’s important for the publisher to do their research. They have to ask themselves:

  1. Who is this event for?
  2. Is the author prepared and do they have the right personality for the event?
  3. Where will the event be held; private spaces offer intimacy but public spaces open the event to potential new audiences.
  4. It’s also important not to forget attention to detail; does the event have a microphone available, will the event need seating, does the date conflict with any holidays, will the publisher provide extras such as food and wine?
  5. And, which channels will be used to advertise the event? Sales reps can assist with this type of planning, after all who doesn’t enjoy a good party!

Cheryl also explained the dynamics of the “gift market”. Gift books are fun and exciting, but not all books one might give as a gift are appropriate for the gift market. To give an example of the differences, below are two books by photographer Philippe Halsman.

Trade vs Gift Book

The first is a coffee table art book, it’s large in size and is filled with Halsman’s well-known jump photography alongside accompanying text that share the stories behind the photographs. The second is a smaller, simpler book; a photo interview with Salvador Dali that is quite silly and playful, meant to share with the reader the many faces of Salvador Dali and his famous mustache. The first book, Jump Book is a great book to give as a gift, but the second book Dali’s Mustache is a book made for the gift market.

How gift books are bought by buyers differs in many ways from how other trade books are bought. Gift book buyers are really focused on the visual. They want to see the book, hold the book, place it by their cash registers and see how it looks. It’s important for gift sales reps to have physical copies of the books to bring to their customers. Authors are much less important, and the focus is all on the visual appeal of the subject matter. It’s no surprise to hear from Cheryl that her top sellers last season were books on Ryan Gosling, Cats, and Darth Vader.

The gift buyer also heavily relies on the print catalogue, which led to an interesting discussion about the use of electronic catalogues. But I’ll save that for another post.

After a short break, Mary Alice Elcock gave the final presentation before the roundtable discussions.

How to Bundle Up: Making the Most of your Bundled eBooks

 

BitLit LogoMary Alice is a MPub alumni who is VP of Marketing and Publisher Relations for BitLit. BitLit is an app that allows publishers to offer eBook editions to readers who have purchased a print copy. To quote Mary Alice, BitLit “connects readers to books, and connects publishers to readers”. BitLit’s main market are hybrid readers, ones who read both print and eBook, as research has shown more readers are beginning to fill this middle category.

  • Out of 120 million people who own eBooks only 4% are eBook only readers.
  • Their studies have shown that 48% of people would pay more for a print book if it came bundled with the eBook.
  • Currently less than 1% of customers have purchased both the print and eBook edition of a book, which means there is no cannibalization of sales for publishers if they decide to bundle.

BitLit bundling pricing is typically done in one of two ways. In all cases the bundling is available after point of purchase, but publishers have the choice of offering the eBook as a free add-on which is the case for about 25% of the books BitLit currently has bundled, or the eBook is offered for around 75% off the cover price.

Bundling gives publishers great opportunity to create extra net income. Mary Alice provided example pricing of a book and its net income in print, eBook, and bundling.

BitLit can currently be downloaded (for free) on Apple and Android devices. The user opens the app, takes a picture of the cover which is then recognized in BitLit’s system. To claim the book, the user takes another picture of their name written in capitals on the top of the copyright page, which BitLit uses to match with the user’s name on the credit card they provided in their sign up. Once the book is claimed, the user is given a link to their eBook if it is provided for free by the publisher, or the user is offered the eBook for the discounted price which they can then purchase. The reader can then choose to read the eBook on any of their eReading devices including Kobo, Nook, Kindle, or iPad.

How BitLit Works

For being only 2 years old (and local to Vancouver) BitLit has already made some major waves in the publishing world. There are currently 20,000 books available to bundle and many authors have fallen in love with the cross-media platform such as well-known horror writer Joe Hill (son of Stephen King).

BitLit’s next big move is a project called “Shelfie” which will save book lovers (and book hoarders if you’re like me) tons of time. Users simply take a picture of their book shelf and “Shelfie” will find all the books which are currently available to bundle, so there is no need to search titles one by one!

Download the BitLit app and follow them on Twitter for the latest news and giveaways.

While you’re at it follow Ampersand on Twitter for great book lists and news and BookNet Canada on Twitter for industry news and reports.

Overall, the ABPBC professional development day was a great opportunity for sharing and learning about the realities of the book publishing industry.

Paulina Dabrowski is an MPub candidate, avid reader, occasional knitter, and master of microwave meals. You can find her on Twitter @paulinkaaa_d

 


From Print to Ebook: First Steps and Strategies, By Lee Wyndham

Abstract

McKellar & Martin, a small Canadian children’s book publisher, converted their first titles from print to ebook in August 2013. They approached the conversion as a pilot project to develop their own digital publishing strategy. This report analyzes the development of McKellar & Martin’s strategy from the initial goal-setting to the point at which the ebooks were ready to go to market. The report reviews the publisher’s unique context, the audiences they aimed to reach, and the two titles selected for conversion. It provides a detailed account of the conversion process and tactics used, and discusses how McKellar & Martin overcame some unique challenges. The report concludes with recommendations for McKellar & Martin as they begin their ebook distribution and marketing. The aim of the report is to provide small publishers with a blueprint for developing their own digital publishing strategy that will stand the test of time.
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First Bytes Free: How (and Why) to Create Effective Digital Book Samples

Full Text PDF

By Michael Leyne


Abstract

Brick-and-mortar bookstores have grown scarce over the preceding decade, while online retailers have prospered. This presents challenges and opportunities for small Canadian trade book publishers. Although it is harder to find any given book in a physical store, publishers have an abundance of online resources for book promotion, including the ability to emulate the in-store browsing experience by offering “digital samples.” There is evidence that providing digital samples can increase sales, but a survey of Canadian publishers’ online presence suggests that digital samples are a neglected aspect of trade book promotion. This paper analyzes the trend toward online book sales and the various available methods of sampling, and concludes with recommendations for how publishers can best use third-party sampling options (such as Google Books and Amazon’s “Look Inside”) and own-site HTML-based samples to increase the online appeal, discoverability, and sales of their titles.


Contents

Dedication
Acknowledgements
List of Tables
List of Acronyms & Abbreviations

INTRODUCTION
New Star Books

PART ONE | The Changing Retail Landscape
Disappearing Bookstores
The Growth of Online Sales
Challenges
Benefits & Opportunities

PART TWO | Current Sampling Practices
Third-Party Samples
Major Firms
A Survey of Canadian Publishers

PART THREE | Analysis & Recommendations
Book Discovery Websites
Google & Amazon
Canadian Publishers
Implementation Costs
Recommendations for Effective Samples

CONCLUSION

Notes
Bibliography


Dedication

To Olin Winter Leyne. I look forward to sharing many happy hours with you in (real-life) bookstores, just as soon as you stop eating books.


Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Monique Sherret for providing guidance at the outline stage, and to Murray Tong for taking the time to read a late draft and offer valuable insight.

Thank-you to New Star Books majordomo Rolf Maurer, who sparked the idea for this report, and happily shared with me the wisdom gained from an inspiring career.

Many thanks to my SFU supervisors: Rowland Lorimer, whose sage counsel led to many refinements of both big-picture aspects and smaller details; and John Maxwell, who played a critical role in shaping the central thrust of this paper, and then wisely shepherded its development. I’m very grateful for it.

Finally, thank-you to my parents, for everything, and to Raina, a million times over, for the boundless love and encouragement — we make a great team.


List of Tables

Table 1: Digital Sampling Practices of Canadian Publishers


List of Acronyms & Abbreviations

AAP: Association of American Publishers
ABA: American Booksellers Association
ACP: Association of Canadian Publishers
BNC: BookNet Canada
CBA: Canadian Booksellers Association
CMS: content management system
CSS: cascading style sheets
HTML: hypertext markup language
ONIX: online information exchange
PDF: portable document format
SEO: search engine optimization
WYSIWYG: what-you-see-is-what-you-get


Introduction

On the evening of August 23, 2013, Rolf Maurer of New Star Books received the Pandora’s Collective award for Publisher of the Year. His acceptance remarks were simple yet poignant: by way of thanks, he rattled off a list of about sixty-five Vancouver bookstores that he had patronized or done with business with over the past thirty years — the vast majority of which are now closed. While there is a glimmer of hope for Vancouver patrons of independent bookstores with the August 2013 opening of Paper Hound, the recent closures of Vancouver institutions such as Book Warehouse and Duthie’s have left a sizable hole in the local book retail landscape. Exact figures for nation-wide booksellers are not available, but it is safe to say the phenomenon is not unique to Vancouver; as a recent Globe and Mail story lamented, “bookstore closings have become so common they often pass unremarked.”1

Readers are of course still finding and buying books, but evidence presented below shows that increasingly it is happening online. This trend has implications beyond a mere change of retailer: a recent study in the United Kingdom found that online book shopping tends to be “a more linear process” compared to the “serendipity of browsing” in traditional bookshops, with 81 percent of online shoppers saying they visit an online store looking for a specific book.2 If publishers hope to keep (and grow) their clientele in the virtual realm, they must adapt their marketing tactics to a very different environment.

New Star Books

The first incarnation of New Star Books emerged from a loosely knit literary collective that in 1969 began publishing short fiction and poetry in the “Georgia Straight Writing Series,” a literary supplement to the Georgia Straight (at that time a radical underground weekly newspaper). The group broke away from the Straight in 1971 and formed the Vancouver Community Press. In 1974 it was renamed New Star Books, and in 1990 Maurer became publisher. Today, New Star publishes about six to ten titles per year. The list is a mix of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, with an emphasis on politics, social issues, and local history and culture.3 Sales are generally steady but modest; as Maurer says, New Star is “mostly interested in books that are not particularly mainstream.”4

For the two-and-a-half years up until May 2013 Maurer was the sole employee, and as of September 2013, he was again working solo. To manage the tremendous workload, he employs a number of freelance editors and designers on a book-to-book basis.

Like most presses of a similar size, New Star has a limited budget for marketing and promotion. The bulk of it is dedicated to sending out copies for review in various newspapers, magazines, and academic periodicals. New Star also runs print ads in BC Bookworld, and occasionally in niche publications such as BC Studies. Further marketing efforts include email newsletters (to roughly 1,800 subscribers), blog posts at NewStarBooks.com, readings and book launches, and attendance at events such as Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences and WORD Vancouver.

To spark further sales of certain titles (particularly those whose initial reception was not as robust as desired), New Star has in recent years posted PDFs of entire books for free download. They are not heavily promoted or easily found on the website, but if one navigates to the page for, e.g., Islands of Resistance: Pirate Radio in Canada, there is underneath the bibliographic information a small link titled “Download the PDF,” above a “Look Inside” icon. Ten books are currently available, but Maurer has not detected any noticeable sales impact, positive or negative.

New Star’s experimentation with offering PDFs free online was borne partly of a curiosity in the potentials of online promotion, and partly of a recognition that readers are not finding books like they used to: it is more difficult than ever just to find a bookstore (or a newspaper), let alone a specific title from a small press such as New Star.

As shelf space vanishes and the Internet approaches global ubiquity, it is now imperative for publishers to go beyond dabbling in online book marketing, and begin to develop robust online marketing initiatives. Major multi-national firms have spent untold millions of dollars building digital warehouses and proprietary sampling widgets (which will be discussed below), but there is a relatively simple and inexpensive way for small Canadian publishers to enhance the presence of their wares online: by providing online book excerpts, or “digital samples.”

What follows is an analysis of the rapidly changing book retail sector (Part One), a description of the online digital sampling landscape (Part Two), and a proposal for how small-to-medium trade publishers can develop HTML-based digital samples in the hopes of aiding book discovery and promotion (Part Three). Although many of the examples and circumstances discussed throughout are specific to New Star, the proposal is broadly applicable to most publishers. By ensuring all its titles are easily found and sampled online, a small press will be able to increase the visibility of and interest in its titles, and maintain its sales in a changing marketplace — if not increase them.


Part One: The Changing Retail Landscape

Disappearing Bookstores

Maurer’s list of extinct bookstores is, while an admittedly unscientific survey, reflective of an acknowledged trend. Upon its closing in 2010, the owner of Sophia Books lamented “there is no room for independents [in Vancouver].”5 The subsequent closure in 2012 of four Book Warehouse locations certainly did not prove him wrong.6 As Kevin Williams, the publisher of Talon Books, has noted, “It’s really hard to have your books on the shelf anywhere in the city. If people want to buy our books, often they have to come to us.”7

With the rise of Chapters and Indigo and its consolidation into one entity (henceforth referred to as “Chapters/Indigo”) in the late 1990s–early 2000s, the ranks of independent bookstores in Canada were “decimated,”8 a development that has since, by all accounts, only worsened. A 2010 wire article noted the “rash of independent bookstore closings in recent months and years” across Canada, the result of increased pressure from Chapters/Indigo and online retailers;9 more recently, a Globe and Mail article noted the “enormous challenges” facing book retailers.10 In a Publishers Weekly article assessing the state of Canadian publishing in 2012, the president of the Canadian Booksellers Association (CBA; since absorbed into the Retail Council of Canada) called it a “really, scary dark season” for retailers; although he claimed membership in the CBA had not dropped off precipitously, the article noted further closures of prominent stores in Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto, due to the familiar bugaboos of cost increases, price competition with online retailers, and the continued rise of ebooks.11 As one publisher succinctly put it, “We have to work with the fact that there are fewer bookstores.”12

In Canada, Chapters/Indigo dominates the diminished bookstore environment that remains — as of 2011 they accounted for about half of sales,13 and up to 70 percent of sales for some publishers.14 This is especially problematic for small presses like New Star: while the buying decisions of independent bookstores are often more content-driven and motivated by personal idiosyncrasies, large chains focus on sell-through rates, leading to an emphasis on mainstream titles15 — titles for which New Star is largely unable to compete, due to a relative lack of resources.16 This was not such a problem when there were more, healthier independents; as Maurer explains, if you could sell a title into at least one independent store, you could then leverage that fact to sell into more stores — now, a rejection from Chapters/Indigo shuts off a vast swath of potential shelf space.17 As ECW Press co-publisher David Caron put it, “The hardest part is that [Chapters/Indigo will] pass on a title entirely. … But for a lot of people, Indigo is the only game in town.”18

Their status as “the only game in town” results in Chapters/Indigo influencing not just the types of books that are produced and where they are available, but also the very conditions under which publishers are willing and able to sell their books. The favourable terms of sale that Chapters/Indigo extracts for itself then compel many publishers to impose more onerous terms on smaller retailers, as Maurer explains:

Publishers do compete on content … but we also compete on terms. The mainstream of publishing, however, has decided to eschew that competition. They have conceded terms, effectively, to the dictates of the large retail sector. And they have compounded the problem by insisting on tougher terms with the independent sector, which pays ten to twenty percent more per book, and has to pay the supplier in (typically) half the time. This has exacerbated the “competitive advantage” of the chains, and more than anything else (rent; e-books; Amazon) has led to the destruction of the independent sector — to the cost of publishers and writers as well as readers/consumers.19

To make matters even worse, space in the large retailers is increasingly being given over to non-book items. As part of a recently developed strategy, Chapters/Indigo stores will shelve fewer books and more “designer gift and lifestyle products,” which CEO Heather Reisman hopes will increasingly be inspired by books — e.g., throw pillows embroidered with quotes from children’s books.20 Reisman claims the diversification will bring more potential book buyers into stores21; Lorimer, however, sees this as a sign of the beginning of the end for the company.22 In the first quarter of 2013, revenue of Indigo Books & Music fell 8.1 percent.23

In the United States (which accounts for approximately 15 percent of New Star’s sales24), observers such as Mike Shatzkin­ and Joseph Esposito consider the demise of traditional bookstores a foregone conclusion.25 It is not all doom and gloom though: in 2012, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) reported an 8 percent increase in sales from independent bookstores, and membership rose from a historical low of 1,401 members in 2009 to 1,632 members.26 Much of this renewed vitality can likely be attributed to the demise of the national chain Borders (which closed in 2011), and the growing trend toward “buying local” undoubtedly played a part as well.27 But it is too early to proclaim the unqualified resurgence of the indies: ABA membership is still down 30 percent over the past decade (from about 2,400 members in 2002), and many of the stores that remain are resorting to filling budget gaps through unorthodox measures such as online crowdfunding campaigns.28

The Growth of Online Sales

The causes of the changing book retail landscape are debatable — most of the sources cited above attribute the decline to the rise of ebooks and online retailers and increased costs for commercial space, while Maurer’s analysis focuses more on the consolidation of the retail sector.29 But regardless of the causal link, an increasing proportion of books sold in North America are now purchased online.

In the United States, online sales represented 8 percent of books sold in 2001.30 By last year, they accounted for 42 percent;31 if you consider dollars spent rather than units sold, the figure is 45 percent.32

A report commissioned by Canadian Heritage found that online book sales accounted for just 4 percent of total book sales in Canada in 2004, with brick-and-mortar chains and independents combining for 64 percent.33 The same report examined the sales of eleven literary presses (a category that would include New Star) from 2003 – 2006, and found that online sales increased from 2 percent of the total in 2003 to just over 6 percent three years later, while the proportion of sales via “chain bookstores” fell from about one-third to about one-fifth over the same period.34 As of 2012, BookNet Canada reports online sales at 25 percent of the overall market, while the share of bookstores is down to 37 percent.35

Challenges

Buying a book online is a fundamentally different experience than buying a book “in real life.” Wandering the aisles of a great bookstore is not just a romanticized notion — there is good reason to believe that nothing sells books quite as well as books: in the estimation of McCabe and Henry, “serendipity and discovery generate as much as two-thirds of UK general book sales.”36

In Canada, a number of studies have established the vital role of bookstores, beyond mere vendors, as generators of sales and awareness of books. In a 1996 survey of readers exiting Canadian bookstores with Canadian books in hand, only 29 percent of respondents said they visited the store to purchase a specific book; 63 percent of purchase decisions were made in the store.37 A survey the following year expanded the purview to purchasers of all books, not just Canadian ones, and found that while 72 percent of respondents “had intended to purchase a book” when they entered the store, 60 percent of them decided in the bookstore which title to purchase.38 A 2005 survey of Canadian book buyers suggests that impulse purchases account for 42 percent of Canadian book purchases.39 More recently, the results of BookNet Canada’s The Canadian Book Consumer 2012: Annual Report indicate that impulsive book-buying — whether it is “title-planned, timing-impulsive,” vice-versa, or a true “impulse purchase” — varies by retail channel, with the three categories of impulse purchase accounting for over 80 percent of book purchases at grocery stores and other “non-book retail outlets,” about 70 percent at chain bookstores, and about 60 percent of purchases online and at independent bookstores.40

Closely related to the role of bookstores in generating impulse buys is their role in creating awareness of titles. In the 1996 study cited above, 39 percent of purchasers were unaware of the title they had just purchased before entering the store.41 By 2012, according to BookNet Canada, only 21 percent of buyers of print books became aware of books purchased through in-store displays.42 Online discovery was the chosen method for 21 percent of print-book buyers and 44 percent of ebook buyers.43 When “awareness factors” are broken down by method of purchase, an obvious yet important distinction is revealed: the most popular awareness factor for buyers at brick-and-mortar outlets is, by far, “in-person” (which includes in-store displays and personal recommendations), while online buyers are almost twice as likely to become aware of a book online (about 55 percent) versus in-person (about 27 percent).44 The most recent Bowker report also breaks discovery down by format: the most popular way to learn about print books is to stumble across them in a brick-and-mortar store (“in-store display / on-shelf / spinning rack”); for ebooks, “friend / relative recommendation” is number one, followed by “read excerpt / sample” online.45

A crucial feature of the bookstore browsing experience, and one that is difficult to replicate online, is the simple act of picking up a book, examining its cover, and perhaps flipping through its contents. “The best way to sell books,” according to Jane Friedman (HarperCollins CEO from 1997 to 2008), “is to have the consumer be able to read some of that content.”46 It is a simple but important observation, and is confirmed by a study in the UK that found “the opportunity to pick up and leaf through books are important qualities for consumers, and are absent from the online book buying experience.”47

Despite the move to online sales, McCabe and Henry believe that “bookshop customers are far more likely to purchase a book they have seen displayed physically than those featured on an e-tailers’ website” — however, they go on to note that “they are also more likely to buy a book because they were able to look inside or read an extract.”48 Bowker’s 2010 PubTrack Consumer Research Panel found that the second most popular reason a consumer chose a book (after “Cover/jacket description/testimonial appeals to them”) was “Looked through book, and liked it.”49 According to Laing and Royle, even many online shoppers end up purchasing a chosen title in a physical bookstore because of a “desire to check the book physically — to pick it up, leaf through, and check the contents.”50

It should come as no great surprise to publishers that people want to look at a book before buying it. Unfortunately, in Canada there are now fewer opportunities for publishers to simply get a book into a store: independents are disappearing, and bookstore promotions are now “just as likely to feature blankets, teapots, [and] owl bottle openers” as books.51 Given the shrinking independent sector and Chapters/Indigo’s diversification into the throw-pillow market, it seems likely that online sales, and hence online discovery, will continue to grow. Much is lost in the online book-buying experience — a browser tab simply cannot recreate with high fidelity the joys of a bookstore. But if that is where people buy books now, than it is important for publishers to offer readers some means of digitally “browsing” a book. As author David Balzer says, “you have to somehow replicate that experience of stumbling upon a book in a bookstore.”52

Benefits & Opportunities

It is tempting (and common) to predict disastrous implications for publishers with each freshly shuttered shop; McCabe and Henry argue that “the single most effective technique for dismantling the physical book sector would be to accelerate the closure of bookshops.”53 Bookstores have long been a critical link in the publishing supply chain, serving as the primary customer of publishers and the primary retail venue for readers.

As suggested by Maurer’s analysis above, publishers seeking to bolster the independent sector could offer retailers better terms. A publisher acting independently would be required to suffer immediate short-term financial pain, in the hopes of contributing to a more vibrant retail sector that will eventually return long-term gains to the publisher. However, since any single small publisher represents only a tiny percentage of a store’s stock, this tactic would be most effective if small publishers acted in concert — but any collective action would likely attract accusations of collusion, as happened with the ebook price-fixing antitrust case in the United States. In an industry reliant on razor-thin margins, this is a challenging path.

Regardless, the shift to online sales need not be calamitous for publishers, and in fact offers some advantages. Publishers can continue to supply the remaining bookstores while recognizing and adapting to the increased role of online sales channels. At the very least, this means better promoting their books to the growing numbers of online shoppers; for the more ambitious publisher, the opportunity exists to sell directly to customers via the publisher’s website.

Data Gathering

Selling online allows the collection of useful data about customers and their behaviour. For publishers selling through Amazon.ca, Business Reports allow the tracking of traffic to a publisher’s various titles and the conversion rates of viewers,54 data that would only be available from traditional retailers if they were to install surveillance cameras and closely watch the actions of browsing patrons. Publishers selling directly from their website can track the same data and more: using software such as Google Analytics, publishers can learn what devices buyers are using, how long they are spending on the site and what they are looking at, which other titles they have shown interest in, and where they are located; email addresses can be collected and, if permitted, added to the mailing list. All of this information can be used to tweak the website and marketing efforts, learn what readers respond to, and generate more sales.

Fewer Returns

Another benefit of selling online is the chance to bypass “one of the most difficult aspects of the publishing business”: returns.55 The standard practice of essentially selling books on consignment is a major problem for publishers (and others in the book trade). According to Woll, the practice distracts publishers, reduces cash flow, inflates inventory levels, and adds cost to the entire publishing process, particularly in warehousing and fulfillment — while return rates for small presses are generally less than those of the bigger publishers, they still account for approximately 11–13 percent of books sold.56 In the New Star office, significant floor space — already at a premium — is occupied by stacks of returned books, which are often dog-eared or scratched just enough that they can not be resold except at remainder-bin prices. Selling directly to the consumer means never fearing that in six months a retailer will return books en masse, potentially damaged and unsalable, for credit or a refund.

Reduced Costs

There are compelling motivations for publishers to undertake “the more aggressive use of the Internet as an online marketing and sales channel.”57 The most enticing reason may be the increase in profit margins — as Woll explains, “If you sell directly to the consumer, without the need to involve middlemen, you don’t have to give away discount to those intermediaries. You can sell your book for full price and record all of the proceeds as your revenue.”58 Given that the trade discount is generally around 50 percent, this can result in a significant increase in per-unit revenue. There are other costs involved, as Woll notes — notably shipping and direct marketing costs — but it is standard practice to charge buyers for shipping costs, and conducting the marketing online, where the buyers are already, is much cheaper than traditional print-based marketing efforts.59 There are also costs associated with setting up an ecommerce-enabled website, but the majority of Canadian publishers (New Star included) have already done this.60

Thompson’s Characteristics of New Technologies

John B. Thompson lists several characteristics of “new technologies” that allow publishers to “add real value to their content.”61 In the context of selling books online, these characteristics can enable publishers to not merely attempt to recreate the in-store browsing experience, but to enhance it.

Ease of Access: Online bookselling largely erases “certain spatial and temporal constraints.”62 Interested readers can buy books anytime from virtually anywhere, regardless of the location or business hours of retailers, or the number of physical copies of a book in a given store. As of 2010, 98 percent of Canadian households had broadband access,63 and Maurer believes that New Star’s audience is particularly active online.64

Updatability: Compared to printed material, where changes to a text require another print run, online content can be modified “quickly, frequently, and relatively cheaply.”65 Digital samples can be posted early in the book production process and then updated to their final published form, or a new excerpt may be selected for feature based on current events or the conversation generated by the excerpt.

Searchability: It is possible to search inside a printed book using the table of contents and index (or simply leafing through the pages), but of course an online search engine is “infinitely quicker and more powerful … and can be extended to much larger quantities of content.”66

In the context of the wide-open internet this presents challenges to a publisher trying to stand out from the field, but it also enables readers to quickly find what they are looking for on a publisher’s website and even within the full text of a book, if a publisher partners with Google Books (which will be discussed in some detail below). McCabe argues that “consumer behaviour is highly directed online.”67 When people are searching for a particular book or type of book, ensuring that a title’s promotional material is easily searchable is a critical step in directing that consumer behaviour to the desired location.

Portability: As Thompson notes, unless it is device-dependent, vast amounts of online content can be reproduced and transferred to or accessed on devices including personal computers, smart phones, tablet computers, ereaders, and so on.68 Of course most print objects are highly portable as well, but internet-enabled devices can store vast numbers of books and access infinite amounts of online content — e.g., book excerpts — with little burden to the reader.

This portability also allows online excerpts to be easily shared with friends and family around the globe. In an article that notes the continued importance of “social discovery,” Andrew Rhomberg observes that “we are now able to send quotes, snippets or samples (first 10%) of an (electronic) book with ease to those to whom we are recommending our books, which we could not have done in the day of the printed book.”69 His parenthetical qualifiers need not apply; by offering them online, publishers enable the sharing of digital excerpts of any length from ebooks and print books.

Intertextuality: This refers to the ability to “give a dynamic character” to the “referential function of texts,” by providing hyperlinks to sources cited, other books, external resources of any kind, and online sales venues.70

Multimedia: The ability to offer multimedia features that can not be printed on a page “enable[s] content providers to add real value,” e.g., by adding more photos or streaming videos to supplement a book’s content.71

Interest and Sales

The two pioneers of digital sampling — Amazon and Google — have reported encouraging effects on sales. Amazon’s “Search Inside the Book” feature boosted sales for participating titles (and will be discussed further below), and early adopters of Google Book Search saw the sales of backlist titles increase.72 In touting the benefits of its book digitization projects, Google “emphasizes the marketing benefits to copyright holders,” arguing that the endeavour increases the visibility of backlist and “lightly marketed new titles”73 — which, it is safe to say, encompasses the entire catalogues of most small Canadian publishers.

Whether a publisher opts to sell online via Amazon or their own site, digital samples make books easier to find and peruse. Because “the content of the book is separable from the form,” publishers can “dissociate browsing from the turning of printed pages in a bricks-and-mortar bookstore.”74 The separation of content and form takes on far greater profundity in the consideration of the eBook market, but it is germane to the online sale of print books as well: the content of a print book can be easily and accurately represented digitally — and even enhanced — in order to entice buyers. By embracing online book sales and digital sampling, small Canadian publishers can to some degree unshackle themselves from the turbulent, Chapters/Indigo-dominated realm of physical bookstores. The next section considers various book sampling practices, from Internet behemoths to tiny Canadian trade publishers.


Part Two: Current Sampling Practices

Third-Party Samples

Amazon

When Amazon launched the “Look Inside the Book” feature in 2001, one of the participating publishers said that “helping [Amazon’s] customers crack the spine is simply smart marketing.”75 Two years later, Amazon launched an enhanced version of Look Inside called “Search Inside the Book,” which allows users to search within a certain book or across Amazon’s entire digital catalogue and then view a limited preview surrounding the results.76 Publishers were “guardedly cooperative;” some feared the service would hamper book sales by offering free content, and the Authors Guild objected to titles being featured without the author’s explicit consent.77

One week after the launch of Search Inside, CEO Jeff Bezos announced that the program was “driving increased sales”: sales growth for participating titles was 9 percent higher than growth for titles not participating.78 After a full year, that number had dropped only slightly, to 7 percent.79

The company has not released related sales figures since, but today the Search and Look Inside widget is a robust and prominent feature, easily identified by either a bright yellow arrow or a blue triangle and the words “Look Inside!” on the cover image of a book. After uploading a PDF that conforms to Amazon’s specifications, publishers are promised “Improved Search Results” and “Point-of-Sale Sampling” that will “help customers to discover and sell more of your books.”80 Of the one hundred “Best Sellers of 2013” listed at Amazon.com on September 23, ninety included Search and Look Inside functionality.81 Interestingly, at Amazon.ca on the same day, only three of the top ten and fifty-six of the top one hundred had Search and Look Inside enabled82 — this may be a result of Canadian publishers lacking the resources or inclination to participate, or it may be simple chance.

Google

With the rollout of Google Print in 2003 (since renamed Google Books), Google’s ambition to digitize and make accessible all the information in the world set its sights on the world’s print books. Through its Partner Program and its (highly contentious) Library Project, Google digitizes and indexes books, so that if a searched term appears in a book it will be included in the results, with a several-page excerpt and links to online retailers.83 Unless a publisher agrees to include more, the excerpts are limited to two pages before and after the search term, and displayed text cannot be copy-and-pasted, to help “ensure that a book’s content isn’t copied illegally.”84

Nevertheless, in 2005 both the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) sued Google for copyright infringement. The AAP settled in 2012; Publishers Weekly observed that it became evident during the AAP proceedings that the publishers “never really disagreed about the potential benefit of Google’s index,” but wanted to retain greater control over the contents of the program; one expert on the case said that publishers “invested a ton of time and money fighting something that they realize now really isn’t a problem.”85 A federal judge dismissed the Authors Guild case in November 2013. In deeming Google’s digitization project to be “fair use,” Judge Denny Chin said that it provides “significant public benefits” by giving books “new life,” and “generates new audiences and creates new sources of income for authors and publishers.”86

Publishers can make their wares available through Google Books by joining the Partner Program and sending Google a physical or PDF copy of their book. Search results from the book will then display the book’s title and author, and an excerpt highlighting the search terms. If users click on the book they will see a “limited preview … just enough to give them a taste of the book, as if they were browsing in a bookstore or library.” Printing and text and image copying functions are disabled in the preview. Sales links are clearly visible in a sidebar — if the publisher sells directly from their site that is the top link, followed by links to major retailers such as Amazon or Chapters/Indigo and, if an ebook is available, the Google Play bookstore. Partners can also embed the preview on their own website, and access detailed analytical reports about traffic to their books.87

Google does not provide data on Google Books’ impact on sales, and in the pitch to publishers to join they stop short of promising an increase in sales, instead promising, under the heading “Drive Book Sales,” to “make it easy for users to go from browsing to buying.”88 They do, however, offer this (undated) quote from Kate Tentler of Simon & Schuster: “15.3% … [of] web surfers who clicked on a Simon and Schuster book in Google Books either bought a book or went to the Simon and Schuster web site and, for example, subscribed to a newsletter. Conversion rates for other search engines languish around 1-3%.”89 Oxford University Press also claims that partnering with Google has increased traffic to their site and boosted backlist sales.90 In a recent paper from Duke University, one author claims his sales ranking at Barnes & Noble improved by 85 percent after he partnered with Google Books, an experience the paper’s authors claim is “typical for participants.”91 In a 2006 analysis of Google Book Search, Travis notes that book sales in the United States were up “markedly” since the program began, and “thus far there is little evidence that any printed books have suffered lost sales because Google has made them searchable.”92 On the contrary, Travis argues, “the service appears to have had a very positive effect on the sales of books it has included to date.”93

Book Discovery Services

There are a growing number of dedicated book discovery websites. The sites discussed below were chosen because of repeated references that appeared in the course of researching this report; while none of them have achieved the ubiquity of Amazon or Google, they are worth noting, as they speak to the increased perception of online book discovery as both a challenge and an opportunity for publishers.

Goodreads: Their recent acquisition by Amazon has recently thrust Goodreads.com and its 20 million members into the spotlight.94 The site was conceived as a marketing service for publishers, who have been using its “firm foundation” for that exact purpose “for some time.”95 Although it does not currently feature book excerpts, it is not inconceivable that Amazon will integrate its Search or Look Inside the Book features into the site, further enhancing its marketing potential.

Scribd: Originally a place to make documents accessible to the public, Scribd.com now has a “vast treasure trove of documents,” sees 10 million unique visitors monthly, and is increasingly being used by trade publishers to promote books: in July 2013 “marketing activity” on Scribd was just “a gleam in the eye” of American publishers,96 but on a recent visit (October 1, 2013), the twenty-five “documents” displayed on the homepage were all trade books (twenty-one of which were from HarperCollins). Each book offered excerpts, available to anyone, and for a monthly subscription of $8.99 readers can access unlimited content on the site,97 which could develop into an attractive marketing tool and revenue source for forward-thinking publishers.

Bookish: Bookish.com was developed by Penguin Group USA, Hachette Book Group, and Simon & Schuster, and launched in February of 2013 with the aim of “provid[ing] as many pathways to [book] discovery as possible.”98 The cover images of the majority of titles on the homepage feature prominent “Read a Sample” icons, which open a widget (embeddable on other sites) that displays anywhere from one paragraph to a couple chapters of text in plain, uncopy-able html, and a large “Buy” button. Any publisher is welcome to submit titles for inclusion, with the proviso that all data be submitted via an ONIX 2.1 data feed.99

49thShelf: Two Canadian sites deserve mention. Produced by the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP), 49thShelf.com “mak[es] it easier to discover Canadian books” by hosting editorial content and a searchable database of over 60,000 titles.100 On a recent visit (September 24, 2013), none of the nine titles on the homepage offered excerpts, but it is possible to include them — all of the tiles on 49thShelf are drawn from BNC’s Biblioshare system,101 which supports including excerpts in the ONIX metadata.

Wattpad: Margaret Atwood’s high profile releases on Wattpad.com have increased its profile as of late.102 Although it is primarily a platform for self-published writers to share their work in serialized installments, American publishers are beginning to use it for marketing purposes.103 Wattpad offers intriguing possibilities for small publishers to develop online fanbases by serializing the digital release of titles, perhaps in advance of the print release, and gain potentially useful feedback about various aspects of a book.

Major Firms

As of 2004, foreign-owned publishers operating in Canada accounted for at least 59 percent of domestic sales.104 Of the major firms identified by Lorimer,105 excerpt practices of the four foreign trade publishers — and Harlequin, one of the largest Canadian firms — are discussed below.

HarperCollins

HarperCollins announced plans to create a vast digital catalogue in 2005, and by August of the following year had digitized 10,000 titles at a cost of several million dollars, with expected annual costs of at least a million dollars.106 The most notable feature of the project was the new “Browse Inside” widget that, similar to Amazon’s “Search Inside” and Google Book Search, “allow[s] readers to replicate in cyberspace the experience of going to a bookstore and flipping through a few pages before buying a book,” includes supplementary marketing material such as interviews, tour schedules, photographs, and reading group guides, and can be embedded on other websites.107

Initially Browse Inside was limited to the front matter and the first few pages of each chapter.108 Access to most titles is still restricted, but there are now a limited number of “Full Access” titles that offer the entire contents of the book for preview.109 While browsing, a reader can search inside the book; share links to the preview using almost 350 different social media tools; buy the book from Amazon, Indigo, or a list of independent retailers sorted by state or province; install the widget on their own website; and sign up for email notifications about the author’s promotional activity and new books.

Browse Inside is accessible by any visitor to the website, but the content of the preview cannot be downloaded, copied, or accessed by external search engines — as Friedman said upon the launch of the feature, “HarperCollins is taking a leadership role on the digital front … while, first and foremost, protecting our authors’ copyrights.”110

Detailed sales figures are of course unavailable, but there is evidence that excerpts boost sales: in a presentation to the 2008 International Digital Publishing Forum, Leslie Hulse (Vice President of Digital Business Development) reported “print sales increases of 30% and 250% for specific titles using [HarperCollins’] Browse Inside functionality.”111

Random House

In 2007 Random House introduced “Insight,” a search and sample widget and service that “enable[s] the indexing, searching and display of text” of books. The service is very similar to Browse Inside, allowing users to search the entire text of a book and view the results in context. It has since evolved into Insight Web Service, “a set of programming tools that allow internet applications to view and search digitized book content” and display the resulting pages as high-resolution images or fast-loading thumbnails. Insight can be set up on any blogger’s, publisher’s or retailers website, and the Insight widget can be customized for affiliate sales.112

RandomHouse.com and RandomHouse.ca both offer Insight-powered “Look Inside” widgets for many titles; in addition, RandomHouse.com features an “Excerpt” tab for most titles, which displays the selection in simple HTML-based text. During the autumn of 2013, RandomHouse.ca also added simple HTML excerpts, so that users can click a “Read Excerpt” button to launch a pop-up window with simple, copy/pastable HTML-based text. This feature is in lieu of the “Look Inside” widget for some titles (e.g., Let Me Off at the Top! by Ron Burgundy) and in addition to it for others (e.g., John Grisham’s Sycamore Row).

Penguin

Penguin Books Canada (Penguin.ca) offers excerpts of most of its titles, but in varying formats and degrees: for Joseph Boyden’s latest, Orenda, readers can download a PDF of the first twenty pages, while excerpts for some titles are simple HTML text in a box on the page — though they can run as long as 4,800 words, as is the case for Clive Cussler’s The Mayan Secret. Many titles feature video interviews or book trailers.

In the summer of 2013, Penguin launched its “First to Read” program. People must register for the program (or use their FaceBook accounts) to receive access to excerpts of forthcoming books, be able to post reviews, and request access to digital pre-publication copies of books.113

Simon & Schuster

For some titles Simon & Schuster’s Canadian website (SimonandSchuster.ca) uses the Google Books widget to allow browsing of substantial amounts of content within a book. Other titles have an HTML excerpt from the introduction or first chapter, and many of their recent and bestselling titles have embedded audio excerpts and video book trailers. All of this content is easily shareable via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, or email.

Harlequin

Harlequin.com provides excerpts for seemingly the majority of titles in their vast catalogue. As well as multiple social media widgets and links to eight major book retailers, each title’s page features a red “Read an Excerpt” link that opens the HTML-based sample in a new tab or window. Selections are presented without context, and average about 2,500 words.

A Survey of Canadian Publishers

Table 1 presents the results of a survey of the availability of excerpts from Canadian trade publishers. Eighty-three publishers were selected from the membership directory of the ACP.114 Publishers of exclusively educational, scholarly, or children’s books were excluded, and in the wake of the bankruptcy of Douglas & McIntyre Publishers Inc., the resulting independent firms — Douglas & McIntyre [2013] Ltd., Greystone Books Ltd., and New Society Publishers — were included. On each publisher’s website, the five most prominent titles (featured on homepage or “Featured” lists) were checked for availability of excerpts, and then titles were searched on Amazon (.ca and .com) and Google Books (books.google.com/). There are some limitations to the methodology: not all Canadian publishers are members of the ACP (New Star, for one), and not every title on every site was checked. Nevertheless, the results offer a valuable sense of what Canadian publishers are doing to make their titles visible online.

Table 1: Digital Sampling Practices of Canadian Publishers

PUBLISHERS SURVEYED

83 (100%)

Samples available via:

Website

34 (41%)

Amazon

22 (27%)

Google Books (Preview or Snippet)

38 (46%)

At least 1 of website, Google Books, or Amazon

53 (64%)

No Samples Available

30 (36%)

In contrast to the major firms discussed above, less than half of the Canadian publishers surveyed provide excerpts on their own website — despite the fact that the vast majority (89 percent) sell books from their websites, either directly (81 percent) or via links to third-party retailers (20 percent) such as Amazon or Chapters/Indigo.

The format, frequency, functionality, and length of the samples vary greatly. Of the thirty-four publishers that do host samples, nearly half (fifteen) use PDFs, eleven use plain HTML, and only seven publishers use embedded Google Books widgets. At a dozen presses, samples were found for only one or two of the five titles surveyed, while thirteen displayed samples for all five titles. Slightly less than half (fifteen) of the publishers enabled the sharing of the samples via some social media channel. The length of samples runs the gamut from a few sentences presented wholly out of context at Linda Leith Publishing, to Dundurn’s Google Books-integrated website, which allows viewers to search within their entire catalogue and view extensive selections from selected books in Google Preview directly from Dundurn.com.

Although excerpt availability does increase significantly when Google Books and Amazon are taken into account, the titles of about one third of publishers cannot be sampled online. The prevalence of direct sales seems to indicate that publishers appreciate the significance of the online market, but the relative lack of opportunities to easily peruse a title shows that this important aspect of online marketing is either unrecognized, or deemed unfeasible due to financial or technical constraints. The importance of sampling having been established above, the next section consists of considerations and recommendations for how to simply and effectively offer book samples online.


Part Three: Analysis & Recommendations

The mere existence — often at great cost — of the various digital sampling widgets and websites speaks volumes to the efficacy of enabling readers to “try before they buy.” These services are a testament to the growing value of the online market, and the necessity of innovation in the absence of a healthy physical bookstore sector. A publisher with unlimited resources may wish to engage in all the available means above, but for a small Canadian press the time and effort of supplying Google, Amazon, and the various websites with PDFs and data feeds may cancel out any benefit accrued. The following sections consider the myriad options available for offering digital samples, and conclude with recommendations for how to provide effective HTML-based samples.

Book Discovery Websites

It remains to be seen if the latest book discovery sites will survive and flourish, and there is little indication as of yet that they can improve the visibility or sales of a title: a recent study concluded that even though “frequent readers” regularly visit sites such as Goodreads or Pinterest to look for books, “those visits fail to drive actual book purchases.”115 For a publisher like New Star, already faced with pressing demands on time and resources, it is not clear that devoting any considerable effort to developing a presence on these sites would return any tangible benefit — as some observers have noted, there is a glut of such services, indicative of the fact that discovery is a problem for publishers, not readers.116 It is worth keeping an eye on the continued evolution of sites like Scribd and Wattpad, but to achieve immediate results, publishers should focus their efforts on more proven methods.

Google & Amazon

The ease, ubiquity, and effectiveness of Search Inside and Google Books should make them very attractive to publishers. Titles from every publisher surveyed can already be found on Amazon.ca and Google Books, yet less than half have enabled Google Preview, and even fewer use Amazon’s preview functions. Google Books’ Partner Program in particular can be very useful for publishers, as it is effective beyond the confines of one particular website: readers searching via any search engine can find a Google Books page that includes retailer links, and the preview widget can be embedded on the publisher’s own website — as at least seven Canadian publishers know.

There are some limitations, however. Amazon samples are only accessible via Amazon.ca (or .com), and of course do not provide links to other retailers (although there is some evidence of reverse show-rooming behaviour, whereby people browse books online and then buy them in a physical store.117 Amazon requires a PDF free of registration- or crop-marks,118 which in New Star’s case would mean producing a separate PDF, apart from the standard workflow. Compared to HTML, both Google and Amazon’s widgets are somewhat cumbersome to use on smartphones, tablets, and other non-PC devices.

Notably, neither has a sharing function, and text cannot be copy/pasted from the widgets to manually share on social media venues. Whether it is in person or via online “social discovery,” word-of-mouth is still a critically important component of book marketing.119 When readers were asked for a 2005 Canadian study to choose the variables that contribute to their awareness of books they read or purchased, “recommendation from a friend” was listed as “often used” by 40 percent of respondents, second in frequency only to “interest in topic” at 61 percent — but when asked which factors “helped the most” for buying and reading, recommendations were cited by over 30 percent of respondents, compared to 20 percent for “interest in a topic.”120 The more recent BNC report confirms the significance of word-of-mouth for book discovery, and notes that online discovery is increasing121: it seems clear that sharing and recommending books online is an important and growing factor in book discovery, and should be made as seamless as possible.

Even with these limitations they are tremendously useful. So why don’t more publishers embrace them? Thompson addresses this in an interview with “Steve,” the head of “Media Asset Development” at a large trade house in New York, who says his company wants to use the Amazon and Google services, but is not entirely comfortable giving their content to such powerful companies who may not have their best interests in mind: “‘Many publishers in this building just like elsewhere are still not totally comfortable about giving their files to Amazon and Google,’ explained one of Steve’s colleagues. ‘Partly it’s because we’re unsure what they’ll do with it.’”122 Before a New York judge dismissed the proposed Google Book Search settlement agreement (that required authors to opt out of having their books digitized) in 2011,123 Canadian authors (among others) expressed their distinct disapproval of the deal, comparing it to thievery and “legalized, large-scale piracy.”124

There are also practical concerns; Thompson explains that publishers are ceding control of the quality of the excerpts and the quantity available, and cannot easily change or update what is on offer.125

In the case of the quantity excerpted, Amazon has since partially addressed this concern with the introduction of a “Flexible Percent Viewing Limit” feature that allows publishers to determine the percentage of the book that is viewable, in 10 percent increments between 10 and 80 percent.126 The quality concern has been rendered moot by both Amazon’s and Google’s acceptance of PDF files rather than hard copies — the quality of the digitized book is what publishers make it. Concerns over quick updates are still valid, but not entirely reasonable for publishers of print books, who are not able to correct errors in their books once the ink is committed to paper without an expensive and unlikely reprint.

The trust issue is thornier. It is understandable that a small publisher would be wary of placing too much faith in multi-billion dollar corporations. Amazon particularly endures much criticism from all quarters for its impact on the publishing trade in general, and, as a purely profit-driven retailer, cannot be said to share any of the lofty literary, cultural, or political ideas that animate a press like New Star. Google’s mission to make the world’s knowledge accessible (and its famous slogan, “Don’t be evil”) seems to align them more closely with publishers, but also has a whiff of totalitarianism about it, and has of course resulted in numerous lawsuits alleging flagrant and systematic copyright violations. Still: all the publishers surveyed sell books on Amazon; in the absence of any evidence of malicious acts involving digitized books, it seems wise to allow them to present those books in the best possible light. And as Thompson goes on to mention, Google’s Partner Program is, “in effect, a free form of online marketing” that, in distinction to the Library project, “was not a source of concern for most publishers.”127

Canadian Publishers

Most Canadian publishers use PDFs for excerpts. This results in an accurate representation of the printed page and allows the excerpt to be read offline, but there are many disadvantages that make PDFs an inferior choice compared to HTML. They are cumbersome to share, forcing the reader to download and attach them to an email, and can be slow to load, depending on the file size and bandwidth available. They are unreliable: different web browsers and operating systems treat them differently, sometimes downloading them and sometimes opening them in a new window or tab; the ability to view them at all depends on the reader’s software configuration and the settings used in generating the PDF; and if the reader is using a smartphone or tablet they are unwieldy at best, unreadable at worst.

Because PDFs are an essential part of a print-oriented production workflow, it is perhaps understandable that publishers would be biased toward their use. As Murray Tong of UBC Press explains, “I think the issue for many publishers (including us) is that the PDF is already there, so why not put it up? — with little thought [given] to searchability, copyability or other forms of access.”128

Another reason for the tenacity of PDFs may be the perceived benefit of restricting a reader’s ability to copy text from them, out of fear of piracy or copyright violations. This restriction is an oft-touted feature of the excerpt methods of Google, Amazon, HarperCollins, and Random House. If the entire book is available for preview this restriction seems reasonable, but in the case of an incomplete excerpt it becomes less defensible. With the possible exception of poetry books, cookbooks, or instructional manuals, there is very little value in owning or reproducing a fraction of a greater work, except insofar as it impels one toward the source material. Rather than guard every scrap of content, publishers should encourage the free sharing and distribution of enticing morsels that enable “social discovery” (via social media) and “distributed discovery”129 (when a book is mentioned or quoted in context in reviews, blogs, other books, or any number of venues).

Whatever inspires their proliferation, PDFs represent a case of persistent skeumorphism. Imitating old media in new ones may be a necessary step to familiarize people with new technologies,130 but people have had a long time to get used to reading on screens: as Joseph Esposito argues in a post that calls the PDF the “supreme skeuomorph,” the challenge for publishers is to consider “what are the properties of a new medium and what kind of new products or services can we come up with that seem at home in that new medium…. Rather than contrast and compare it to print, we could be thinking about digital media’s unique properties.”131

In the context of promoting books, these properties are wasted with PDFs. HTML can now achieve the same level of aesthetic design as PDFs destined for the printer, “and yet,” as John Maxwell says, “offers a whole world more in terms of dynamic, interactive reading experience.”132 There is a broader argument being made that publishers need to shift the bulk of their operations to a web-first workflow, as the web is now “the default platform for reaching audiences, developing content, and putting the pieces [of a book] together”  — but for publishers hesitant to “re-orient their operations and start with the web,”133 HTML-based samples are a less intimidating place to start breaking the dependency on PDFs, and could potentially lay the foundations for a more fundamental change to workflows down the road.

Implementation Costs

It is difficult to gauge the dollar cost of creating online samples, given the myriad variables at play. While participation in the Google and Amazon sampling programs is free, overall costs will depend on the method or combination of methods employed; the number of titles for which samples are created; the structure of the publisher’s website; and the extent of in-house programming knowledge. In the best-case scenario, the cost is limited to time. If the publisher already sells via Amazon, they must sign up for the sampling programs and enable them for each title. For Google, once the publisher is signed up they must submit PDFs for each title. The publisher’s own website is potentially more expensive; a template for samples must be created, and the HTML-based samples of each title created. If the structure of the site allows it, this could be accomplished relatively quickly in-house; more complicate websites owned by publishers with little in-house programming knowledge could expect to pay for several hours of web programming to implement the sample program.

Recommendations for Effective Samples

Format

Based on the above, it is recommended that publishers participate in Amazon’s Look and Search Inside the Book services and Google’s Partner Program — the benefits are real and tangible, the perceived dangers largely a matter of fear and uncertainty.

It is also advisable for publishers to create HTML-based excerpts for display on publishers’ own websites. If publishers can recognize that, for the purposes of online marketing at least, “the content of the book is separable from the form” and “the real value of the book lies in the content … rather than in the physical form,”134 they will be a step closer to abandoning PDF samples and taking full advantage of the characteristics of new technologies noted above. HTML-based samples overcome most of the limitations of PDFs and Google and Amazon samples: all browsers can render HTML, making it easily accessible to (very nearly) anyone with Internet access, whether via computer, tablet, or smartphone, and the excerpted text can be easily shared, linked to, and quoted elsewhere. This enhanced “sociability” of HTML over PDFs is a very significant advantage: samples can be easily and quickly spread through any and all social media channels via easily clickable links.

There are two potential drawbacks that merit consideration. The first is aesthetic: web pages are usually less attractive than reproductions of the printed page, which may make publishers somewhat reluctant to present books in what may be perceived as a “lesser” format. This can be overcome to some degree with CSS styling and the addition of images where appropriate, but more importantly, providing HTML-based samples should be seen as a strategic practice that, rather than competing with the physical books, aims to make those books readily shareable to as many people as possible in order to generate sales. In this context, aesthetic imperfection is an acceptable tradeoff for near-universal accessibility, and may even be preferable to high-fidelity page reproductions: as discussed below (under the section titled “Length”), publishers must be careful not to give away too much for free, lest readers feel that purchasing the actual book is unnecessary.There are two potential drawbacks that merit consideration.

Secondly, depending on a publisher’s standard workflow, creating HTML-based samples rather than PDFs may take more time: instead of simply removing the printer’s marks from the print-ready PDF, the text must be copied and pasted from the source file into either a WYSIWYG content management system (CMS) such as WordPress (the best-case scenario), or a text editor for the creation of HTML code (a slightly more onerous route). In the former case, creating the sample is no more time-consuming than creating a web-ready PDF. In the latter, creating an HTML template into which text can be pasted and marked up will ease the burden somewhat. Forward-thinking publishers wishing to entirely erase this burden (and many others) should consider beginning their workflow in a web-based CMS; as Maxwell has argued, one of the many advantages of such a strategy is that “online marketing copy or excerpts for the web” become “extremely easy to generate.”135

Despite these potential drawbacks, HTML is the superior choice for hosting digital samples, and is well worth the interruption to an established workflow. Its content is indexed and searchable by Google and other search engines — a considerable benefit if “Google is your discovery method”136 and “search is the new storefront.”137 Hyperlinks within the excerpt and the publishers website and to external sites can be easily added and used. It enables the addition of audio and video. And a reader’s behaviour and interaction with an HTML excerpt can be tracked and quantified using Google Analytics.

There is another compelling reason to host excerpts on a publisher’s own site, one that is hinted at by the time and care Maurer devotes to maintaining New Star’s blog and email subscriber list: building a relationship with a press’s audience. Excerpts are an incentive to spend time on a publisher’s website, where they can potentially read blog posts, subscribe to newsletters, peruse all the press has to offer, and generally develop an affinity for the publisher. Many observers have recently emphasized the importance of this sort of relationship: “Since publishers can’t physically enter people’s living rooms, turn off their TVs and shove books into their hands, they may instead have to focus on retail and … work on their direct relationships with readers,”138 because “nothing will ever replace building authentic, two-way relationships with customers and readers.”139 As Gonzales says, “The publishers who have a direct relationship with their readers — not necessarily via direct sales, but via direct engagement — are the ones who will not simply survive the ‘digital shift,’ but will thrive, being less prone to the whims of Amazon, Apple, Google….”140

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Although it is likely already on the radar of many publishers, SEO is critically important, specifically for digital sampling — as Thompson notes, if a site is not “friendly for the Google crawler” and therefore does not perform well in search result rankings, “then your content is, for all practical purposes, invisible.”141 SEO is a vast and at-times complex field in itself, but a few simple steps — such as creating unique, accurate page titles, and URLs with descriptive words rather than strings of numbers — can greatly enhance a sample page’s (and therefore a book’s) discoverability.142

For non-fiction titles, SEO considerations can also guide the choice of what book content to sample. By consulting the suggested terms listed by Google’s Autocomplete feature (which terms are “a reflection of the search activity of users and the content of web pages indexed by Google”143), publishers can get a sense of which subjects within a book are most searched-for. For example, querying “Svend Robinson” in Google produces a list of the ten most popular terms queried with “Svend Robinson,” three of which (i.e., “Max Riveron,” “theft,” and “Sue Rodriguez”) point to topics covered in the New Star biography that would be suitable for excerpting.144 Using Google Trends (www.google.ca/trends/), the popularity of these terms can then be compared over time and within regions to aid in choosing what to sample, and fine-tuning keywords to use in optimizing and promoting the samples.

Length

The next consideration is how much to excerpt — Amazon’s default is 20 percent; excerpts surveyed above ranged from a few sentences to dozens of pages; and, as noted, New Star has experimented with offering the entire book — a strategy that has proven successful for some authors,145 and is worth further exploration. Generally though, as Thompson notes, “you want to allow the reader to get a clear sense of the content … but you don’t want them to be able to read so much of the text that the decision to purchase becomes redundant.”146 The nature of the book is another important factor — for fiction the preferred method is to offer the beginning chapters, while “episodic sampling” is often the best approach for non-fiction works.147 Checking various topics from the book in Google Trends could offer insight into what topics are currently popular and will be more likely to attract readers to the excerpt. Publishers must be careful, however, to not give away for free the most sought-after section of the book: in an article questioning the value of book excerpts in print publications, a publicity executive at Knopf claimed that an excerpt of a Jessica Lynch biography in Time “gave away too much  —  I think people felt they’d had their fill.”148 Ultimately it is a matter of editorial judgment, but the guiding principle should be to entice, not satiate the reader.

Hyperlinks

A “buy” button is the most obvious link to include, but publishers can take advantage of the potential “intertextuality” of digital samples by including hyperlinks in the content of the excerpt. For a research-heavy non-fiction title such Svend Robinson, an excerpt could feature links directly to available online sources referenced in the text, allowing the reader to engage with the source material in an exponentially easier way than if they were reading it in a bookstore, which would require either flipping to the end of the book to find the endnote, or going online to search for the cited article.

Hyperlinks can also enrich the reader’s experience of the excerpted material, and provide context precluded by the limitations of the print version. With fiction and poetry, samples are a chance for authors or publishers to embellish and expand upon the original text. A recent New Star poetry book acknowledges a long list of bands, writers, “commercials, films, and more” that are obliquely referenced or appear in the text as “phrases and rhythms, sometimes skewed, [that] float in and out of sybil unrest.”149 With only slight visual alteration of the text, these references could be elucidated or expanded upon, offering the authors another layer of expression and the reader a deeper understanding of the references and ideas at play.

The savvy excerpter could also include links to favourable reviews of the work, or at the end of the sample, to excerpts from the author’s other works, and similar works by other authors (offered by the same publisher).

Multimedia

The multimedia capacity of digital samples allows further enrichment of the text. In the case of New Star’s recent titles, this could entail “bonus” photos, e.g., photos that were considered but not included in Svend Robinson or Seize the Time: Vancouver Photographed 1967 – 1974; including promotional videos in a sample, e.g. the promotional video for After Desire; embedding videos related to a book’s topic, e.g., Seize the Time contains two photos of Janis Joplin in performance, and a number of videos of those same performances are available on YouTube; or including audio recordings of readings, e.g., Peter Culley’s (author of Parkway) recent reading at the Western Front or George Stanley’s (After Desire) at WORD Vancouver.

Promotion

Promotion of samples can and should take place through extant channels, such as a publisher’s website, email newsletters, social media, and even books. It is a common practice to list other books by an author in the front matter of a print book, but if a publisher sells ebooks, these lists could be hyperlinks to samples of the book. Widgets displaying the “Most Read” samples could be installed on the homepage of the website, similar to what most online newspapers and magazines do.

Including social media widgets on the sample’s page allows readers to quickly share them, and these channels can be very effective: “Traditional advertising did nothing for us … absolutely zilch,” according to Emily Gould of EmilyBooks, an independent ebook retailer, “but when I tweet a line from the book or we post a three-paragraph excerpt on our Tumblr, people buy the books just because they want to read more, immediately.”150 The chances are very high that any given member of a book’s potential audience is using at least one social media platform.151 Engaging them with them in these media and linking to samples helps them get read, increases the SEO ranking of the site, and provides useful data about the readers.152

Digital samples can also be easily distributed to specific influential bloggers or reviewers, as part of a concerted “online outreach” effort — the online marketing manager of a large American publisher said, “we outreach to bloggers, and that’s a big part of what we do because it just gets the conversation going.”153 A book like Svend Robinson lends itself well to promotion in a variety of realms beyond book-review sites; members of the LGBT community, provincial and federal NDP members, and political pundits could all be expected to show an interest in reading and discussing online an excerpt from the book. Advanced search options in Twitter and Google allow a publisher to find people that are already engaged with the topic of the book, follow their conversations, and offer them valuable content.154 Proactive distribution of digital samples costs only time, and can help spark a discussion around the book, bringing more visitors to the publisher’s website.

Metadata

In 2011, the president of Booknet Canada recommended that all publishers include excerpts in their metadata feeds.155 Excerpts are considered “enhanced” (i.e., non-compulsory) metadata, but can be included for those retailers or websites that do display them, e.g., 49th Shelf, which draws all its title information from the ONIX files submitted to BNC’s BiblioShare.156 Enhanced metadata is proven to increase sales, and the effect is even stronger for online sales.157 The Book Industry Study Group’s most recent guide to metadata best practices claims “excerpts can make titles stand out in a list of possible relevant purchases and encourage longer engagement with the product listing for these titles.”158 In The Metadata Handbook, “excerpts, previews, and sample chapters” top the list of enhanced metadata “that make a difference.”159 The authors note that providing rich metadata to retailers will also improve a title’s SEO performance in Google and other search engines; while they caution that rich metadata will not guarantee the success of a book, “the absence of metadata will definitely guarantee its obscurity.”160

Rich Snippets

Using Google’s “rich snippets,” publishers can help Google parse the content on a page to provide important information about the book in the “snippet,” i.e., the lines of text that appear below a search result.161 Installing rich snippets requires small modifications to the code of a webpage according to Google’s specifications, but greatly enhance the results that people searching for a title will see. Rich snippets for products allow the inclusion of the book title, cover image, publisher, category, ISBN, price, and availability,162 enabling an interested reader to learn of not just the existence of a book, but many salient details that will aid their discovery of it, all with a glance at the search results.

Analytics

Finally, readers’ interaction with HTML-based digital samples on a publisher’s own site can be tracked with Google Analytics, enabling a publisher to tweak the samples and the site for maximum efficacy. There is a wealth of data available, including geographical location, frequency of visits, device and browsers used, links followed to arrive at the site, the popularity of specific pages, navigation paths within the site, and the completion rates of customizable goals.163 This allows a publisher to track how well digital samples are engaging readers and leading to sales, and can help them modify the samples (and the site at large) to respond to readers’ behaviour.

Analytics results cannot tell a publisher how to improve results, but allows them to methodically refine the site and receive quantified feedback at each step. This process can be sped up by using A/B testing: there are a variety of services that enable A/B testing, and have taught website proprietors that modifications as simple as changing the colour of a call-to-action button can significantly improve its effectiveness.164 Publishers can offer different excerpts from the same book, with varying cover images, photographs, blurbs, etc., track which versions garner the better response, and use the resulting data to inform the marketing of the book (or even the book itself). These online tools allow for a process of trial-and-error that would be prohibitively expensive in print-based marketing efforts, and far more difficult to measure.

This process is fundamental to online book promotion: as Mike Shatzkin argues, “The key to successful digital marketing is to do the research that finds the right messages and targets, test the messages to the targets looking for a defined result, measure the impact, and then adjust the messaging and targeting.”165 By experimenting with different excerpts and their design and marketing copy, digital samples can act as a low-cost testing ground, enriching a publisher’s understanding of their audience and ultimately improving a title’s chances of success both online and in physical bookstores.


Conclusion

The decline of brick-and-mortar bookstores in Canada is a serious problem for publishers, particularly small publishers, who benefit greatly from a healthy independent bookstore sector providing a greater diversity of sales channels. A greater number of readers are purchasing books online, where the opportunity to sample a book can increase the likelihood of purchase. Although digital sampling via Google Books and Amazon has been around for nearly a decade, it has a relatively low adoption rate for Canadian publishers, and only a fraction have placed excerpts in easily searchable, universally accessible HTML-based formats. Digital sampling on publishers’ own websites is often half-hearted and haphazardly applied. Offering HTML-based samples on their own website ensures that a potential customer can find a publisher’s title and quickly determine its attractiveness. Embarking upon the above recommendations will greatly improve the online visibility and appeal of a publisher’s books, and likely result in increased sales.

For small presses like New Star, where limited resources must be carefully allocated, digital samples are an easy and effective way to supplement their marketing efforts. Maurer believes “the best thing for New Star would be to have a catastrophic collapse of Indigo/Chapters,”166 but in the meantime, New Star can boost the online visibility of its titles by adding the creation of digital samples to the workflow of new books, and beginning the process of creating samples for backlist titles. For the own-site samples, eye-catching “Read a Sample” links should be added to a title’s page; while a book is being printed, the final text could be dropped into a ready-made HTML template. Once the backend modifications are in place and the template created, it would be a matter of minutes to create a sample, or at most a couple of hours to include various hyperlinks, cross-references, and multimedia extras. To further enhance visibility and increase third-party sales, Amazon should be provided with the necessary files to enable Look Inside, and New Star should consider partnering with Google Books to enable Google Preview and links to NewStarbooks.com on Google Books pages. Samples could be easily promoted via the existing means, though it would be wise to ramp up the social media efforts —  New Star’s Facebook and Twitter accounts have been dormant since 2011; at a minimum, tweeting and posting links to new samples as they become available would help generate awareness of them and draw traffic to the website. New Star already has Google Analytics enabled; to determine to what extent any of this affects sales, “goal funnels” could be set up to measure how many people click on the samples, and how many of those proceed to buy the book or click on the Amazon or Chapters/Indigo links.

Despite all of the above, publishers should not wholly abandon the physical retail sector. Traditional bookstores still play a very important role in book discovery, and there is a case to be made that publishers should be devoting more energy to supporting vibrant bookstores.167 However, publishers need not focus on online sales to the total exclusion of all others, and strong online book promotion can drive sales in retail stores: as noted, some people find books online and then purchase them in a physical store, and even people who purchase books exclusively at brick-and-mortar bookstores likely spend some time online — as the online marketing manager at one imprint told Thompson, one of the goals of online marketing is for these people “to be in the bookstore and recognize the book either because they saw an ad or they something else that we did online.”168

A final caveat: if these means of online promotion are universally adopted, then “the playing field is once again leveled” and publishers will live or die solely on the merits of their books.169 But until that unlikely day arrives, small Canadian publishers can gain an advantage on their competitors and increase their share of the growing online book market by ensuring readers can find and sample their books online, in the most enriched and unencumbered manner possible.


Notes

Click note number to return to text.

1 John Barber, “Farewell, Nicholas Hoare: Bibliophiles Mourn Shuttering of Toronto Bookstore,” April 1, 2013, Globe and Mail, theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/farewell-nicholas-hoare-bibliophiles-mourn-shuttering-of-toronto-bookstore/article10653530/.

2 Audrey Laing and Jo Royle, “Bookselling Online: An Examination of Consumer Behaviour Patterns,” Publishing Research Quarterly 29, no. 2 (2013): 121,117, link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%2Fs12109-013-9318-3.pdf.

3 “About,” New Star Books, accessed September 12, 2013, newstarbooks.com/about.php.

4 Rolf Maurer (publisher, New Star Books), interview by Michael Leyne, August 22, 2013, Vancouver.

5 Miranda Nelson, “Sophia Books Becomes Latest Independent Vancouver Bookstore to Close,” Books (blog), Straight.com, April 26, 2010, straight.com/blogra/sophia-books-becomes-latest-independent-vancouver-bookstore-close.

6 Marsha Lederman, “Book Warehouse Closure Another Blow to Arts Scene,” Globe and Mail, March 15, 2012, theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/book-warehouse-closure-another-blow-to-arts-scene/article534048/.

7 John Mackie, “Downtown’s Cool New Store: A Bookshop,” Vancouver Sun, August 3, 2013, vancouversun.com/news/Weekend+Extra+Downtown+cool+store+bookshop/8742595/story.html.

8 Rowland Lorimer, Ultra Libris: Policy, Technology, and the Creative Economy of Book Publishing in Canada (Toronto: ECW / Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, 2012), 209.

9 Melanie Patten, “Some Independent Bookstores Thrive, Others Barely Survive in Electronic World,” Canadian Press, July 31, 2010, search.proquest.com/docview/734530780?accountid=13800.

10 Marsha Lederman, “Munro’s Books Boasts a Shelf Life of 50 Years — and Counting,” Globe and Mail, August 30, 2013, theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/munros-books-boasts-a-shelf-life-of-50-years-and-counting/article14059164/.

11 Leigh Ann Williams, “Adapting to Conditions: Canadian Publishing 2012,” Publishers Weekly, September 21, 2012, publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/international/international-book-news/article/54056-adapting-to-conditions.html.

12 Ibid.

13 Marina Strauss, “Indigo’s Heather Reisman Faces Digital Reckoning,” Globe and Mail, April 8, 2011, theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/indigos-heather-reisman-faces-digital-reckoning/article577337/.

14 Lorimer, Ultra Libris, 224.

15 Ibid., 143, 207.

16 Rolf Maurer, email to author, November 19, 2013.

17 Maurer, interview.

18 Williams, “Canadian Publishing 2012.”

19 Maurer, email.

20 Ibid.

21 Ibid.

22 Lorimer, Ultra Libris, 230-31.

23 Leigh Ann Williams, “Sales Fall, Losses Rise at Indigo,” Publishers Weekly, August 8, 2013, publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/58632-sales-fall-losses-rise-at-indigo.html.

24 Maurer, interview.

25 Mike Shatzkin, “Losing Bookstores is a Much Bigger Problem for Publishers Than it is for Readers,” Shatzkin Files (blog), Idea Logical Company, August 14, 2013, idealog.com/blog/losing-bookstores-is-a-much-bigger-problem-for-publishers-than-it-is-for-readers/; Joseph Esposito, “An Industry Pining for Bookstores,” Scholarly Kitchen, August 12, 2013, scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2013/08/12/an-industry-pining-for-bookstores/.

26 Judith Rose, “BEA 2013: Town Hall and Annual Meeting: The Bookstores Are Alright,” Publishers Weekly, May 31, 2013, publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/57581-bea-2013-the-bookstores-are-alright.html; Julie Bosman, “To Stay Afloat, Bookstores Turn to Web Donors,” New York Times, August 11, 2013, nytimes.com/2013/08/12/business/bookstores-turn-to-web-donors-to-stall-the-end.html.

27 Yvonne Zipp, “The Novel Resurgence of Independent Bookstores,” Christian Science Monitor, March 17, 2013, csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2013/0317/The-novel-resurgence-of-independent-bookstores.

28 Bosman, “To Stay Afloat.”

29 Maurer, interview.

30 Thomas Woll, Publishing for Profit: Successful Bottom-Line Management for Book Publishers, 4th ed. (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2010), 11.

31 Milena Schmidt and Mina Park, “Trends in Consumer Book Buying (Infographic),” Random Notes (blog), Random House, June 3, 2013, randomnotes.randomhouse.com/trends-in-consumer-book-buying-infographic/.

32 “Online Retailers Gained, While Brick-and-Mortar Lost In Wake of Borders Exit,” Bowker press release, August 6, 2013, bowker.com/en-US/aboutus/press_room/2013/pr_08062013.shtml.

33 Turner-Riggs (firm), The Book Retail Sector in Canada (Ottawa: Canadian Heritage, 2007), under “Market Share by Sales Channel,” pch.gc.ca/eng/1290025541029/1290025541031.

34 Ibid., under “Market Access for Canadian Titles.”

35 “Canadian Book Consumer 2012,” BNC Blog, BookNet Canada, May 21, 2013, booknetcanada.ca/blog/2013/5/21/canadian-book-consumer-2012.html.

36 Douglas McCabe and Jo Henry, “Why Bookshops Matter,” Bookseller, March 22, 2013, proxy.lib.sfu.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=86637278&site=bsi-live&scope=site.

37 Rowland Lorimer and Roger Barnes, “Book Reading, Purchasing, Marketing, and Title Production,” in Book Publishing 1, ed. Rowland Lorimer, Jillian Shoichet, and John Maxwell (Vancouver: CCSP Press, 2005), 228.

38 Ibid., 236.

39 Lorimer, Ultra Libris, 217.

40 BookNet Canada, The Canadian Book Consumer 2012: Annual Report (Toronto: BookNet Canada, 2013), 58.

41 Lorimer and Barnes, “Book Reading, Purchasing,” 228.

42 BookNet Canada, Canadian Book Consumer 2012, 54.

43 Ibid., 53.

44 Ibid., 55.

45 Schmidt and Park, “Consumer Book Buying.”

46 Gabe Habash, “HC Adapts App to Push Excerpts on Facebook,” Publishers Weekly, June 22, 2012, publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/52701-hc-adapts-app-to-push-excerpts-on-facebook.html.

47 Laing and Royle, “Bookselling Online,” 122.

48 McCabe and Henry, “Why Bookshops Matter.”

49 “Enhanced Metadata,” Bowker, accessed September 22, 2013, bowker.com/assets/downloads/products/DataSubmissionGuide_enhanced.pdf.

50 Laing and Royle, “Bookselling Online,” 122.

51 Kate Carraway, “If E-Books are so Big, Why are they Marketed so Badly?,” Globe and Mail, May 25, 2012, last updated June 18, 2012, theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/if-e-books-are-so-big-why-are-they-marketed-so-badly/article4209810/.

52 Ibid.

53 McCabe and Henry, “Why Bookshops Matter.”

54 “Sales Success Using Business Reports,” Amazon.ca, accessed October 5, 2013, amazon.ca/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200989600.

55 Woll, Publishing for Profit, 337.

56 Ibid., 338, 337.

57 Turner-Riggs, Book Retail Sector, under “The Impacts of Technology on Established Publishing Models.”

58 Woll, Publishing for Profit, 269.

59 Ibid., 269-71.

60 See “A Survey of Canadian Publishers,” page 18.

61 John B. Thompson, Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2010), 333.

62 Ibid., 334.

63 “Broadband Report,” Canadian Radio-television and Communications Commission, under “Table 2.1.1.,” November 2011, crtc.gc.ca/eng/publications/reports/broadband/bbreport1111.htm.

64 Maurer, interview.

65 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 334.

66 Ibid., 335.

67 McCabe and Henry, “Why Bookshops Matter.”

68 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 335-36.

69 Andrew Rhomberg, “Five Shades of Book Discovery,” Digital Book World, March 4, 2013, digitalbookworld.com/2013/five-shades-of-book-discovery/.

70 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 336.

71 Ibid.

72 Ari Okano, “Digitized Book Search Engines and Copyright Concerns,” Shidler Journal of Law, Commerce, and Technology 3, no. 4 (2007), para. 11, hdl.handle.net/1773.1/397.

73 Ibid.

74 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 329, 328.

75 “Amazon.com Works with Publishers to Make Millions of Book Pages Available for Customers to Flip Through, with Millions More to Follow,” Amazon Media Room, October 10, 2001, phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=502807&highlight=.

76 Lisa Guernsey, “In Amazon’s Text Search, a Field Day for Book Browsers,” New York Times, November 6, 2003, nytimes.com/2003/11/06/technology/in-amazon-s-text-search-a-field-day-for-book-browsers.html.

77 David D. Kirkpatrick, “Amazon Plan Would Allow Searching Texts of Many Books,” New York Times, July 21, 2003, nytimes.com/2003/07/21/business/amazon-plan-would-allow-searching-texts-of-many-books.html.

78 “Amazon.com Clarifies October 30 News Release,” Amazon Media Room, November 3, 2003, phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=502770&highlight=.

79 “Amazon.ca Launches ‘Search Inside!’ Enabling customers to Discover Books by Searching and Previewing the Text Inside,” Amazon Media Room, August 9, 2005, phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1123205&highlight=.

80 “Publishers and Authors: Join Our Search Inside the Book Program,” Amazon.ca, accessed September 23, 2013, amazon.ca/gp/help/customer/display.html?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200464640.

81 “Best Sellers of 2013,” Amazon.com, accessed September 23, 2013, amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/2013/books/ref=zg_bs_tab_t_bsar.

82 “Best Sellers,” Amazon.ca, accessed September 23, 2013, amazon.ca/Bestsellers-Books/zgbs/books/ref=amb_link_382771902_4?pf_rd_m=A3DWYIK6Y9EEQB&pf_rd_s=merchandised-search-1&pf_rd_r=190ZXX035SV5S0DZ9GBD&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1612731722&pf_rd_i=916520#1.

83 “Google Books Tour,” Google Books, accessed September 24, 2013, google.ca/googlebooks/partners/tour.html; “Google Books Library Project,” Google Books, accessed September 24, 2013, books.google.com/intl/en/googlebooks/library/.

84 Jim Milliot and Steve Zeitchik, “Google Begins to Push Google Print Program,” Publishers Weekly, October 8, 2004, publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20041011/38656-google-begins-to-push-google-print-program.html.

85 Andrew Albanese, “Publishers Settle Google Books Lawsuit,” Publishers Weekly, October 5, 2012, publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/copyright/article/54247-publishers-settle-google-books-lawsuit.html.

86 Julie Bosman and Claire Cain Miller, “U.S. Judge Sides with Google on Book Scanning Suit,” Globe and Mail, November 14, 2013, theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-business/us-business/us-judge-sides-with-google-on-book-scanning-suit/article15442722/.

87 “Google Books Tour,” Google Books..

88 Ibid.

89 “Thoughts & Opinions,” Google Books, accessed September 24, 2013, google.ca/googlebooks/about/thoughts.html.

90 Ibid.

91 Eric Stromberg and Romeen Sheth, “Google Books: Liberating the World’s Information, or Appropriating It?,” The Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University, case study (2011): 5, kenan.ethics.duke.edu/multimedia-publications/case-studieswhitepapers/business-ethics/.

92 Hannibal Travis, “Google Book Search and Fair Use: iTunes for Authors, or Napster for Books?,” University of Miami Law Review 61 (2006): 645-46, papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=944048.

93 Ibid., 647.

94 “Goodreads Hits 20 Million Users,” Digital Book World, July 23, 2013, digitalbookworld.com/2013/goodreads-hits-20-million-users/.

95 Mike Shatzkin, “Taking Book Marketing Where the Book Readers are Likely to Be,” Shatzkin Files (blog), Idea Logical Company, July 8, 2013, idealog.com/blog/taking-book-marketing-where-the-book-readers-are-likely-to-be/.

96 Ibid.

97 “About,” Scribd, accessed October 1, 2013, scribd.com/about.

98 Jim Milliot, “Bookish Goes Live,” Publishers Weekly, February 3, 2013, publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/55808-bookish-goes-live.html.

99 “Bookish for Publishers,” Bookish, accessed September 25, 2013, bookish.com/faq#books-publisher.

100 “About,” 49thShelf, accessed September 25, 2013, 49thshelf.com/About-49th-Shelf.

101 “Frequently Asked Questions,” 49th Shelf, accessed September 25, 2013, 49thshelf.com/Frequently-Asked-Questions.

102 Julie Baldassi, “Margaret Atwood Releases MaddAddam Essay on Wattpad,” QuillBlog, Quill & Quire, September 5, 2013, quillandquire.com/blog/index.php/book-news/margaret-atwood-releases-maddaddam-essay-on-wattpad/.

103 Shatzkin, “Marketing Where the Readers Are.”

104 Turner-Riggs, Book Retail Sector, under “Share of Market for Canadian Firms and Titles.”

105 Lorimer, Ultra Libris, 260-61.

106 Motoko Rich, “HarperCollins Offers Excerpts of Books Online,” New York Times, August 3, 2006, nytimes.com/2006/08/03/technology/03iht-browse.2378976.html?_r=1&.

107 Bill Martin and Xuemei Tian, Books, Bytes and Business: The Promise of Digital Publishing (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2010): 126, site.ebrary.com/lib/sfu/docDetail.action?docID=10409273.

108 Ibid.

109 “Browse Inside,” HarperCollins, accessed September 23, 2013, browseinside.harpercollins.ca/browseinsidemain.aspx.

110 Erin Crum, “HarperCollins Publishers Launches ‘Browse Inside,’” HarperCollins press release, August 3, 2006, harpercollins.com/footer/release.aspx?id=477&b=&year=2006.

111 Sameer Shariff, “Trends, Success Stories & Emerging eBook Business Models,” Slideshare presentation, posted by “nzl,” July 8, 2009, slideshare.net/nzl/trends-success-stories-emerging-ebook-business-models. (Note: Original source [www.idpf.org/events/presentations/digitalbook08/lHulse08.pdf] no longer available.)

112 “Insight Web Service,” RandomHouse.biz, accessed September 24, 2013, randomhouse.biz/webservices/insight/.

113 “Penguin Launches First to Read: NetGalley for Consumers,” Digital Book World, June 18, 2013, digitalbookworld.com/2013/penguin-launches-first-to-read-netgalley-for-consumers/.

114 “Membership Directory,” Association of Canadian Publishers, accessed September 25, 2013, publishers.ca/index.php/directory.

115 Laura Hazard Owen, “Why Online Book Discovery is Broken (And How to Fix it),” paidContent, January 17, 2013, paidcontent.org/2013/01/17/why-online-book-discovery-is-broken-and-how-to-fix-it/.

116 Edward Nawotka and Mark Piesing, “Is the Book Discoverability Bubble Ready to Pop?,” Publishing Perspectives, February 27, 2013, publishingperspectives.com/2013/02/is-the-book-discoverability-bubble-ready-to-pop/.

117 Laing and Royle, “Bookselling Online,” 122.

118 “Help: Search Inside!,” Amazon.ca, accessed October 1, 2013, amazon.ca/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=14209881.

119 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 247.

120 Rowland Lorimer and Lindsay Lynch, “The Latest Canadian National Reading Study, 2005: Publishers Analysis,” report commissioned by the Department of Canadian Heritage, Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, Simon Fraser University (2005), 16-17.

121 BookNet Canada, Canadian Book Consumer 2012, 61.

122 Ibid., 345, 355-56.

123 Benedicte Page, “New York Judge Rules Against Google Books Settlement,” Guardian, March 23, 2011, theguardian.com/books/2011/mar/23/google-books-settlement-ruling.

124 Zoe Whittall, “Canadian Authors Mount Last-Minute Opposition to Google Book Settlement,” Quill & Quire, September 4, 2009, quillandquire.com/google/article.cfm?article_id=10849.

125 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 356.

126 “Help: Search Inside!,” Amazon.ca.

127 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 357.

128 Murray Tong (UBC Press), email to author, November 28, 2013.

129 Rhomberg, “Book Discovery.”

130 Tim Roes, “Skeuomorphism – A Thing of the Past,” TimRoes.de, September 20, 2013, timroes.de/2013/09/20/skeuomorphism-thing-of-the-past/.

131 Joseph Esposito, “Skeuomorphic Publishing – How to Fit a Square Peg Into a Round Hole,” Scholarly Kitchen, March 13, 2013, originally published April, 2012, scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2013/03/13/stick-to-your-ribs-skeuomorphic-publishing-how-to-fit-a-square-peg-into-a-round-hole/.

132 John Maxwell, email to author, November 28, 2013.

133 John Maxwell et al., “XML Production Workflows? Start with the Web,” Journal of Electronic Publishing 13, no. 1 (2010), under “Creating Ebook Files,” doi:dx.doi.org/10.3998/3336451.0013.106.

134 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 329, 330.

135 Maxwell et al., “XML Production Workflows?”

136 Roger Tagholm, “The Art of Discovery,” Bookseller, December 2, 2011, proxy.lib.sfu.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=70289976&site=bsi-live&scope=site.

137 Calvin Reid, “Inkling Turns Web Searches into New Storefront for Digital Books,” Publishers Weekly, January 16, 2013, publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/content-and-e-books/article/55519-inkling-turns-web-searches-into-new-storefront-for-digital-books.html.

138 Laura Hazard Owen, “Here’s the Problem with Book Publishers’ Discovery Problem,” paidContent, February 15, 2013, paidcontent.org/2013/02/15/heres-the-problem-with-publishers-book-discovery-problem/.

139 Brett Sandusky, “Is ‘Discoverability’ Even a Problem?,” Brett Sandusky, February 12, 2013, brettsandusky.com/2013/02/12/is-discoverability-even-a-problem/.

140 Guy LeCharles Gonzales, “Discovery is Publishers’ Problem; Readers are Doing Just Fine,” Loudpoet.com, February 11, 2013, loudpoet.com/2013/02/11/discovery-is-only-a-problem-for-publishers-not-readers/.

141 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 254.

142 “Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide,” Google Webmaster Tools, 2010, accessed September 24, 2013, static.googleusercontent.com/external_content/untrusted_dlcp/www.google.com/en//webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf.

143 “Autocomplete,” Google Search Help, accessed November 27, 2013, support.google.com/websearch/answer/106230?hl=en.

144 It should be noted that Autocomplete results may vary based on whether a user is signed in to a Google account and has “Web History” enabled (See Ibid.); for more objective results, sign out of Google and/or disable the history.

145 John Hilton III and David Wiley, “The Short-Term Influence of Free Digital Versions of Books on Print Sales,” Journal of Electronic Publishing 13, no. 1 (2010), doi:dx.doi.org/10.3998/3336451.0013.101.

146 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 329.

147 Ibid.

148 Joanne Kaufman, “A Publishing Quandary: Do Excerpts Help Sales?,” New York Times, June 11, 2007, nytimes.com/2007/06/11/business/media/11excerpt.html.

149 Larissa Lai and Rita Wong, sybil unrest (Vancouver: New Star, 2013): 124.

150 Carraway, “If E-Books are so Big.”

151 Peter McCarthy, “Five Reasons Social Media Will Always Sell More Books…,” Digital Book World, July 31, 2013, digitalbookworld.com/2013/five-reasons-social-media-will-always-sell-more-books/.

152 Ibid.

153 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 252.

154 Crissy Campbell, “How to Find Your Audience on Twitter,” Boxcar Marketing, September 13, 2012, boxcarmarketing.com/how-to-find-your-audience-on-twitter.

155 Hannah Johnson, “How to Sell More Books with Metadata,” Publishing Perspectives, January 27, 2011, publishingperspectives.com/2011/01/sell-more-books-with-metadata/.

156 “Frequently Asked Questions,” 49th Shelf.

157 Andre Breedt and David Walter, “White Paper: The Link Between Metadata and Sales,” Nielsen, January 25, 2013: 6, isbn.nielsenbook.co.uk/uploads/3971_Nielsen_Metadata_white_paper_A4(3).pdf.

158 Book Industry Study Group and BookNet Canada, Best Practices for Product Metadata (September 16, 2013): 116-17, booknetcanada.ca/storage/BestPracticesforProductMetadata_Sept2013.pdf.

159 Renée Register and Thad McIlroy, The Metadata Handbook: A Book Publisher’s Guide to Creating and Distributing Metadata for Print and Ebooks (Vancouver: Future of Publishing, 2012): 49, site.ebrary.com/lib/sfu/docDetail.action?docID=10640176.

160 Ibid., 48.

161 “About Rich Snippets and Structured Data,” Webmaster Tools Help, accessed September 30, 2013, support.google.com/webmasters/answer/99170?hl=en&ref_topic=21997.

162 “Rich Snippets – Products,” Webmaster Tools Help, accessed September 30, 2013, support.google.com/webmasters/answer/146750?hl=en&ref_topic=1088474.

163 Meghan Peters, “Get Started with Google Analytics,” Mashable, May 23, 2011, mashable.com/2011/05/23/how-to-use-google-analytics/.

164 Paras Chopra, “The Ultimate Guide to A/B Testing,” Smashing Magazine, June 24, 2010, smashingmagazine.com/2010/06/24/the-ultimate-guide-to-a-b-testing/.

165 Mike Shatzkin, “7 Starter Principles for Digital Book Marketing Learned from Peter McCarthy,” Shatzkin Files (blog), Idea Logical Company, August 12, 2013, idealog.com/blog/7-starter-principles-for-digital-book-marketing-learned-from-peter-mccarthy/.

166 Maurer, interview.

167 Owen, “Online Book Discovery.”

168 Thompson, Merchants of Culture, 252.

169 Gonzales, “Publishers’ Problem.”


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——— . “Skeuomorphic Publishing – How to Fit a Square Peg Into a Round Hole.” Scholarly Kitchen. March 13, 2013. Originally published April, 2012. scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2013/03/13/stick-to-your-ribs-skeuomorphic-publishing-how-to-fit-a-square-peg-into-a-round-hole/.

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Lorimer, Rowland. Ultra Libris: Policy, Technology, and the Creative Economy of Book Publishing in Canada. Toronto: ECW / Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, 2012.

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Woll, Thomas. Publishing for Profit: Successful Bottom-Line Management for Book Publishers. 4th ed. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2010.

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Maurer, Rolf (publisher, New Star Books). Email to author, November 19, 2013.

——— . Interview by author, August 22, 2013. Vancouver.

Maxwell, John. Email to author, November 28, 2013.

Tong, Murray (UBC Press). Email to author, November 28, 2013.

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Maxwell, John, with Meghan MacDonald, Travis Nicholson, Jan Halpape, Sarah Taggart, and Heiko Binder. “XML Production Workflows? Start with the Web.” Journal of Electronic Publishing 13, no. 1 (2010). doi: dx.doi.org/10.3998/3336451.0013.106.

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——— . “Sales Fall, Losses Rise at Indigo.” Publishers Weekly. August 8, 2013. publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/58632-sales-fall-losses-rise-at-indigo.html.

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Crum, Erin. “HarperCollins Publishers Launches ‘Browse Inside.’” HarperCollins press release. August 3, 2006. harpercollins.com/footer/release.aspx?id=477&b=&year=2006.

“Online Retailers Gained, While Brick-and-Mortar Lost In Wake of Borders Exit.” Bowker press release. August 6, 2013. bowker.com/en-US/aboutus/press_room/2013/pr_08062013.shtml.

Reports

Book Industry Study Group and BookNet Canada. Best Practices for Product Metadata. September 16, 2013. booknetcanada.ca/storage/BestPracticesforProductMetadata_Sept2013.pdf.

BookNet Canada. The Canadian Book Consumer 2012: Annual Report. Toronto: BookNet Canada, 2013.

Breedt, Andre, and David Walter. “White Paper: The Link Between Metadata and Sales.” Nielsen. January 25, 2013. isbn.nielsenbook.co.uk/uploads/3971_Nielsen_Metadata_white_paper_A4(3).pdf.

“Broadband Report.” Canadian Radio-television and Communications Commission. November 2011. crtc.gc.ca/eng/publications/reports/broadband/bbreport1111.htm.

“Canadian Book Consumer 2012.” BookNet Canada. May 21, 2013. booknetcanada.ca/blog/2013/5/21/canadian-book-consumer-2012.html.

Lorimer, Rowland, and Lindsay Lynch. “The Latest Canadian National Reading Study, 2005: Publishers’ Analysis.” Report commissioned by the Department of Canadian Heritage. Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, Simon Fraser University, 2005.

Stromberg, Eric, and Romeen Sheth. “Google Books: Liberating the World’s Information, or Appropriating It?” The Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. Case study (2011), kenan.ethics.duke.edu/multimedia-publications/case-studieswhitepapers/business-ethics/.

Turner-Riggs (firm). The Book Retail Sector in Canada. Ottawa: Canadian Heritage, 2007. pch.gc.ca/eng/1290025541029/1290025541031.

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“About.” Scribd. Accessed October 1, 2013. scribd.com/about.

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“Amazon.ca’s Search InsideTM Program (SITB): PDF File Submission Requirements and Guidelines.” Amazon.ca. Accessed October 1, 2013. amazon.ca/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=14209881.

“Autocomplete.” Google Search Help. Accessed November 27, 2013. support.google.com/websearch/answer/106230?hl=en.

“Best Sellers.” Amazon.ca. Accessed September 23, 2013. amazon.ca/Bestsellers-Books/zgbs/books/ref=amb_link_382771902_4?pf_rd_m=A3DWYIK6Y9EEQB&pf_rd_s=merchandised-search-1&pf_rd_r=190ZXX035SV5S0DZ9GBD&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1612731722&pf_rd_i=916520#1.

“Best Sellers of 2013 (So Far).” Amazon.com. Accessed September 23, 2013. amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/2013/books/ref=zg_bs_tab_t_bsar.

“Bookish for Publishers.” Bookish. Accessed September 25, 2013. bookish.com/faq#books-publisher.

“Browse Inside.” HarperCollins. Accessed September 23, 2013. browseinside.harpercollins.ca/browseinsidemain.aspx.

“Enhanced Metadata.” Bowker. bowker.com/assets/downloads/products/DataSubmissionGuide_enhanced.pdf.

“Frequently Asked Questions.” 49th Shelf. Accessed September 25, 2013. 49thshelf.com/Frequently-Asked-Questions.

“Google Books Tour.” Google Books. Accessed September 24, 2013. google.ca/googlebooks/partners/tour.html.

“Help: Search Inside!” Amazon.ca. Accessed October 1, 2013. amazon.ca/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=14209881.

“Insight Web Service.” RandomHouse.biz. Accessed September 24, 2013. randomhouse.biz/webservices/insight/.

“Membership Directory.” Association of Canadian Publishers. Accessed September 25, 2013. publishers.ca/index.php/directory.

“Publishers and Authors: Join Our Search Inside the Book Program.” Amazon.ca. Accessed September 23, 2013. amazon.ca/gp/help/customer/display.html?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200464640.

“Rich Snippets – Products.” Webmaster Tools Help. Accessed September 30, 2013. support.google.com/webmasters/answer/146750?hl=en&ref_topic=1088474.

“Sales Success Using Business Reports.” Amazon.ca. Accessed October 5, 2013. amazon.ca/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200989600.

“Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.” Google Webmaster Tools. 2010. Accessed September 24, 2013. static.googleusercontent.com/external_content/untrusted_dlcp/www.google.com/en//webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf.

“Thoughts & Opinions.” Google Books. Accessed September 24, 2013. google.ca/googlebooks/about/thoughts.html.


Unconverted: Outsourcing Ebook Production at a University Press

 

By Linnet Humble

ABSTRACT: UBC Press has been outsourcing ebook production since it first started publishing its titles in digital form in the late 1990s. At first, outsourcing seemed a sensible way for UBC Press to enter into e-publishing: the practice was convenient, cost effective, and fit with the Press’s freelance-based business model. However, by 2011, it had become evident that outsourcing to large conversion houses had its drawbacks. In addition to problems like error-filled files and delayed distribution, outsourcing en masse may cause greater, industry-wide disadvantages, such as a dependence on cheap overseas labor and missed opportunities for professionalization among Canada’s domestic workforce.

In the face of these problems, individual publishers like UBC Press must put various short-term solutions in place and consider making changes to their own production workflows if they are to achieve greater quality assurance and control over their own epublishing programs.

 

 


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would like to thank Rowland Lorimer, who inspired me to study scholarly publishing; Roberto Dosil and Laraine Coates, for their encouragement and careful reading; the hard-working ladies in the Production and Editorial Department at UBC Press, who teach by example; and Jane Hope, whose wit and friendship helped me through my internship and beyond.

 

 


CONTENTS

Acknowledgements
List of Figures
List of Acronyms

Introduction: UBC Press Business Profile
+++Editorial Mandate
+++Business Model
+++The Role of Ebooks in a Changing Market
+++Certain Costs, Uncertain Gains

Chapter 1: A History of Outsourcing
+++Overview
+++Early Ebook Deals: Content Aggregators and HTML (1999-2004)
+++A “Homegrown Alternative”: The Canadian Electronic Library and a Shift to +++PDF (2005-2007)
+++The Role of Technology Partners During the Transition Year (2008)
+++A National Strategy: The Association of Canadian Publishers and a Push Toward +++XML (2009-2011)
+++Scanning the Digital Horizon: eBound Canada
+++Conclusion

Chapter 2: Reasons for Outsourcing
+++Overview
+++Offshoring in Canada’s ICT Sector
+++The Freelance Precedent
+++Reducing Risk and Production Costs
+++Convenience
+++Conclusion

Chapter 3: Problems with Outsourcing
+++Overview
+++An Era of Ebook Errors
+++The Inconvenience of Outsourcing
+++Increasing Risk and Cost
+++What Went Wrong: Outsourcing to Large Conversion Houses
+++The Effects of Outsourcing on Canada’s Publishing Industry
+++Conclusion

Chapter 4: Solutions to Outsourcing
+++Overview
+++Short-Term Solutions
++++++Proofing Ebooks
++++++Improving Metadata
++++++Using Stylesheets
+++Long-Term Solutions
++++++Finding a More Suitable Technology Partner
++++++Developing an Epublishing Strategy
++++++Producing Ebooks In House
++++++Exploring the Applications of TEI in Scholarly Publishing
+++Conclusion

Notes

References

Appendix A: Ebook Proofing Instructions

 

 


List of Figures

Figure 1: History of Ebook Production at UBC Press

Figure 2: UBC Press Production Flowchart

Figures 3 & 4: Low Resolution Ebook Covers

Figures 5 & 6: Original Image vs. Stretched Ebook Cover Image

Figures 7, 8 & 9: Diacritics Captured as Images in EPUBs

Figures 10 & 11: Captions not Aligned with Images in EPUBs

Figure 12: Images Appearing Mid-Sentence in an EPUB

Figure 13: Example of Forced Line Breaks Appearing in an EPUB

Figures 14 & 15: Examples of Spacing Errors in EPUBs

Figure 16: Example of Index Disclaimer in EPUB

Figure 17: Cover for EPUB Produced by Wild Element

Figure 18: Table of Contents for EPUB Produced by Wild Element

Figure 19: Chapter Opening for EPUB Produced by Wild Element

Figure 20: Image with Caption from EPUB Produced by Wild Element

 

 


List of Acronyms

ACP++++++Association of Canadian Publishers

CEL++++++Canadian Electronic Library

CIP++++++Cataloguing in Publication

CNSLP++++++Canadian National Site Licensing Project

CPDS++++++Canadian Publishers’ Digital Services

CRKN++++++Canadian Research Knowledge Network

DAMS++++++Digital Asset Management System

ePDF++++++enhanced portable document format

EPUB++++++electronic publication format

ICT++++++information and communication technology (sector)

PDF++++++portable document format

POD++++++print-on-demand

SSH++++++social sciences and humanities

SSHRC++++++Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

STM++++++scientific, technical and medical

UP++++++university press

uPDF++++++universal Portable Document Format

 

 


Introduction: UBC Press Business Profile

Editorial Mandate

Established in 1971, UBC Press has developed into a scholarly book publisher recognized for its social sciences monographs and edited collections. Considered a “mid-sized” scholarly publisher by Canadian standards, UBC Press produces over 60 new titles a year in the areas of environmental studies, gender studies, military and security studies, geography, Canadian and British Columbian history, law, political science, and Aboriginal and Asian studies. At present, the press also publishes books in 21 different series, several of which are co-published with cultural and professional organizations such as the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, the Canadian War Museum, and the Canadian Council on International Law.

 

Business Model

Like many other university presses, UBC Press is somewhat of a hybrid entity within its host institution. Because the press helps carry out the research mandate of the university, and because its publications board is made up of faculty members, the press is in some ways considered to be an academic unit. Like faculties and departments, it is therefore housed on campus and receives a modest level of operational funding from the university. The Press also earns income from an endowment whose funds are administered by the university (though this endowment income has decreased significantly over the past ten years).[1]

In other respects, though, UBC Press is treated as an ancillary unit. Ancillary units like Food Services or Land and Building Services exist within the university environment; however, they are expected to be self-sufficient and generate revenue by charging for their services or products. Like many other university presses, UBC Press is thus in the awkward position of having to operate as a for-profit business with a not-for-profit academic agenda.

UBC Press’s revenue model reflects this hybrid status: it is a mix of sales income and direct/indirect institutional support, supplemented by grant funding. According to a recent review conducted by the Strategic Development Support unit of the UBC Treasury, UBC Press receives 54% of its funds from book sales, 21% from agency sales and rights income, and around 18% from granting agencies like the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). Only 6% of its budget for the 2011-2012 year came from UBC operating funds. Compared to other UPs in Canada, UBC Press is therefore considered to be “relatively financially self-sustaining” (UBC Treasury).[2]

While UBC Press’s diversified revenue stream might seem to protect it from the vagaries of a single-source income, the Press predicts that various industry-related changes expected to take place over the next ten years will threaten the viability of the press. For instance, demand for the agency services that UBC Press provides to US and UK publishers is expected to lessen due to an increase in online, direct-to-consumer marketing and delivery.[3] This loss of agency income, predicted to occur over the next five years, would mean a significant reduction in revenue—roughly one-fifth of the Press’s total income. Furthermore, if UBC Press were to experience a considerable loss in revenue, this loss would be compounded by a decrease in block grant funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage, since block grants are contingent upon positive net income.

Whereas a trade publisher might try to compensate for a loss in revenue by marketing its titles more aggressively in the hopes of selling more copies (and thereby achieving greater economies of scale), there is little potential for growth in monograph sales for social sciences and humanities (SSH) publishers. SSH publishers like UBC Press serve a niche market, with the majority of sales being made to a finite number of academic libraries.[4]
What’s more, these institutional sales have been threatened in recent decades by libraries’ shrinking acquisition budgets and competing commitments to costly periodicals.[5] Even if domestic and foreign sales were to rise 2.5% annually over the next few years as predicted in the UBC Treasury’s financial forecast, this modest increase in sales would not be able to offset the loss of agency income entirely.

In short, printing and selling more books is not an option for UBC Press. In fact, in an attempt to reduce inventory costs, UBC Press has begun to limit its initial print runs. Typically, only 500 copies of a title are produced upon publication, 300 of which are hardcover (for the institutional/library market) and 200 of which are trade paperback (for course adoption and individual academics). UBC Press further anticipates that it may phase out hardcover editions altogether within the next five years in favour of the less expensive paperback format. It is also working to introduce print-on-demand options in England and Australia in order to reduce the number of printed books it has to stock and ship overseas.

 

The Role of Ebooks in a Changing Market

At the same time that UBC Press is scaling back its print runs, it has been exploring and expanding its digital publishing activities. However, it is unclear at this point whether ebook sales will endanger, augment, or replace print sales.

Since the introduction of ebooks over a decade ago, Canadian publishers like UBC Press have expressed concern over the potential for ebooks to “cannibalize” or detract from the sale of print books (Crawley, “University”). A decrease in print sales and increase in electronic sales is particularly worrisome to publishers because ebooks tend to be priced much lower than print books. In the world of trade publishing, online retailers like Amazon and Apple have exerted a downward pressure on the price of ebooks,[6] so that even if a publisher is able to sell a considerable number of electronic copies, the profitability of ebook publishing is limited. Scholarly publishers stand to lose even more than trade publishers in this shift to the digital format, given that scholarly monographs are often priced three to 10 times higher than trade books. If scholarly publishers are forced to sell their titles in digital form to the same small consumer base, but at a much deeper discount, their profit margins would no longer be razor thin: they would be non-existent.

In an attempt to remain revenue-neutral in the event that ebook sales replace print sales, some university publishers—including UBC Press—have taken an offensive tactic by purposefully pricing their library-bound ebooks slightly higher than the listed price for hardcover editions (a move that, in UBC Press’s case, was approved by ebrary, a content aggregator which supplies ebooks to academic libraries).[7] Although it is unclear at this time what the institutional market will bear in the pricing of electronic monographs, cost certainly seems to be a deciding factor for librarians. In a survey conducted by ebrary in 2007, librarians reported that one of the most important factors they considered when purchasing an electronic title was its price: a consideration that was second only to the content of that title (McKiel, “200” 5).

In addition to pricing library ebooks slightly higher than print print books, UBC Press has taken measures to ensure that its more expensive ebooks destined for the library market are more visible than its cheaper ebook formats. For instance, when submitting Cataloguing in Publication (CIP) data to Library and Archives Canada, the Press only discloses that it will be producing a PDF (portable document format) edition of a title, which will be sold to libraries at 5% higher than the hardcover price—even though it has already obtained an ISBN for the EPUB (electronic publication) version, which will be sold to individual consumers at the paperback price.[8] In its library sales catalogues, the Press advertises these PDFs, but not the EPUBs. UBC Press’s non-competitive pricing of ebooks and its promotion of expensive over inexpensive ebook formats will, in turn, likely lead to a slower rate of ebook adoption by academic libraries.

 

Certain Costs, Uncertain Gains

To be sure, ebooks are not at present a significant source of revenue for scholarly publishers. Members of the Association of American University Presses report that ebook sales only represent between 2% and 10% of overall sales for 2011. For UBC Press, ebook sales to libraries in Canada are only projected to account for 7% of total sales for 2011-2012 year; likewise, ebook sales to American libraries only account for 15% of US sales. In terms of income, ebooks make up just 3% of UBC Press’s total sales revenue. Small as these figures may seem, they do represent a two-fold increase in percentage of total sales from previous years—an indication that the appetite for ebooks in the academic market may be growing.[9]

However much revenue ebooks may bring to the Press, it is clear that ebooks carry with them certain costs. In a recent financial review, UBC Press estimated that the cost of print books sold accounts for 17% of total sales, while the cost of digital books sold accounted for only slightly less—12% of total sales. Some of these costs (e.g. editorial, design, and permission costs) are shared between the print and digital editions of a title, but others are unique to the electronic format. For example, in order to store, distribute, and market its digital titles effectively, UBC Press will need to update its technological infrastructure in the near future. This upgrade will entail significant one-time investments, including the purchase of a new digital asset management system (which stores and distributes files to vendors); a redesigned website with increased functionality, including the ability to sell ebooks directly to consumers; consultation with a web marketing specialist, who can help the press increase its brand discoverability through search engine optimization; and improvements to the current system for managing bibliographic data.

In addition to these secondary expenses, the Press must bear the principal cost of producing ebooks. Though these production costs have been subsidized over the years by various parties (see Chapter 1), they have come to present a considerable expense and financial risk for the Press.

It is upon these realities—certain costs and uncertain gains—that UBC Press has based its decisions regarding ebook publishing over the last decade. It is not surprising, then, that the Press’s shift toward ebook adoption has been cautious in nature, favoring subsidized initiatives that have allowed the Press to enter the market without significant risk or disruption to its existing print-based workflows.

 

 

Chapter 1: A History of Outsourcing

Overview

The history of ebook production at UBC Press is a history of outsourcing. This history can roughly be broken down into three phases. Each phase of ebook production was overseen by a different third party, and each marks the adoption of new ebook formats. (See Figure 1.)

Taken together, these phases reflect over a decade of change in the way ebooks have been produced and distributed in Canada; they also reveal a surprising mix of private and public initiatives that have underwritten the creation of scholarly ebooks in this country.

 

Figure 1. History of Ebook Production at UBC Press

Figure 1

Early Ebook Deals: Content Aggregators and HTML (1999-2004)

UBC Press has been publishing ebooks in one format or another since the late 1990s, but like many other university presses, it has done so with the assistance—and at the insistence—of various external parties, beginning with content aggregators.

Content aggregators are the electronic equivalent of library wholesalers. They acquire and package digital content from publishers, which they then license to institutions for a fee. In the early years of ebook publishing, aggregators not only marketed and distributed ebooks, but they also produced them. These companies would arrange for the creation of ebook files on behalf of the publisher, essentially manufacturing a product for themselves to sell. In this way, content aggregators were not just “middlemen,” but were really the originators of the scholarly ebook market. It was they—not publishers—who digitized scholarly books and built a business around this product. The publishers simply licensed the content to them.

The first content aggregator to convince Canadian publishers to take part in this new venture was an American company named NetLibrary. NetLibrary was formed in Boulder, Colorado, in 1998. Soon thereafter, it began to sublicense rights for select backlist titles from academic publishers and to create ebook editions of those titles. The company produced these ebooks by scanning hardcopy books supplied by the publishers. Using an optical character recognition (OCR) scanner, NetLibrary was able to convert the image of printed type into text. Instead of being contained within a particular file format, these early ebooks were simply rendered in HTML. The text was viewed online by library patrons through a browser using a tethered-access model (Knight 31).[10]

This production and delivery method, made possible by the increasing popularity of the internet (which allowed people to access content remotely), proved to be quite successful. In its first two years of operation, NetLibrary was able to amass a large volume of content from publishers: by November 2000, NetLibrary’s online collection numbered 28,000 titles, ten of which were from UBC Press. The company had also sold ebooks from its digital collection to nine different Canadian university libraries (Crawley, “University”).

On the heels of NetLibrary’s apparent success, other companies emerged to serve this new electronic library market. As the agreement with NetLibrary was non-exclusive, UBC Press began to develop partnerships with these other content aggregators as well. The Press sublicensed around 500 of its titles to Questia, an aggregator that sold subscriptions to both individuals and institutions (Crawley, “University”). At the time of its launch in January 2001, Questia had developed a considerable collection of over 50,000 titles. Shortly thereafter, UBC Press began to sell ebooks through ebrary, NetLibrary’s major competitor (Knight 32).[11] Soon, UBC Press had signed an agreement with Baker & Taylor, which at that time was the largest distributor of library print books, which had started offering HTML-based ebooks using a delivery model similar to NetLibrary’s (Knight).

In this way, UBC Press parceled off licensing rights to various content aggregators during its first five years of ebook publishing.

 

A “Homegrown” Alternative: The Canadian Electronic Library and a Shift to PDF (2005-2007)

UBC Press continued to enter into concurrent agreements with different content aggregators and to digitize its legacy titles piecemeal until 2005, when the Press signed an exclusive one-year deal with the nascent Canadian Electronic Library (CEL). This business initiative marked the first attempt to foster “homegrown e-books” in Canada (Smith). The CEL had been formed a year prior by Gibson Library Connections, a Canadian content aggregator interested in creating a collection of electronic texts from Canadian publishers. In 2005, CEL’s Vice President Robert Gibson began approaching publishers within the country—particularly scholarly presses—with an offer to create PDFs of their entire catalogues. Gibson would then sell access to this content through the ebrary reading platform to various academic libraries in Canada (Ng-See-Quan). By this time, the PDF had become a universally accepted format for electronic documents, so a shift toward this standard and away from simple HTML encoding was welcomed by publishers.[12]

UBC Press was one of a dozen publishers that first agreed to Gibson’s offer (Smith). After signing on with the CEL, the Press began to digitize nearly all of its titles that had not yet been hand-picked by content aggregators.[13] However, the creation of these files was carried out not by Gibson in Canada, but by a US-owned technology partner named CodeMantra whose conversion facilities were located overseas. With the help of CodeMantra, a mass conversion of UBC Press’s backlist (up to and including those titles published in 2007) was performed within a matter of months. The 500 or so ebooks produced for UBC Press were added to Gibson’s steadily growing collection (“eBound”).

A year or so after its inception, the CEL was comprised of approximately 6,000 scholarly titles in English and French. By June 2006, Gibson had licensed CEL content to 12 academic libraries, mostly within Alberta (Smith). This sale was promising, and presaged an even more lucrative deal that took place two years later in September 2008, when the collection had grown to over 8,000 titles from 47 different Canadian publishers. At that time, Gibson Library Connections brokered a historic deal with the Canadian Research Knowledge Network, or CRKN (Ng-See-Quan).

CRKN had developed out of the Canadian National Site Licensing Project (CNSLP), which began in 2000 as a partnership between 64 Canadian universities. The goal of the CNSLP was to make scholarship widely available to Canadian researchers by building up Canada’s “knowledge infrastructure.” It achieved this in part by leveraging the buying power of its member universities and purchasing large collections of digital content at reduced rates and with more flexible terms of use. Though the CNSLP was initially concerned with acquiring access to online journals from scientific, technical and medical (STM) publishers, it eventually expanded its mandate to include monographs in the social sciences and humanities. This occurred in 2004, when it became officially incorporated as a non-profit organization and was renamed the Canadian Research Knowledge Network. This change in mandate was significant, as it meant that the CRKN would start to acquire electronic content in areas in which Canadian university presses were actually publishing. The budget for the SSH acquisition project was also on a scale heretofore unseen. It garnered 47 million dollars worth of investment from member universities, participating provinces, and the federal government’s Canada Foundation for Innovation.

By 2008, this well-funded Canadian purchasing consortium was on the hunt for a large collection of SSH content, and it found its match in the Canadian Electronic Library. In the end, CRKN spent 11 million dollars of its funding on a three-year deal with Gibson Library Connections (Ng-See-Quan). This landmark sale was profitable not just for Gibson, but for participating publishers as well. Because the CEL’s royalty system was based on the number of titles a publisher had submitted to the collection, the more established UPs—like University of Toronto Press and McGill-Queens University Press, who had volunteered most of their backlists—benefitted greatly from this sale. UBC Press alone earned roughly 1.3 million dollars from the CEL-CRKN deal over the 3-year contract period (UBC Treasury). It was the largest single sale ever realized by the Press, regardless of format.

 

The Role of Technology Partners During the Transition Year (2008)

At the close of its contract with Canadian Electronic Library, UBC Press did not have any plans in place to produce and distribute ebooks of its forthcoming titles. For the first time since its foray into the world or digital publishing, the Press was left to oversee its own ebook program which had, until that point, been governed by outsider interests.

Though the Press was no longer under the auspices of a content aggregator, it continued to rely on the technology partner whom Gibson had introduced and whose services had proven to be indispensable. In the year following the CEL-CRKN deal, the Press thus used CodeMantra to produce enhanced PDFs (ePDFs) of many of its titles. These ePDFs, which CodeMantra called Universal PDFs© (uPDFs), were produced on a case-by-case basis following a title’s initial publication in print.[14] They contained various “value-added” features, such as

  • properly embedded fonts
  • a bookmarked, linked table of contents
  • linked footnotes, endnotes, and indices
  • working external URLs
  • cropped white space and registration marks, and
  • lower-resolution images, which are preferable for digital display. (CodeMantra)

According to CodeMantra, these features met the minimum file requirements of most libraries and ebook vendors. The uPDF format therefore allowed publishers to distribute their files to multiple sales channels without encountering any technical barriers.

To help deliver this product, CodeMantra also offered publishers subscriptions to Collection Point, a digital asset management system. Collection Point enabled publishers like UBC Press to store their ebooks, apply metadata to these files, and deliver the finished products electronically to various sales channels, including to content aggregators, whose role had really been reduced to that of distributor by this time.[15] By helping publishers to not only create but also manage their ebooks, CodeMantra was attempting to provide an “end-to-end” digital publishing solution for clients like UBC Press, who found themselves in the position of having to produce and mobilize their own ebooks without having the know-how or tools to do so.

Having secured these technical services from CodeMantra, UBC Press began to manage its own ebook publishing program, unassisted, until the next external initiative arose—this time, under the direction of a national trade organization: the Association of Canadian Publishers.

 

A National Strategy: The Association of Canadian Publishers and a Push Toward XML (2009-2011)

The Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP) represents approximately 135 domestically owned and controlled English-language publishers: among them, eight of Canada’s 13 university presses, including UBC Press. Since it was formed in 1976, the ACP had provided research, marketing, and professional development services to independent publishers in Canada.

At the time of the CEL-CRKN deal, the Association had become aware of its members’ need for assistance in the ebook business. To help its members navigate this new era of publishing, the ACP applied for and received a $109,906 grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage, which it used to fund the formation of the Canadian Publisher Digital Services initiative (CPDS) in May 2009. The CPDS was a suite of services that aimed to provide advice and support to small and mid-sized independent publishers wanting to create and manage ebooks (MacDonald).

An important part of the CPDS program was connecting Canadian publishers with technology partners who could offer conversion services. The first round of ebook conversions organized by the ACP took place in October 2009. For this job, the ACP hired CodeMantra, the same overseas company that had made a name for itself among publishers by converting their files for the Canadian Electronic Library. This was also the same company that UBC Press had been relying upon in the interim period since its dealings with CEL. The ACP’s choice of technology partner was thus particularly convenient for UBC Press: the fact that the Press could continue to use CodeMantra’s services through the CPDS program made it all the more appealing.

Under the ACP’s contract with CodeMantra, UBC Press continued to commission uPDFs from CodeMantra, but it also began to request another set of PDF files intended for Ingram’s Lightning Source. The Press had been in discussion with Lightning Source about producing print-on-demand (POD) copies of select titles in Australia and the UK.[16] As part of this arrangement, UBC Press had to supply Lightning Source with PDFs that differed from the uPDF files already being produced by CodeMantra. Unlike the uPDFs—low resoultion files designed for on-screen reading, which contain interactive features (like bidirectional links)—these POD files had to be static PDFs that could generate a print-quality product. This meant the POD PDFs had to contain high-resolution images (300 dpi) of a book’s full wrap cover and interior text. These files also had to comply with other formatting requirements stipulated by Lightening Source: for example, the interior text had to have one-quarter inch margins, the cover had to have a one-quarter inch bleed on all sides, and the images had to be rendered in CMYK colour.

In addition to the uPDFs and POD PDFs, UBC Press was able to obtain under the ACP’s program cutting-edge ebook formats. Indeed, the ACP’s aim was not just to help Canadian publishers digitize their catalogues, but to assist them in pushing their ebooks beyond the PDF-based library market (which the CEL had so successfully targeted) and into the burgeoning trade ebook market, which hinged upon XML-based formats.[17] To this end, ACP members were able to request pubXML versions of their files, a branded form of XML markup used by CodeMantra. These pubXML files were pitched to publishers as “an archive format used for conversion to various HTML or XHTML formats” (Izma). This marked the first opportunity for many Canadian publishers to store their content in what was considered to be a more durable and flexible form—a form that might allow them to repurpose their tagged content later on.

Of even greater interest to publishers than the pubXML files was CodeMantra’s EPUB conversion option. The EPUB is an “agnostic,” non-proprietary ebook format. Unlike PDFs, which have a fixed layout, the text in EPUBs is reflowable, which makes them amenable to designated ereaders like the Kindle or Kobo, as well as other mobile devices. By enabling presses like UBC to adopt the EPUB format, the ACP was realizing its goal of encouraging publishers like UBC Press to enter into the trade ebook market.

And indeed, UBC Press took full advantage of this opportunity. In 2009, the Press submitted 82 titles to codeMantra for conversion into all four of the formats discussed above: uPDF, POD PDF, XML, and EPUB. Other publishers were equally enthusiastic. 44 different Canadian publishers took part in the first phase of this project (MacDonald). In fact, the level of interest and participation from Canadian publishers in this program was so high that a second round of conversions was organized in 2010. Data conversion companies were invited to bid on a new contract with the ACP; this time, the job was awarded to a different technology partner, Innodata Isogen, whose facilities were also located overseas. UBC Press submitted another 62 of its recently published titles to Innodata for conversion. In total, UBC Press’s files accounted for almost 10% of the more than 2500 titles submitted for conversion during the Canadian Publisher Digital Services program (Coates, MacDonald).

 

Scanning the Digital Horizon: eBound Canada

The CPDS program was the most recent effort toward large-scale, coordinated ebook production in Canada. By the end of its second round of conversions, the ebook market had become much more firmly established, and the need for conversion services and representation was so great that the ACP announced the CDPS would become a separate entity, eBound Canada, in June 2011 (“Newly Incorporated”). Nic Boshart, Manager of Technology at eBound Canada, confirmed that this newly formed not-for-profit organization will “continue offering bulk and individual conversions” to its members, in addition to providing assistance with retail distribution, research and education about digital publishing (Boshart, “Conversions”).

For his part, UBC Press Director Peter Milroy has expressed a willingness to continue outsourcing ebook production to technology partners through third-party organizations like eBound Canada. It seems, then, that the Press will continue to outsource ebook production—at least, for the immediate future.[18]

 

Conclusion

UBC Press’s decade-long history of ebook publishing reflects numerous changes in the industry, including a shift from HTML and PDF to XML and EPUB formats; from a program that focuses exclusively on institutional markets to one that includes trade markets; and from private-sector initiatives to publicly-funded programs.

Throughout these changes, the Press’s reliance on outsourcing has remained constant. UBC Press has always depended on an external partner to produce, sell and distribute its ebooks. This is perhaps not surprising, as the ebook business was first created and aggressively developed by external stakeholders (e.g. content aggregators). Yet there are several other reasons why publishers have chosen to outsource ebook production for the last decade. These reasons are explored in detail in the next chapter.

 

 

Chapter 2: Reasons for Outsourcing

Overview

There are several reasons why UBC Press and other publishers first outsourced, and have continued to outsource, ebook production. This practice is part of a national movement toward offshoring in Canada’s information and communications technology (ICT) sector; it is also indicative of the freelancing model used by many publishers, including UBC Press. More importantly, outsourcing has been a convenient and cost-effective way for UPs to enter into a potentially lucrative but uncertain market.

 

Offshoring in Canada’s ICT Sector

Outsourcing is a business practice that is not unique to the publishing industry. Indeed, outsourcing has become increasingly popular across the manufacturing and service industries over the past five decades.

As John Baldwin and Wulong Gu point out in a federal report on this issue, Canada has been able to increase its participation in international trade over the last 50 years thanks to “a reduction in trade barriers” and “improved … coordination of dispersed production activities” made possible by conveniences like teleconferencing, email, etc. (7). Among the many goods and services that are now traded internationally are services in the ICT sector (8). In fact, outsourcing has become so common in this sector that by 2003 Canadian companies were offshoring 7.3 billion dollars in business services, including software and computer services (Morissette and Johnson 14, 16).

Though their traditional focus on acquiring, editing and designing once placed publishers squarely outside the realm of these technology-related services, the rise of digital publishing and the concomitant need for large-scale data conversion has made publishers reliant upon the ICT sector. Through their business dealings with content aggregators and conversion houses, Canadian publishers have thus become swept up in this larger movement toward offshoring.

 

The Freelance Precedent

In addition to being part of a larger trend in the ICT sector, outsourcing is in keeping with the UBC Press’s own business strategy, which includes contracting out skilled work to freelancers (Milroy). During cutbacks in the early 1990s, UBC Press was forced to downsize its staff. As it was less expensive and more convenient to hire workers on short-term contracts, the Press came to rely on freelancers for much of the editorial and production work formerly carried out by employees in house (Brand 58).[19] By the time UBC Press started experimenting with ebooks in the early 2000s, all copywriting, copyediting, proofreading, typesetting, designing, and indexing for print books was being carried out by freelancers.

As most of the work involved with print books was being performed out-of-house, it seemed reasonable that this new facet of production—ebooks—be outsourced as well.

 

Reducing Risk and Production Costs

Ebooks brought with them the promise of profit. Publishers and aggregators alike saw the electronic format as a way to capitalize upon backlist titles that weren’t generating much revenue.[20] It was also thought that the release of ebooks would encourage libraries who had already purchased a print copy of a book to buy an electronic edition as well, essentially duplicating sales for that title. In addition to generating income through electronic sales, ebooks were expected to boost print sales due to “increased exposure to the press’s list” (Crawley, “University”).

Despite these anticipated financial benefits, university presses were cautious about entering into ebook publishing due to “high technology costs and a questionable market” (Crawley, “University” and “Scholarly”). Outsourcing, however, provided a way for scholarly publishers like UBC Press to experiment with digital publishing while minimizing financial risk, since outsourcing partners offered a series of incentives that either lowered or eliminated production costs.

NetLibrary initially set low-cost expectations by offering to cover the cost of digitization (i.e. the shipping and conversion fees) in exchange for the right to sublicense that digital content. This saved the publisher from having to invest in ebooks upfront. It also effectively protected the publisher from the risk of financial loss, for if the ebooks did not sell well, in the end, the publishers would not have lost any money on production expenses (Crawley, “University”). However, if NetLibrary did manage to sell its ebooks (which were sold at the print cover price), it typically split the proceeds from these sales 50/50 with the publisher (Crawley, “University” and “Online”).[21] Essentially, publishers could profit from this venture, even though they weren’t fronting any financial capital for it.

It was these favourable terms that first tempted publishers like UBC Press to start outsourcing to Netlibrary. It’s not surprising, then, that when the company changed the nature of its offer, several publishers pulled out of the agreement. As a cost-recovery measure, NetLibrary had begun charging publishers hefty conversion fees in September 2000, the price of which could range from one hundred to a few thousand dollars per title, depending on the number of pages and images in the original print book (Crawley, “University”). As a result of these changes, UBC Press chose not to renew its contract with NetLibrary after 2003.

Although NetLibrary’s initial offer had been too good to last, its low-risk approach to ebook deals had been so attractive that Gibson used a similar incentive when trying to recruit publishers for the Canadian Electronic Library. As Alison Knight explains, “CEL offered to scan and generate PDFs from hard copies for UBC Press’s entire backlist without immediate charge (the $90 PDF creation to be instead deducted from royalties)” (42). Under Gibson’s agreement, publishers would only pay for production costs in the event that their ebooks actually turned a profit; in other words, they would never have to pay for production costs out of pocket. Furthermore, the production costs were themselves quite low because Gibsons’ technology partner, codeMantra, had its conversion facilities located in India: a low-wage, non-OECD country where there is a “fast-growing supply of relatively skilled workers” (Morissette and Johnson 9). CodeMantra was therefore able to convert ebooks at a reasonable price, which lowered production costs and increased profit margins for the CEL and its participating publishers.

The cost savings that came from outsourcing to an overseas conversion house were so appealing that UBC Press continued to use codeMantra even after it’s contract with Gibson ended in 2008 and it found itself having to pay a flat fee upfront to convert its ebooks.

Using similar incentives, the Association of Canadian Publishers was also able to lower the cost of producing ebooks for Canadian Publishers, thereby encouraging them to continue outsourcing. When it came time for the ACP to choose its technology partners for the CPDS program, it too hired companies like CodeMantra and Innodata, whose conversion facilities were located in South Asia, and who could therefore offer lower pricing.[22] Under the ACP’s program, these services were obtained at collectively negotiated rates, which were made more advantageous by the volume of files being converted; by guaranteeing the participation of numerous Canadian publishers in the CPDS program, the Association was able to secure conversion services at an even more competitive price.

In addition to using foreign technology partners and securing discount/”bulk” pricing, the ACP was able to further lower the cost of producing ebooks by offering a subsidy to its members. During the first round of conversions in 2009, this subsidy amounted to 30% of the overall cost (30 cents on every dollar’s worth of charges), reducing the cost of conversion anywhere from $60-$240 per title. Instead of having to pay $190-$800 to convert each book, UBC Press only paid $130-$560.[23] During the second round of conversions, the ACP continued to offer publishers a subsidy, although it was lowered from 30% to 19% of the total cost, which amounted to $33-$91 in savings per title. Certain restrictions were also put in place during the second round of conversions to reflect the aims of the ACP’s program: only those titles that were being converted into the new XML and ePub formats would be eligible for the discount. Accordingly, UBC Press was more selective in the titles it chose to convert and in the formats it requested. Of the 74 titles the Press submitted for initial estimates, it processed only 62, choosing those titles that were most affordable to produce. Despite these new restrictions, publishers were still able to enjoy considerable savings: the cost for converting a single title into all four ebooks formats (EPDF, POD PDF, XML and EPUB) during this last round of conversions ranged from $105-$467.

To sum up, the companies and organizations that have facilitated outsourcing over the last ten years have offered a series of incentives, ranging from complete coverage of production costs to cost deferrals and direct subsidies. These incentives have made it more affordable—and therefore less risky—for university presses to start publishing ebooks.

 

Convenience

In addition to lowering financial risk and production costs, outsourcing seemed like a convenient way for publishers to enter into the ebook business. The production method used by the early content aggregators was particularly accommodating. Thanks to OCR scanners, companies like NetLibrary only required hardcopies of books in order to generate the text for these first HTML ebooks. This meant that publishers could remain focused on creating their print product while ebook production took place downstream. Outsourcing was essentially tacked on to the end of the Press’s own workflow, which remained unchanged despite the introduction of this additional output format.

 

Figure 2. UBC Press Production Flowchart[24]

Figure 2

 

Even with the advent of newer ebook formats, in-house operations continued much the same as they had before. When UBC Press began to commission enhanced PDFs (ePDFs) directly from CodeMantra in 2008, the Press only needed to provide the company with the simple image PDFs of a book’s cover and interior. These files were exported directly from InDesign by the Press’s typesetter who was, conveniently enough, already generating PDFs of a book’s final proofs for the printer, Friesens. In other words, the same PDFs that were used to produce print books could now serve as the basis for the Press’s ebooks. All the Press was required to do was upload these simple PDFs, along with the accompanying front cover images in their native file formats (e.g. JPEGs, TIFFs, and .AI files), to the company’s FTP site. The real work involved in “enhancing” these PDFs was then performed off-site in CodeMantra’s content factories.

Once the simple PDF files had been downloaded by CodeMantra employees, features like internal links and bookmarked tables of contents were added manually to enhance the product and make it more user-friendly. Although applying these features is not an overly complex process, requiring only minimal training and common software applications like Adobe Acrobat Pro, the process can be quite labour intensive, particularly if a PDF contains a lot of index entries or notes which have to be turned into links. Outsourcing therefore saved UBC Press staff the time and effort required to perform these tedious tasks.

Though the method of producing other ebook formats is much more involved, the Press did not have to put forth any extra effort when it started to publish EPUBs and XML files in 2009. This is because conversion houses like CodeMantra and Innodata were able to create these ebooks from the same basic files used to produce the ePDFs. Nic Boshart, Manager of Technology at eBound Canada, explains how this process might be carried out.

Data conversion companies like CodeMantra and Innodata often use custom-made software to produce EPUBs and XML files. Many conversion houses write their own scripts, which they use to extract content from publishers’ PDF or InDesign files. This data is then stored in an intermediate form of XML unique to that company (e.g. CodeMantra’s “pubXML”) and is run through an engine that converts the tagged data into an EPUB. After a rough preliminary conversion, these companies likely run more scripts to reformat portions of the file and to add styling to the ePub. Although Boshart believes that “there is a human element involved somewhere along the line, probably for double-checking (quickly) code and running more scripts,” much of this process is automated, which allows these content factories to convert a large number of files simultaneously. In this way, conversion houses are able to create complex XML ebook formats from the simple PDFs provided by the publisher.

From a production standpoint, outsourcing has therefore been exceptionally convenient: it has allowed UBC Press to adopt various ebook formats that have developed over time without having to drastically alter its own operations. Moreover, in its early agreements with content aggregators, UBC Press was able to outsource not just the production of its ebooks but also their marketing and distribution. As it was in NetLibrary’s and Gibson’s own interests to promote the content that they had licensed from publishers, UBC Press was excused from having to actively advertise its digital titles. This appealed to former Associate Director of UBC Press George Maddison who, as Quill & Quire noted, “prefer[ed] to let others do the work” (Crawley, “University”). Publishers who converted their titles through the CPDS program also had the option of collectively licensing their content through the ACP to ebook vendors like Sony.

Although UBC Press has had to take a more hands-on approach to ebook production in recent years (see Chapter 3), the initial convenience of being able to outsource all manner of work associated with ebooks clearly was a draw for publishers.

 

Conclusion

At the time UBC Press began publishing ebooks, the outsourcing of technical services had become a common practice within Canada. Outsourcing also seemed to fit with the freelance-based business model already in place at the Press.

Over the years, the different parties that organized ebook production also tended to subsidize it: companies like NetLibrary and industry groups like the ACP have offered various financial incentives to make outsourcing even more attractive to publishers. For publishers, then, outsourcing has minimized any economic risks involved in adopting the digital format. Furthermore, outsourcing has been an incredibly convenient way to enter into the ebook market. Because ebooks have, to date, been produced from the end-product of print publishing (i.e. from a hard copy or PDF of a book), UBC Press hasn’t had to make any changes to its own production workflow—even with the adoption of newer, XML-based ebook formats.

By being both convenient and affordable, this method of production has been beneficial enough to keep publishers outsourcing for over ten years. However, it remains to be seen whether the benefits of outsourcing still outweigh other problems that may have arisen from this practice. The next chapter will therefore take a closer look at UBC Press’s most recent outsourcing experience to determine whether outsourcing remains a convenient, risk-free, and cost-effective way for UBC Press to produce ebooks.


 

Chapter 3: Problems with Outsourcing

Overview

As was established in the previous chapter, UBC Press has been outsourcing ebook production since it first began publishing ebooks in the late 1990s. But whether or not it should continue to do so warrants some consideration. The processes and products that have resulted from over a decade of outsourcing should be examined in order to determine whether outsourcing remains as beneficial a business practice as it once was.

This chapter will begin by reviewing the quality of the ebooks produced for UBC Press through the Association of Canadian Publishers’ CPDS program. In particular, it will catalogue the types of errors that have been found within these files. This chapter will then speculate on the inconvenience, risks, and added costs that may result from poorly converted ebooks. In an effort to understand why—and with such frequency—these errors have occurred, the conversion process used by large overseas companies like CodeMantra and Innodata Isogen will also be examined.

After surveying the fallout from UBC Press’s latest experience, the consequences of Canadian publishers outsourcing en masse will also be considered. Even if outsourcing was an effective way of allowing Canadian publishers to enter the ebook market, outsourcing long-term may have the unfortunate result of reducing the autonomy of Canadian publishers and their participation in the digital economy.

 

An Era of Ebook Errors

As discussed in Chapter 1, when the ACP first introduced the CPDS program, the initiative was welcomed by most Canadian publishers—including UBC Press—who were looking for assistance in digitizing their recent backlist titles. Like other outsourcing initiatives that had come before it, the CPDS program was seen as a convenient way of producing ebooks. Because the conversions would be performed out-of-house, it was assumed that the Press’s operations would not be affected by them. This outsourcing opportunity also seemed to carry little risk, given that it was overseen by the ACP: a trusted industry representative that was willing to partially fund the process. In short, the CPDS program seemed like an easy, safe, and affordable way for publishers to obtain ebook editions of their backlist titles.

However, UBC press was quite disappointed with the files it received from its conversion partners during this program.[25] The two batches of files produced for the Press under the ACP contracts were not “ready-to-sell” upon receipt, as had been promised (MacDonald): in fact, they were plagued with problems.

Errors were apparent even from the cover pages. The ebook covers were often of poor quality. Some cover images appeared in very low resolution; others were stretched because their proportions had not been maintained during resizing. In one instance, the author’s name and book title had been accidentally dropped from the cover.

 

Figures 3 & 4. Low Resolution Ebook Covers

Figure 3

 

Figure 4

 

Figures 5 & 6. Original Image vs. Stretched Cover Image
Figure 5 & 6

 

The ebook interiors were just as disappointing. Entire chapters were missing from the ebooks or from the bookmarked tables of contents that had been added to the files manually by the technology partner. The chapter titles that did appear in these tables of contents often contained spelling errors and/or were missing subtitles due to human error. More frequently, the files themselves were incorrectly named, having been labeled with the wrong ISBN number (e.g. the PDF version of a title was assigned the EPUB ISBN, or vice versa).

Such errors were common across all file types, but others were unique to particular ebook formats. In the ePDFs (which are paginated), whole pages were missing or were misnumbered. Preliminary pages in the front matter did not appear in Roman numerals, though the Press had stipulated that they should. Chapter headings were also missing from the tops of some pages. Internal links to/from the notes section and index were either missing or navigated to the wrong page.

In addition, the print-on-demand PDFs included only front covers, instead of the full wrap cover requested by the Press and required by Lightning Source. Instead of listing the softcover ISBNs as requested by the Press, the copyright pages in these POD files listed the hardcover ISBNs.

If the PDFs were disappointing, the EPUBs were in even worse condition. The EPUB errors that were most visible were those pertaining to images. For instance, diacritics which should have been rendered in UTF-8 encoding (as stipulated in the agreement) were instead captured as images during the conversion process. Because they had been rendered as images, these accented characters did not appear to rest on the same line as the rest of the text. What’s more, these and other images were not scalable, so though the ebook’s text could be resized, the images alongside it could not.[26]

 

Figures 7, 8, & 9. Diacritics Captured as Images in EPUBs Figures 7, 8, & 9

 

Furthermore, text was not properly “wrapped” around images, and captions (which are usually centered underneath a figure) were not aligned with the images they described. These errors were made all the more visible when the ebooks were viewed on a wide screen.

 

Figures 10 & 11. Captions not Aligned with Images in EPUBs

Figure 10 Figure 11

 

Figure 12. Images Appearing Mid-Sentence in an EPUB

Figure 12

Still more problems occurred because of the shift from PDF to EPUB that took place during conversion—in other words, the shift from a fixed page layout to reflowable text. Images that appeared on separate pages in the print editions now seemed to interrupt the text, sometimes appearing mid-sentence. Tables which contained three or more columns in the original files and which should have been rendered as images had been grabbed as text instead; as a result, the contents of these tables often broke across several pages in the EPUB, making them difficult to read. Odd line breaks also occurred within the running text because the print typesetter had either used automatic hyphenation or had inserted forced line breaks in the original InDesign files.

 

Figure 13. Example of Forced Line Breaks Appearing in an EPUB

Figure 13

 

Figures 14 & 15. Examples of Spacing Errors in EPUBs

Figures 14 & 15

Some of the errors mentioned above are attributable to the relative complexity of the EPUB format, and the amount of behind-the-scenes encoding required to convert a PDF to and EPUB. However, other mistakes seem to have been made, not because of the complexity of the task at hand, but because of carelessness or disregard for the Press’s instructions. For instance, some external links were broken because neighbouring punctuation had been included with the actual URL when the link’s destination was created. Pages that originally appeared in the front matter and that were supposed to have been relocated to the back of the EPUB so as not to interfere with readability (a common practice in ebook design) had not been moved. Also, a disclaimer stating that the index referred to the print edition of the book should have been included at the back of the EPUBs, but often wasn’t.[27]

 

Figure 16. Example of Index Disclaimer in EPUB

Figure 16

More seriously, the metadata for these EPUB files was neither robust nor accurate. For instance, an editor’s name was often mistakenly given as an author name. In the case of co-authored works, only the first author’s name would be listed in the metadata. Series information was not included in the .OPF files of the EPUBs; ISBNs didn’t appear within the files’ ID fields, either. Most worrisome of all, many of these files could not be validated against ThreePress Consulting’s epubcheck version 1.2—a free online tool commonly used within the industry to check the integrity of the code and the structure of EPUBs.

 

The Inconvenience of Outsourcing

Not surprisingly, the error-riddled ebooks that were produced during the last two rounds of conversions created delays and extra work for UBC Press, making outsourcing far less convenient than it seemed at the outset.

During the first round of CPDS conversions in 2009, ebook errors occurred with such frequency that many ACP members complained to the organization about the quality of their files. The sheer scale of the problem prompted the Association to bring in a consultant to negotiate a solution with the technology partner, CodeMantra. In the end, all parties agreed that the company would make certain changes to the files produced during this round of conversions, free of charge. Many publishers decided to resubmit files, but because the changes were applied globally, it took a long time for the corrections to be implemented. As a result, some of the titles that were initially submitted to CodeMantra during the first round of conversions in 2009 were not yet ready by 2011 (Coates). The second round of conversions, which began in 2010 (while the first batch of ebooks were still being corrected), was also fraught with complications. In an attempt to prevent further problems, the ACP had included specific language in the contract with its new conversion partner, Innodata. UBC Press had also included additional instructions along with the titles it submitted for conversion. Unfortunately, this second technology partner also failed to deliver files that met the requirements of the Press and the ACP, so similar delays ensued. Almost all of the 62 files UBC Press submitted to Innodata in July 2010 had to be returned to the company in November and December of that year due to formatting errors. During the second round of proofing in May 2011, errors were still being found in the files. In a sample of 36 ebooks, only 12 of the 25 EPDFs were of acceptable quality (that is, contained few enough errors to be sold in good conscience), and only five of 11 EPUBs would validate.[28] In other words, less than half of the 36 files were properly formatted after two visits to the conversion house: the remainder had to be sent back for further corrections.

Although the technology partners were usually able to turn around files within a matter of months (three months or so, in CodeMantra’s case), each time the Press resubmitted its files, they would be placed at the back of the queue behind those from other publishers who were having similar problems. The substandard files produced during this latest outsourcing experience have therefore caused significant setbacks and pushed forward the release dates of UBC Press’s ebooks.

During this fiasco, Press staff also had to spend a significant amount of time and attention interfacing with its technology partners and the ACP. Once UBC Press became aware of the quality of its files, Press employees also had to intervene and spend time checking each file—not once, but multiple times. This necessarily interrupted regular in-house operations. Though outsourcing may have required little effort on the Press’s part in the early days of NetLibrary, the last two years of outsourcing under the ACP have thus required more time and attention than Press staff had expected or planned for.

 

Increasing Risk and Cost

On top of being inconvenient, the shoddy conversions performed by the ACP’s technology partners have also resulted in added risks and expense for UBC Press.

Errors such as distorted images or awkward line breaks ruin the appearance and aesthetics of an ebook; other types of errors, like broken links or missing tables of contents, affect an ebook’s functionality and navigability. Collectively, these errors have the effect of lessening the quality and value of UBC Press’s electronic product, which in turn could reinforce the low-price expectations of consumers. At the very least, these errors may affect the Press’s ability to sell its digital editions at a price that is equal to or slightly higher than the print cover price. As the Manager of Marketing points out, UBC Press can hardly expect to charge the same amount for “junky ebooks” as it does for its carefully crafted print books (Coates).

If an ebook is found to have a particularly high number of errors, these errors may affect unit sales for that particular electronic title. However, they could also lower sales for other titles as well, for the following reason. UBC Press’s reputation as an academic publisher is based upon the accuracy and consistency of the research that it publishes. However, recurring formatting errors and sloppy presentation might raise questions about the Press’s overall approach to quality control and, by extension, the reliability of the content it publishes. If these poorly formatted files are released into the supply chain, they endanger UBC Press’s credibility as a scholarly/reference publisher.[29]

Laraine Coates, Marketing Manager and coordinator of the ebook program at UBC Press, has in fact expressed concern over the effect that sloppy ebooks might have on the Press’s reputation. Coates regrets that there are already ebooks in circulation that “do not do justice” to UBC Press’s publishing program. Although the Press is normally quite stringent in its review process (see “Proofing,” Chapter 4), error-filled EPDFs still made it to library market. This is because the Press was not prepared for the state of the files it received through the CPDS program. When UBC Press received its first batch of ebooks back from CodeMantra in 2010, Coates did not suspect that she would need to review each file individually for errors. As the sole staff member responsible for this aspect of production, Coates also lacked the assistance that would have made a thorough review possible. As a result, dozens of botched EPDFs were distributed to libraries through ebook aggregators soon after they were delivered to the Press.[30]

Coates admits that she and many other publishers “dropped the ball” during this first round of conversions organized by the ACP. After the flaws in CodeMantra’s files were brought to light by other ACP members, Coates decided to enlist an intern to help check the second batch of files, which were created by Innodata. At that time, however, publishers were still discovering new types of errors in their files, and because the Press hadn’t yet compiled a comprehensive list of errors to look for, this round of proofreading was rather hit-or-miss. It was also cursory by necessity: due to the volume of files that had to be reviewed, the student intern was only able to spend 10 minutes or so spot-checking each file (Coates). As a result, many of the EPDFs that were put into circulation from the second round of conversions were functional, but still contained minor formatting errors (e.g. low res. or miscoloured cover images).

These ebook errors may have not only lowered the perceived quality of the product and of the Press itself, but they may have ultimately affected the profitability of the ebooks by delaying their distribution. After the Press had to send back files to Innodata for revision in November 2010, libraries and vendors began contacting UBC Press because the ePDF versions of certain titles advertised in the Fall catalogue had not yet been made available to them (Coates). As a result, library orders may have been dropped before these files were ready.

The Press has had even greater difficulty bringing its EPUBs to market. Laraine Coates has expressed concern over the fact that the EPUBs first requested from Innodata in May 2010 were not yet sellable 18 months later, in November 2011. At that time, Coates commented that these ebooks were still in “need [of] a lot of work before we can put them in the market” (“eBound”). A year later, the EPUBs remain in unsellable condition and have yet to be distributed. Consequently, the sale of these ebooks—and revenue from these sales—has been postponed, and may be forfeited altogether if the files cannot be brought to satisfactory standards. In particular, if these EPUB files still contain structural errors and can’t be validated, then they can’t be put into circulation, as many ebook vendors refuse to accept potentially “unstable,” invalidated files. Metadata errors could further depress ebook sales by reducing the visibility of the files in an online environment. If an ebook is missing metadata or contains incorrect metadata, it can’t be properly catalogued by ebook vendors or indexed by search engines. This makes it harder for potential customers to find and purchase that ebook online. Metadata and validation errors therefore affect not just the discoverability of these electronic titles, but also their saleability.

The potential risks and financial losses from this latest outsourcing experience may be largely incalculable, but these poorly formatted ebooks have already resulted in quantifiable costs incurred by the Press. The several rounds of proofing that UBC Press personnel have had to perform on each file has contributed to the overall cost of producing these ebooks. In the summer of 2011 alone, 63 ebooks had to be proofread in-house at the Press. As it took roughly twenty minutes to thoroughly check each ebook (often longer for EPUBS), this amounted to at least 21 hours of employee time. Though a summer intern was able to perform this task at a reduced rate, this one round of proofreading still cost the Press roughly $150.[31] Had this same task been performed by a hired freelancer proofreader at the standard rate of $20per hour, this cost would have escalated to $420 for one round of professional proofreading, or to $1260 for the three rounds of proofreading that have been required on average during the ACP’s program.[32]

If the Press were to continue to outsource ebook production to the same technology partners and receive files of a similar quality, the proofreading required to bring these ebooks up to an acceptable standard would add an extra $7.15-$20 per file, depending on whether the task were performed by an intern or hired proofreader. This amounts to an additional $14.30-$40 per title, as each title is usually converted into two file formats that require proofreading (EPUB and ePDF). For the average book, this proofreading represents as much as a 20% increase in ebook production costs—an increase that is not insignificant, especially when multiplied across large batches of files.

During the CPDS program, UBC Press spent over $30,000 to convert 144 of its titles into various ebook formats. But when one considers the hassle and hidden costs that have come with these conversions, and the untold price paid by publishers whose brands have been compromised by a substandard product, outsourcing through the ACP has turned out to be far more expensive than the official price tag suggests.

 

What Went Wrong: Outsourcing to Large Conversion Houses

Far from being an isolated incident, UBC Press’s latest experience reveals problems that come from outsourcing to a particular type of technology partner. Under its recent contracts with the Association of Canadian Publishers, UBC Press worked with two different companies, CodeMantra and Innodata: two large conversion houses whose operations are located overseas. The fact that UBC Press had disappointing experiences with both partners suggests that there may be problems not with each individual company, but with the business practices of large conversion houses in general. Although the remote location of their facilities might tempt Canadian publishers to adopt an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude toward these conversion houses, their internal operations should be brought into question in light of the trouble that these technology partners caused during the CPDS program.

In an article written in 2000 for the (now defunct) online publication eBookWeb, an industry insider exposed some systemic problems that were present even among early conversion houses. These problems may account for the recurrence of errors and overall lack of quality control within these organizations today, as was borne out by UBC Press’s experience.

In “A Tale of Two Conversion Houses,” author Dorothea Salo identifies major problems within these companies, including issues with their workforce, workflow, tools, and customer relations. According to Salo, large conversion houses, also known as “content factories,” employ a sizeable workforce of entry-level programmers and “barely-competent HTML jockeys.” As is the case with other types of factories, the mechanical labour performed by these workers is divided along an assembly line. That is to say, the workflow is “divided into segments so small as to be meaningless” (Salo). Trained only to carry out their assigned tasks, the employees perform repetitive functions (e.g. running scripts, manually inserting links, resizing images), unaware of how these tasks relate “to any other, much less how the whole product looks and functions.” This results in a “silo effect,” by which employees within these conversion houses are kept ignorant of the “larger process or end result” that they are working toward. This disunity affects the overall quality of the product and the ability of the ebook to function as a whole.[33]

On a human resource level, this assembly-line approach to conversion leads to low morale and motivation among workers, and a high turn-over rate. Although this results in a “shifting workforce,” conversion houses are able to hire a great number of workers because their operations are located in countries where there is large pool of computer-literate employees who can be paid comparatively low wages.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, hiring low-skill workers (instead of ebook designers or digital publishing professionals) is more desirable for these companies, since their production method is built around tools, not training. As Salo explains, the mostly automated conversions performed by these companies rely heavily on “sophisticated production tools that supposedly reduce the need for employee training.” However, the custom software developed for this purpose also has its drawbacks. Because the workers who rely on this software often operate independently from the programmers who write the scripts, there is seldom any feedback between users of these tools and their creators. This disintegration results in the development of inefficient tools. Moreover, “should the tool fail in some way,” the employees who have no expertise (due to a lack of training) and who have been made dependent upon these tools “are left utterly helpless, and workflows grind to a halt” (Salo).

Another problem endemic to these large companies is the issue of scale itself. As Laraine Coates of UBC Press observed, “Their’s is a numbers game.” In order to attract clients, these companies must offer low bids on contracts; because these low bids reduce the profitability of any given project, the companies must take on more contracts and even larger projects in order to remain profitable. To wit, the ACP contracts show that these conversion houses are often serving multiple clients (in this case, 44 different Canadian publishers) with divergent needs, simultaneously. Though such diversity in projects and clientele would normally warrant customized workflows, these large businesses must instead take a “one-size-fits-all” approach to ebook conversions because they are operating on economies of scale (Salo). In terms of their workflow, this often means that a single DTD or schema is applied to all files, resulting in some ebooks being “shoehorned” into a markup system that isn’t appropriate to the structure or design of the original book (Salo). In UBC Press’s case, this practice is evidenced in the fact that the content of most of the titles it submitted for conversion were classified as either of “moderate” or “complex” difficulty by Innodata. Clearly, the workflow used by the company—which might work well for producing EPUBs of trade fiction titles with fewer textual elements—could not easily accommodate the type of apparatus found in most scholarly books.

The type of markup that results from these cookie-cutter conversions is often of low quality: a fact that, strangely enough, does not seem to hurt business, since the clients of these companies are often more concerned with the appearance of their ebooks than the integrity of their code. In the long term, however, an acceptance of low-grade code on the part of the publisher could affect the use of these ebooks both as archival files and as sellable wares. If the code behind these ebooks does not comply with current best practices, these files may not be forward-compatible when newer versions of the EPUB standard are released. Bad code may also interfere with the ability of future devices to render the files properly. Far from being a safe investment, these poorly made files may in fact have a very short shelf life.

This last point underscores a final problem that Salo warns against in her article: a lack of disclosure about workflow and markup on the part of these companies. This reticence may stem from greater communication problems between these large companies and their clients. Staff at UBC Press, for instance, often complained that although they were assigned an intermediary contact person by the ACP, they could not communicate directly with those who were overseeing or performing their ebook conversions.[34] Laraine Coates admits that if the conversion process had been more consultative, and the channels of communication more open, it may have been easier for the Press and its conversion partners to identify potential problems and prevent them.

However, Salo attributes this lack of disclosure to a more pernicious motive. She suspects that many technology partners purposefully do not educate their clients about the conversion process or its products in order to keep publishers “ignorantly dependent” on the conversion house. This theory seems to be supported by companies’ use of a custom form of XML (e.g. codeMantra’s pubXML), which hinders their clients’ ability to directly modify their own converted files. The “end-to-end” publishing services offered by these companies also make it harder for publishers to extricate their files, or reassign control over them to another service provider.[35]

 

The Effects of Outsourcing on Canada’s Publishing Industry

Whether or not Salo’s suspicions are correct, the result is as she had anticipated: publishers like UBC Press have become increasingly dependent on foreign companies to produce and manage their ebooks. This dependence does not sit well with some who work in the Canadian publishing industry. Even in the early days of NetLibrary, Darren Wershler-Henry—then-editor of Coach House Books and overall electronic publishing advocate—expressed concern over outsourcing the creation/management of electronic titles to foreign companies. “‘Letting an American firm have control over our publishing list just strikes me as a little weird,’” Wershler-Henry was then quoted as saying (Crawley, “Libraries”).

If one considers the ramifications of outsourcing long term, Weshler’s discomfort seems justified. Canadian publishers are not just handing over their money and content to factories overseas; they are also giving up their immediate autonomy, and reducing their chances of achieving some measure of self-sufficiency in the future.

By continuing to rely on external parties to create and manage their ebooks, Canadian publishers are deferring the need to hire or train staff to carry out their digital publishing programs. At present, there is indeed a scarcity of ebook experts among Canadian publishers. This is particularly true of university presses. Of the 13 UPs in Canada, only two have staff whose sole purpose is to oversee their digital publishing programs.[36] The rest have assigned this task to employees who hold positions in other departments and whose skillsets may be only tangentially related to ebooks. According to staff directories, those in charge of ebooks at Canadian UPs have job titles as diverse as Production and Design Manager, Bibliographic Data Coordinator, Computing Systems Administrator, and Sales/Marketing Manager.

In an editorial for The Journal of Electronic Publishing, Kate Wittenburg acknowledges this trend, observing that “[m]any university publishers have tried to meet this [digital] challenge by asking existing staff members to extend their responsibilities.” However, Wittenburg notes that “this strategy had not been effective” because “staff time and creative energy are, understandably, occupied keeping the existing business functioning.” This is certainly the case at UBC Press, where the task of coordinating ebook production has fallen to Laraine Coates, Manager of Marketing. Coates explains that she took on this responsibility in 2009 when another staff member in the Production department was away on maternity leave. Coates assumed this role because of her own personal interest in ebooks, and not her prior training or expertise in ebooks per se. At the time, this responsibility was added to her full-time workload in the Production department, and was later incorporated into her new position in marketing, so the amount of time she can devote to this side of the Press’s operations is necessarily limited. Although Coates is occasionally able to attend workshops and discussion panels on ebooks organized by various professional associations (e.g. the Association of American University Presses), she is afforded few opportunities to increase her knowledge on this subject in her day-to-day activities.

By obviating the need for trained employees, outsourcing thus leads to a lack of in-house expertise, which (as many publishers are coming to realize) only increases a publisher’s reliance on its technology partner. Again, UBC Press’s recent experience is telling in this regard. Because the Press had been outsourcing ebook production from the start, Press staff found themselves without the tools or skills necessary to modify the error-riddled ebooks produced through the CPDS program. As a result, UBC Press had to send back converted files that needed only minor corrections (e.g. typos in the tables of content) and wait for CodeMantra or Innodata to make the necessary adjustments, which led to further delays in the production process. In this way, the decision to outsource has handicapped individual publishers and furthered their dependence on conversion partners by rendering them ill-equipped to handle their own ebooks.

Over time, the tendency to outsource will also affect the self-sufficiency of the industry at large. Low demand for ebook-savvy employees in Canada will only lead to a lack of supply, for if there are few jobs available in digital publishing in this country, there is little incentive for publishing professionals to pursue training in this field, and limited opportunities for them to obtain on-the-job experience. Outsourcing en masse therefore negatively effects the professionalization of Canada’s domestic workforce and the overall level of employment within this emerging field. In the absence of expertise at home, outsourcing abroad appears to be the only viable option for producing ebooks.

Viewed this way, outsourcing threatens to become a self-perpetuating and self-justifying practice—one that leaves publishers without direct control over what has become an essential part of their publishing program.

 

Conclusion

UBC Press’s most recent experience under the CPDS program has shown outsourcing to be less convenient, more risky, and more expensive than it was under early ebook deals with companies like NetLibrary. The files being produced are of an unacceptable quality due to the batch processing and general business practices used by large conversion houses. Errors within these files have caused unnecessary delays and extra work for Press staff; by lowering the quality of the ebooks, they also threaten UBC Press’s reputation, as well as the overall profitability of its ebook program.

Yet the decision to outsource has consequences not just for the individual publisher, but for the publishing industry as a whole. When practiced by a large number of publishers (as was done under the ACP’s CPDS program), outsourcing negatively impacts the industry by making it dependent on foreign companies, to the neglect of its own domestic workforce. If the industry continues to outsource ebook production instead of developing the skills required to do so in Canada, those who outsource will have no other choice but to continue outsourcing in the future.

In light of these problems, it seems advisable that Canadian publishers now look for practical ways to incorporate ebooks for forthcoming titles into their existing workflows, whether that be at the proofreading or at the production stage. The next chapter will therefore propose various short- and long-term strategies that university presses such as UBC can use to gradually bring ebook production in house. By doing so, these presses can immediately address, and eventually avoid, the problems that have accompanied outsourcing.

 

 

Chapter 4: Solutions to Outsourcing

Overview

In the last decade, publishers faced the daunting task of converting their extensive backlists into multiple ebook formats whose staying power was somewhat questionable. Now that ebooks have become a standard part of publishing, and the bulk of their backlists have been converted through an outsourcing process that leaves much to be desired, publishers have begun to consider producing ebooks themselves.

In recent years, UBC Press has attempted to move some aspects of ebook production in-house. However, this shift must necessarily be a gradual one. The Press must first put short-term strategies in place to deal with the ebooks that will be produced by its technology partners in the near future. Only then can the Press begin to consider long-term changes to its own operations that would allow for the production of both print and electronic books in house.

 

Short-Term Solutions

As discussed in the conclusion of Chapter 1, large-scale ebook conversions will continue to take place under the auspices of eBound Canada. And UBC Press seems willing to continue outsourcing its ebook production to large conversion houses through this organization—for the time being. If this current system of outsourcing is to continue, though, there are various measures that publishers like UBC Press can put in place in order to attain a higher level of quality assurance for their ebooks.

 

Proofing Ebooks

At UBC Press, print books typically undergo several stages of review during production. Typeset text is first reviewed by a professional proofreader, as well as the author. Any corrections to these pageproofs are then collated by staff and entered by the typesetter. The final laser proofs provided by the printer are verified once more by a production editor before being approved for print. However, when the Press began to publish ebooks, these steps—or their digital equivalent—were not being carried out. As a result, ebooks are not subject to the same kind of rigorous review that print books are.

The need for better quality control over ebooks was the topic of a recent roundtable discussion hosted by Digital Book World, an online community forum whose events are sponsored by industry professionals and companies like Aptara and Ingram Publishing Group. During this discussion, Laura Dawson, Digital Managing Editor for Hachette Book Group, recommended that publishers take measures to review their ebooks—even (especially) if these ebooks were produced out of house by a technology partner.

As discussed in Chapter 3, UBC Press had begun to implement a review process during the second round of conversions under the ACP. However, UBC Press would benefit from the standardization of theproofreading process. One way of doing this, Laura Dawson suggests, is to create a central document that outlines the quality control procedures that should be performed by those handling ebooks in-house. Similar documents are already shared among UBC Press employees to ensure that other practices—such as “cleaning up” manuscripts after transmittal—are performed uniformly, regardless of which staff member is carrying out the task. In UBC Press’s case, this procedural document could be as simple as a checklist or set of instructions that is given to each intern who is hired to proofread ebooks. (See Appendix A.)

Ideally, this procedure would also be incorporated into the Press’s production schedule, with the result that production editors would allot a standard amount of time for proofreading ebooks after their anticipated date of delivery. If production staff were to start budgeting time for this activity (and for further rounds of revisions and review, as needed), those in marketing would have a more realistic sense of when an electronic edition of a title will be available for distribution.

Normalizing the proofreading process would also result in ebooks being reviewed in-house on a regular basis, not just when extra help is available from student employees, who are typically hired during the summer months. This may result in the task being reassigned to regular staff in the Production/Editorial Department. Liz Kessler, Publisher of Adams Media, points out that it may, in fact, be more advantageous to have the same publishing staff be responsible for the quality of print books and ebooks. Kessler notes that editors and proofreaders work most closely with a title, and are most familiar with the content and formatting requirements of a particular manuscript. These same staff are therefore best suited to reviewing ebooks, as they will notice irregularities and omissions more easily than an intern or co-op student who has little to no familiarity with that manuscript.

Reassigning proofreading tasks to relevant members of the publishing team may also redress the human resource problem identified in the previous chapter. Instead of making ebooks the sole responsibility of one overburdened staff member, the publisher can draw from the expertise of several employees. By doing so, the publisher would also turn ebooks into a shared concern of the publishing team, as has long been the case with print books.

 

Improving Metadata

One downside to the ebooks that are currently being produced by large conversion houses is the metadata they contain (or don’t contain). As was mentioned in Chapter 3, the metadata within these files is often incomplete, and this affects the visibility and identifiability of that digital object once it is in the supply chain.

Solving this problem will require cooperation from both publishers and technology partners. Publishers will need to stipulate higher metadata standards within their statements of work, as well as provide more detailed publication information to their technology partners. These technology partners would, in turn, need to respect the standards outlined in their contracts and take the time to embed the provided metadata within the files they produce, even if this means inserting it manually.

Furthermore, it would behoove both publishers and their technology partners to adopt the standards recommended by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), an industry association that creates and maintains technology standards in order to encourage interoperability within the field of electronic publishing. The IDPF’s protocols would result in richer and more detailed metadata than is currently being used. For instance, instead of simply listing a creator <ds:creator> in the .OPF file,[37] this field could further indicate whether the creator is the author of the work <dc:creator opf:role=”aut”> or the editor <dc:creator opf:role=”edt”>. The publisher and the conversion partner could also supply more detailed information in the “date” field. IDPF standards allow publishers to give both the year of print publication <dc:date opf:event=”original-publication”> and the year in which the EPUB file was created <dc:date opf:event=”epub-publication”>. (It is important to distinguish between the two events because, as was made clear during the ACP’s CPDS program, print and electronic formats may be released years apart.)

The IDPF recommendations would also provide an opportunity for publishers to supply additional information about their titles: for instance, the subject categories listed on the Cataloguing in Publication page within a print book could be included as values for the subject element in an ebook, e.g. <dc:subject>Canada – Foreign relations – United States</dc:subject>. Series information could also be placed within the type element <dc:type>Law and Society series</dc:type>. This granular level of data is helpful for marketing purposes, and it may also make cataloguing easier for institutions or for individuals who use programs like Calibre to store and manage their personal ebook libraries.

 

Using Stylesheets

One of the main complaints heard from publishers who took part in the ACP’s CPDS conversion program was the appearance of their EPUBs. While most of the eyesores resulted from formatting errors, these ebooks on the whole lacked the styling and attention to design found in their print counterparts, and in the EPDFs, which retained the layout of the original print books.

However, publishers who outsource ebook production can exercise more control over the appearance of their EPUBs by creating (or commissioning) their own stylesheets, a practice that many leading publishers have already adopted. Stylesheets are CSS files that are included within the EPUB file package. These CSS files determine the styling of the content documents and can therefore control certain aspects of the ebook, such as paragraph alignment, typeface, relative font size, line spacing, etc. Though some of these elements may be overridden by certain ereading devices, a well-designed CSS file can still manage to create a unique “look” for an ebook.

From the viewpoint of print production, stylesheets are best seen as the EPUB equivalent to the layout templates used to format and typeset a print book. Just as the Press uses several InDesign templates for most of their print book interiors, so too could the Press develop one or more stylesheets to apply to its ebooks: in fact, these stylesheets can even be based upon the design decisions made by the Press’s typesetter in the creation of the original print templates. (See discussion of Wild Element below.)

Using stylesheets to shape the appearance of content would not only enhance the production value of these ebooks, but it would also provide visual consistency between ebooks, thereby allowing UBC Press to extend its brand to those files being produced by another party. Stylesheets could also reduce the possibility of formatting errors by imposing stylistic uniformity on the text and images.

While a stylesheet can enhance the surface appearance of an ebook, the best solution to sloppy formatting is better-built ebooks. This requires long-term solutions to outsourcing.

 

Long-Term Solutions

Finding a More Suitable Technology Partner

When faced with a batch of error-filled ebooks, a publisher can choose to improve upon the files produced by its technology partner, or it can improve upon its choice of technology partner.

Given the number of errors found in the converted files and the dissatisfaction reported by clients like UBC Press, the large conversion houses hired by the ACP were not a good “fit” for Canadian publishers, particularly university presses. As stated in Chapter 3, scholarly books contain a number of extra-textual elements that aren’t easily accommodated by the automated workflows used in these conversion houses. Consequently, these scholarly ebooks seem to suffer from an unusually high number of formatting errors. In addition to causing problems during production, the apparatus that comes with academic books also adds to the cost of conversion. This is because, in the fee structures used by large-scale conversion houses, price is often indexed to the length of the text, along with the number of figures and the number of links a given ebook edition will contain. This pricing system effectively penalizes publishers of monographs and reference books, which are typically longer than trade books, and which contain numerous notes and lengthy indices.[38] It’s not surprising, then, that of the 74 UBC Press titles included in Innodata’s initial cost estimate, 40 were considered to be of “moderate” difficulty and 16 were assessed as “complex.” In other words, the assessment criteria used by this company placed three-quarters of UBC Press’s books within the higher price categories.

If the production and pricing methods used by large conversion houses aren’t appropriate for scholarly publishers, then UPs that wish to continue outsourcing should find more suitable technology partners. One alternative to hiring large conversion houses overseas is to hire smaller ebook design firms, which are cropping up in North America. Instead of signing contracts for bulk orders, these companies tend to work on a project-by-project basis with their clients, much like freelancers do. These companies also position themselves as counter to the content-factory model: the Canadian company Wild Element, for instance, promises its clients “no batch processing” and “hand-styled” ebooks on its website.

This difference in production method seems to stem from a fundamentally different approach to ebook conversion. Whereas content factories focus on moving publishers’ data from one file format to another, these firms focus on translating a book’s design from print to electronic editions. To this purpose, Wild Element’s stylesheets often replicate the typography of the original print book in an effort to “preserve the investment” publishers make in typesetting their books and to “deliver the quality you’ve come to expect from the traditional paper book.” This sensitivity to a book’s physical elements and design would be of particular use to publishers like UBC Press.

In fact, UBC Press has already begun to use smaller design companies for specific projects. It chose to hire Wild Element to produce the EPUB version of its lead title for the Fall 2011 season. The Press was particularly concerned that the EPUB edition of this title be attractive, error-free, and ready in time for the launch of the print book, since this title was expected to be a trade crossover with a high-profile publicity campaign.

UBC Press was quite pleased with the EPUB produced by Wild Element. As the figures below show, its layout reflected a consideration for aesthetics as well as an attention to detail that was missing from the ebooks produced by codeMantra and Innodata. As a result, UBC Press is considering using the same company to fix the EPUBs produced under the ACP’s program.

 

Figure 17. Cover for EPUB produced by Wild Element

Figure 17

 

Figure 18. Table of Contents for EPUB Produced by Wild Element

Figure 18

 

Figure 19. Chapter Opening for EPUB Produced by Wild Element

Figure 19

 

Figure 20. Image with Caption from EPUB Produced by Wild Element

Figure 20

Though the Press was pleased with this one-time, alternative outsourcing experience and with the end product, it is clear that the services offered by a company like WildElement are no replacement for large-scale ebook production. Their emphasis on tailored design and digital craftsmanship seems to align these companies with the letterpress printers, but just like their paper-based counterparts, these companies are restricted in the volume of books they can produce due to the small size of their operations, their attention to detail, and their preference for custom coding. Ebook design firms are thus unable to process large batches of files as conversion houses do. Because they are situated in North America and hire trained professionals, they face higher labour costs, so their services come at a premium. The EPUB featured above, for instance, cost three to four times as much to produce as a comparable title would through a company like Innodata. Publishers who decide to use such companies will therefore need to be choosier about which titles they publish as ebooks. These types of decisions would ideally be based on a long-term epublishing strategy.

 

Developing an Epublishing Strategy

To date, UBC Press’s efforts at digitization have been determined by volume and price. Since its early deals with NetLibrary and Gibson Publishing, the Press has pursued those opportunities which have allowed it to acquire multiple ebook formats for the greatest number of titles at as little cost as possible. Books that proved too expensive to convert under previous agreements simply were not digitized.

However prudent UBC Press’s past decisions about ebook production may have seemed, this focus on economy alone hasn’t led to better value or experience. In the wake of the latest outsourcing fiasco, Laraine Coates admits that the Press needs to “think less about quantity and more about quality.” This may mean selecting fewer titles for conversion and/or allocating more resources to the production of those titles.

University presses should be particularly selective when deciding which titles to convert to the newer EPUB format. Not only is the EPUB format more difficult and expensive to produce, but also its usefulness for academic publishers has yet to be proven. As was explained in Chapter 1, EPUBs are designed for use on tablets and e-reading devices, and are carried by ebook retailers like Kobo and Apple. The EPUB format is therefore aimed at the trade market. However, UP content is not.[39] Given their highly specialized subject matter, few books published by university presses appeal to a wider general audience. Though the UBC Press book produced by Wild Element (a biography of a political figure) may have been an appropriate choice for an EPUB, a more specialized monograph—say, a treatise on international trade law and domestic policy—wouldn’t be: the investment made in producing an EPUB version of that title would likely not be returned in sales. Furthermore, if EPUBs are unsuccessful in the trade market, they can’t be repurposed in institutional markets, since few academic libraries are able to accept files in the EPUB format at this time, and most are satisfied with enhanced PDFs.[40]

These factors should be taken into account, along with any available ebook sales data, as UPs try to determine which of their titles will work as EPUBs. Ultimately, this format may be found to be unsuitable for scholarly publishers.

If, however, UBC Press decides to adopt the EPUB as a default format for its ebooks, then the Press should consider moving EPUB production in house in the future.

 

Producing Ebooks In House

UBC Press has already demonstrated some capacity for in-house ebook production by successfully integrating one ebook format into its own workflow. In 2011, the Press’s typesetter agreed to start producing enhanced PDFs for the Press. This is done by inserting links directly into a book’s InDesign file; although these links aren’t expressed in the print book, they add functionality to the PDF later on. At this stage of production, the typesetter also adds an extra table of contents that will appear in the PDF’s bookmark menu. Once exported, the PDF is customized further by the Press’s in-house graphic designer, who checks the file’s links, attaches a low-res version of the cover, and swaps the print copyright page for another which contains the ISBN for digital editions. Although these enhanced PDFs do not have as many features as the uPDFs produced by CodeMantra,[41] they are an affordable and efficient alternative to outsourcing. Since these ePDFs began to be produced in house, there is little delay between the publication of print and electronic editions, as the web-ready ePDFs and the simple PDFs used for printing are produced almost simultaneously.

The successful integration of ePDFs into the Press’s own workflow is encouraging. However, incorporating EPUBs into the Press’s operations would be much more difficult. Where the latter is essentially an image of a print book, the former is a collection of marked-up files in a .zip archive: some of these files are in HTML (the CSS stylesheet), others are in XML (the .OPF or metadata file), and still more are in XHTML (the actual content files). In order for EPUBs to be incorporated into UBC Press’s own workflow efficiently, the Press would have to move ebook production from the end of its publishing workflow (where outsourcing currently takes place) to the beginning, so that tagging can be applied to these documents earlier on.

The Press has considered this prospect in the past. In March 2011, UBC Press asked publishing technology consultant Keith Fahlgren for advice on how to transition into performing EPUB production in house (Coates). At the time, Fahlgren recommended that the Press create a new workflow that uses styles in Word. If implemented, this method would have resulted in a transfer of styled content from Word to InDesign, and eventually into the EPUB format.[42] While Fahlgren’s solution seemed convenient, in that it was based on software programs already in use at the Press, the production and editorial staff found using styles to be “a frustrating experience” and “a lot of work” (Keller). As it turns out, authors, freelancers, and staff members had different versions of Word, which made sharing files under this new system even more cumbersome. Staff discovered that styles would be lost during the transfer, or would reappear in one version of Word after having been deleted in another. This production method also would have required a lot of cleanup along the way, as Microsoft Word is a proprietary software program that produces a lot of idiosyncratic and extraneous code. This code is often brought over when content is imported from Word, and must stripped from the text if one is to create “clean” code in the EPUB.

If content can’t be tagged using styles from the word processor currently used in-house, then it seems the Press would have to create tagged documents using a true XML-editing program like oXygen. Yet staff are understandably skeptical about the prospect of adopting an altogether new mark-up system. Holly Keller, Manager of Production and Editorial Services at UBC Press, points out that staff in this department may not be comfortable or keen on working with tagged documents; she also suspects that none of the freelance proofreaders employed by the Press have a working knowledge of HTML or XML. Presumably, then, both the initial tagging and the proofing of these documents would need to be performed by an additional staff member or a freelancer who possesses these skills. Keller also wonders how adopting EPUB production would affect workload and priorities within her department. She questions whether the incorporation of this new format might shift her department’s focus and resources away from the content of a manuscript and toward its technical requirements.

While Keller’s concerns are valid, textual markup is not so foreign a concept for production editors. In fact, textual markup is an extension of the editorial function, as it involves identifying the elements and structure of a manuscript. Though it may seem that introducing XML tagging would require a radical shift in production, there already exists an opportune stage for this encoding to take place within the Press’s current editorial/production workflow.

Following the transmittal meeting, when a manuscript is first brought in-house, each document undergoes a “clean up” process. (See Figure 1.) During this process, a production editor assesses the contents of an author’s manuscript and inserts typecodes that will later be used by the typesetter to layout the document. Elements that are already being tagged by production editors during this process include block quotations <Q>, epigraphs <E>, heading levels <3>, and lists <begin numbered list>. Though these tags are open (not closed) and are not nested, they are analogous to the types of XML tags used in the content files of an EPUB: both types of tags are a form of semantic markup that describe the different parts of a document so that they can later be expressed or manipulated in a certain way. Were these typesetter codes replaced by a standard XML tag set, UBC Press’s production editors would be well on their way to producing the tagged documents they require to produce EPUBs in house.

Furthermore, other clean up tasks performed at this stage of production which don’t currently involve typecodes could easily be replaced with tasks that do in order to introduce an extra level of tagging. For instance, instead of checking to make sure that the first line of every paragraph is indented, editors could instead make sure each paragraph is labeled <p>. Rather than change emboldened words to italicized words, editors could simply tag these words as emphasized <em>. Section breaks, which often need to be inserted manually into Word documents, could instead be marked by <seg> tags.

In short, a close evaluation of manuscripts and a tagging of textual elements already occurs at the beginning of UBC Press’s production process. With a minimal amount of staff training, this process could be modified to include XML markup. If the Press were to start out with well-tagged content, they could use the same source file to produce both print and electronic versions of a title. This workflow would be much more efficient than the current system, wherein content is first formatted for print only, and must later be stripped and tagged with XML afterward in order to produce an EPUB.[43]

 

Exploring the Applications of TEI in Scholarly Publishing

If UBC Press were to pursue an XML-based workflow, it would also need to consider the type of XML language it would use.

DocBook is an XML schema commonly used in the production of books. While its “main structures correspond to the general notion of what constitutes a ‘book,’” it is “particularly well suited for books on computer hardware and software,” having been developed in part by O’Reilly & Associates for producing technical manuals (“What is DocBook?”). However, professionals who work within scholarly publishing have found that this book markup language “lacks native markup elements for many structural features common in humanities and social science texts” (Sewell and Reed).

Fortunately, there exists another type of XML markup that is perhaps better equipped to handle UBC Press’s content: TEI, a markup language developed and maintained by the Text Encoding Initiative Consortium. The TEI guidelines, which have been under development since the 1980s, have come to form a standard for the representation of texts in digital form within the humanities. Although TEI has largely been used to digitize those texts used as primary sources within humanities research (i.e. rare manuscripts and historical documents), it would also be appropriate for use in digitizing secondary literature, i.e., scholarly monographs or reference books.

Because the TEI was developed to describe physical manuscripts, it can accommodate the type of textual elements commonly found in scholarly books, like notes and tables. It also contains more specialized element groups that could be used to tag UP texts that are at present rather tricky to produce as ebooks. For example, UBC Press publishes a series of books on First Nations languages, but the heavy use of phonetic symbols in these texts makes them difficult to convert into EPUBs. However, the TEI has a dictionary module and a set of elements that identify language corpora. This comprehensive tag set could help identify these special elements up front and preserve them during conversion.

Members of the digital humanities community have long anticipated the applications of TEI in scholarly publishing. In June 2009, a special interest group on this topic was formed at the Association of American University Presses. Although no university press in North America is currently using a TEI-based workflow, some are already experimenting with TEI (e.g. University of North Carolina). Other academic institutions have also adopted digital publishing workflows based in TEI encoding. For example, the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre has been using TEI in the digitization of full-length works that are later converted into the EPUB format. Sebastian Rahtz of Oxford University Computing Services has also been facilitating TEI-based publishing at his home institution and abroad. He has developed several XSL stylesheets that enable XML->XHTLM transformations, i.e. that help convert TEI documents into EPUBs. Because TEI is developed and maintained by a non-profit organization, these XSL stylesheets are available for use to the public through the TEI website (http://www.tei-c.org/Tools/Stylesheets/).[44]

Using a TEI-first workflow would therefore allow publishers to export their EPUBs more directly, instead of having to prepare a manuscript for print first and convert it afterward. Yet the addition of this TEI tagging process would not entirely disrupt the print-based production workflow currently used by publishers like UBC Press. Documents tagged in TEI can also be imported into traditional desktop publishing programs like InDesign, where they can then be shaped for the printed page (Reed). In addition to producing print and electronic books more efficiently, TEI would allow university presses to repurpose their content in other ways. In the future, TEI documents could be used to create other academic resources, such as online databases or archives, should a press wish to expand its digital publishing activities to include these types of products.[45]

By choosing to use TEI within an XML-based workflow, university presses like UBC Press may also solve previously identified problems with staffing and a lack of in-house expertise. Because TEI is used primarily by members of the academic community, there may be opportunities for publishers to partner with digital humanists and electronic text centres that already exist within universities. The Journal Incubator at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta provides an inspiring example of for how students may take on support roles in digital scholarly publishing. Students who are placed at the Incubator through graduate assistantships and co-op placements acquire training in editorial and production skills, including XML encoding and processing. These students then apply these skills while working for the Incubator: their services, which are primarily used to publish electronic journals, are offered to departments within their own institution, as well as those from outside the university. Instead of “outsourcing,” this type of arrangement amounts to a kind of “insourcing”—looking to one’s host institution for technical advice and support.[46] This type of arrangement may assist university presses like UBC in transitioning to a digital workflow based in TEI, and may, through a sustainable, ongoing partnership, provide the type of encoding that would be required by a press.

The applications of TEI within scholarly publishing are thus quite promising. Although it may be too risky for an individual press to experiment with TEI-first publishing on its own, this option should certainly be pursued by industry organizations like the Association of Canadian University Presses. Scholarly publishers may just find a long-term solution to their outsourcing woes by looking within their own university communities for expertise and assistance.

 

Conclusion

There are several ways for publishers to avoid error-filled files and ensure better quality ebooks.Publishers can reduce the number of formatting errors by proofreading their ebooks in-house; they can also enhance the appearance of their EPUBs by applying their own stylesheets. At the same time, by augmenting the metadata contained within these files, publishers can increase the amount of information available on their digital titles and ensure greater discoverability for them once they are in the supply chain.

However, these are short-term solutions to a systemic problem. If publishers wish to avoid error-filled files in the future, they need to consider more fundamental changes to the way they approach ebook production. This could mean finding a partner that will convert ebooks more carefully, which may, in turn, require publishers to be more selective in the number of titles they convert into EPUBs.

If publishers like UBC Press choose to adopt the EPUB as a standard format for their ebooks, it may behoove them to move ebook production in-house entirely. By doing so, publishers could achieve a consistently better end product. More importantly, they could break their decade-long dependence on large conversion houses that have become a liability.

UBC Press has already shown some ability to accomplish this by taking on enhanced PDFs in-house. There is also an opportunity for the typecoding system currently used by production editors to be expanded into the kind of XML tagging that would enable the Press to produce EPUBs. Should UBC Press decide to pursue an XML-first workflow, it should seriously consider TEI as its markup language of choice. A TEI-first workflow would result in better-tagged documents and easier EPUB exports and it would allow the Press to continue using standard design and layout software to create its print books. That TEI has existed in one form or another since the 1980s indicates that this markup language would be a durable way to store a publisher’s source files, regardless of what new ebook formats may arise in the next few years.

Whether they turn to the digital humanities for solutions, shop around for a smaller technology partner, or extend their staff’s expertise to the field of digital publishing, university presses are well positioned to seize control of their epublishing programs, and have sufficient motivation to do so.

 

 


Notes

1 Since 2001, annual endowment income has decreased by 68% (UBC Treasury). RETURN

2 Smaller-scale publishers like University of Alberta Press and University of Calgary Press receive more than twice the amount of direct funding that UBC Press receives, though they produce a half and a quarter as many new titles a year, respectively. Larger UPs in Canada receive an even greater amount of direct support from their host institutions: both the University of Toronto Press and McGill-Queen’s University Press enjoy nearly six times the amount of internal funding that UBC receives. RETURN

3 UBC Press represents a number of presses within the Canadian market, including University of Washington Press, Manchester University Press, University Press of New England, and Island Press. As part of the services it provides, UBC Press represents these publishers at Canadian conferences and hand-sells their books at these events. The Press also handles Canadian orders for these companies (via UTP Distribution) and includes relevant titles from these publishers within the Press’s own subject catalogues. RETURN

4 In 2011-2012, 50% of UBC Press’s Canadian sales and 78% of its US sales were made to libraries (UBC Treasury). RETURN

5 In the United States, the proportion of annual budgets spent on books by academic libraries fell from 44% in 1986 to 28% in 1997; in this same period, the proportion of library budget spent on journals rose inversely from 56%-72% (Gilroy). RETURN

6 Amazon has achieved this, for instance, by offering publishers a higher royalty rate (70%) on ebooks that are priced more competitively (20% lower than the lowest list price for the physical or digital edition of that title). Amazon also sets maximum list prices for publishers. RETURN

7 For instance, in Fall 2011, the hardcover version of a UBC Press title sold for $95, while the PDF of that same title sold for $99. It should be noted, though, that university presses are not alone in charging more for ebooks destined for the library market. Large trade publishers are also experimenting with higher ebook prices in order to offset a perceived loss in sales that may result from unlimited lending of ebooks through libraries. In March 2012, Random House “nearly tripled its ebook prices for libraries” (Albanese). In September 2012, Hachette Book Group also announced an increase in the cost of ebooks sold to libraries: prices rose anywhere from 35% to 63% (e.g. from $14.99 to $37.99) for popular fiction titles (Lovett). RETURN

8 A similar tactic has been used by publishers to promote the hardcover edition over the paperback edition: the hardcover is traditionally released first and is priced significantly higher than the paperback edition, which is only advertised to libraries 6 months after the original release date. By staggering the release of formats in this way, the Press encourages libraries—whose goal is to stock new releases in a timely manner—into purchasing more expensive, cloth-bound versions of titles. RETURN

9 These figures are in keeping with those found in a recent survey of 1350 consumer trade, STM, educational and corporate publishers conduced by Aptara. 90% of respondents reported that ebook sales account for less than 10% of their overall revenue. This survey also estimated that ebook sales rose 40% in 2010. RETURN

10 “Tethered access refers to e-book use provided by an ongoing interaction over the Internet with vendor software to view an e-book that is resident in the vendor’s database” (McKiel, “Download” 2). RETURN

11As Alison Knight points out, ebrary had a competitive edge as a company: it licensed “not only access to its ebook collection but also the use of its platform” (24-5). The ebrary platform is used by other publishers as a way of distributing their ebooks (e.g. Oxford UP, Elsevier, John Wiley & Sons); it is also used by libraries as a neutral platform for relaying electronic content that has been acquired from outside of ebrary’s collection (i.e. electronic theses and dissertations, ebooks purchased direct from publishers). RETURN

12As an added bonus, publishers would be able to use these PDFs as archival files (i.e. for digital preservation in-house). RETURN

13 Although UBC Press digitized most of its remaining backlist at this time, it did not produce PDFs of heavily illustrated books that weren’t well suited to the electronic format, nor did it volunteer books that would require extensive permissions clearance in order to be reproduced electronically. For books that were commonly used in the classroom, UBC Press decided to convert these titles, but withheld the files from the CEL collection so as to protect the print sales that came from course adoptions. RETURN

14 The Universal PDF is not a unique proprietary format, but, rather, is a term used by CodeMantra for its enhanced PDF product. The term itself is protected under copyright. RETURN

15 As of 2011, UBC Press still held distribution contracts with several content aggregators like EBSCO (formerly NetLibrary), ebrary, and MyiLibrary, although these companies no longer produce files for the Press. RETURN

16This new print-on-demand service was arranged to supply print books to individual buyers outside of North America—markets that are particularly expensive to serve, given the low sales figures and high shipping and warehousing costs. RETURN

17 This strategic goal was expressed in the ACP’s 2007-2008 funding application to the Ontario Media Development Corporation. In its application, the ACP (in partnership with the Ontario Book Publishers Organization and Gibson Publishing Connections) put forth a plan to support the “conversion of about 2000 Canadian titles into XML format” for the purpose of “exploiting the converted works beyond the existing scope of institutional markets [emphasis added].” RETURN

18 At the time of publication, Peter Milroy had retired from his position as director and was replaced by Melissa Pitts, former acting marketing manager and senior acquisitions editor for UBC Press. RETURN

19 For more on the role and benefits of using freelancers at UBC Press, see Megan Brand’s 2005 report, “Outsourcing Academia: How Freelancers Facilitate the Scholarly Publishing Process.” RETURN

20 The ability of content producers to leverage existing content and profit from it anew was described by Chris Anderson the “long tail effect” in a 2004 article in Wired magazine. There, Anderson argues that online retailers like iTunes and Netflix—who aren’t bound by the constraints of material storefronts—can stock and sell a wider array of products than bricks-and-mortar retailers. This deep “cybershelf,” coupled with the ability to reach dispersed and underserved customers, increases the ability of those in the entertainment industry—including publishers—to profit from older, low-in-demand content. Erik Brynjolfsson, Yu (Jeffrey) Hu, and Michael D. Smith also discuss this phenomenon as it relates specifically to Amazon.com. RETURN

21 At times, publishers may have received as little as 30% of gross sales from its contracts with NetLibrary. Both Questia and ebrary operated on slightly different revenue model than NetLibrary. Instead of selling unlimited access to a whole ebook, these companies charged by usage. Ebrary, for instance, charged a small fee set by the publisher (often $0.25-$0.50) each time that a user copied or printed a page. Publishers would then receive 60-80% of that revenue, depending on their arrangement with the company. Questia also used a “micro-payment scheme,” reimbursing publishers for each page view (Crawley, “University Presses” and “Online”). RETURN

22 Although codeMantra is an American company, “its primary dedicated production, operations and development centers are located in Chennai, India” (codeMantra). Innodata Isogen’s conversion houses are also located in India, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines. RETURN

23 Prices varied according to the length of the book, its complexity level (i.e. number of images and links), and the ebook formats being requested. For instance, the POD PDF, which took less time and effort to produce, was the least expensive ebook format, whereas the EPUB, which required a good deal of additional coding, was the most expensive. RETURN

24 Flowchart provided by Holly Keller. RETURN

25 I have chosen here to focus on UBC Press’s latest outsourcing experience, but as early as 2000, UBC Press had been disappointed with the files it received from content aggregators. For instance, “in NetLibrary’s original iteration, UBC Press found that the HTML format resulted in frequent pagination problems, requiring Press staff to expend significant labour vetting finished books” (Knight 31). RETURN

26 This was a particular problem for books on Asian religion or on Aboriginal language and culture, which contain many foreign language characters. RETURN

27 Without this disclaimer, readers might incorrectly assume that the page numbers found in the index referred to absolute locations within the ebook, when in fact the reflowable text within an EPUB had rendered these page numbers obsolete. RETURN

28 Validation checks the integrity of the code in an ebook file against an XML parser to make sure that the code is well-formed. RETURN

29 The economic fallout of simple errors has been documented in both the publishing world and the world of e-commerce. It has been shown that misspellings in website copy negatively affect online sales, as they raise doubts over the credibility of the website. In one UK study, revenue per visitor doubled after a single typo was fixed (Coughlan). Those who work within the publishing industry have also pointed out to the real cost of errors like typos (see Heffernan). In a recent case, a misprint in a cookbook cost Penguin Group Australia $20,000 dollars in reprint fees (“Cook-book”). RETURN

30 The near-automatic distribution of unchecked files was also made possible by the Press’s use of Collection Point, the digital asset management system developed by CodeMantra. This software, which is designed to deliver digital assets quickly and efficiently, also has an unintended side-effect: it mediates publishers’ interaction with their files in a way that discourages close examination of them. The program does not prompt staff to open or preview the files created by CodeMantra before sending them out to various distribution channels. Because CodeMantra’s end-to-end publishing solution provided an almost seamless, hands-off experience from conversion to distribution, it also enabled staff to circumvent the type of final proofreading that would have been performed were the files produced in house. RETURN

31 In summer 2011, student interns were paid a flat rate of $250 per week. In a 35-hour work week, their pay was equal to $7.14 per hour (less than minimum wage, which at the time was $8.00 per hour). RETURN

32 These estimates are conservative. Given that professional proofreaders are much more thorough, a formal review process would likely cost a great deal more time and money if carried out by a hired freelancer. RETURN

33This may explain the discontinuity and varying quality seen among chapters within the same ebook: if chapters are being divided among employees who aren’t necessarily working together, one chapter may end up with extensively linked notes, while another may not. RETURN

34 Presumably, the geographic distance and difference in time zones—common in offshoring—may have worsened this communication problem. RETURN

35 In support of this point, it should be noted that CodeMantra did not initially offer UBC Press the DTD for its “pubXML”; the Press had to specifically request it in anticipation of this same problem. RETURN

36 University of Ottawa Press has an eBook Coordinator, while Athabasca University Press has a Journals and Digital Coordinator. RETURN

37The .OPF file houses the ebook’s metadata within the EPUB format. In other words, it contains information about the file itself, in addition to containing a manifest of all the other content files in the EPUB package. RETURN

38 In the last round of conversions, the average UBC Press title was 307 pages in length and required 950 links to be inserted. RETURN

39eBOUND reports that the highest-selling ebooks among its members are genre fiction (e.g. romance, thrillers), young adult books, and bestsellers—none of which are published by university presses (“Prioritizing”). RETURN

40 A 2011 ebrary survey found that ebooks loaned by academic libraries are most commonly read on Windows desktops and laptops, or the Apple iPad (McKiel, “Download” 3)—devices which do not require the EPUB format, and to which ePDFs are perhaps better suited. As Peter Milroy points out, PDFs of a trade paperback are almost perfectly sized for the dimensions of an iPad screen: although the text may not be reflowable, the ratio of the original page dimensions (6 by 9 inches) is close enough to the screen’s dimensions (5.8 by 7.75 inches) that the PDF of that original book can be viewed proportionally on the iPad without having to be resized. RETURN

41 For instance, links in the Press’s EPDFs are unidirectional instead of bidirectional: they allow the user to navigate to a location in the text, but not back to the initial position. Unlike the uPDFs produced by CodeMantra, the indexes and tables of contents in these files are not linked to the main text. These features could be achieved in-house, but it would take a considerable amount of time for the staff to implement them. RETURN

42For more on how to prepare documents for EPUB export using styles in Word, see Elizabeth Castro’s EPUB Straight to the Point. RETURN

43 For more on XML-first workflows, see Appendix A: Production and Digital Technology in The Chicago Manual of Style. RETURN

44To see examples of EPUBs produced via this method, visit http://tei.oucs.ox.ac.uk/Projects/TEItoePub/. As is seen here, the TEI community takes a collaborative and transparent approach to textual encoding and digital workflows. This ensures that TEI-based publishing practices are open and accessible. In this way, TEI is perhaps more in keeping with the spirit of information sharing that defines universities and their presses than for-profit technology partners who use “closed” processes and customized forms of XML. RETURN

45 For examples of TEI-based applications and projects, see http://www.tei-c.org/Activities/Projects/. RETURN

46 Although the University of British Columbia does not have its own digital humanities program, there is a notable institution within the province with whom they could collaborate: the Electronic Textual Cultures Lab at the University of Victoria. RETURN

 

 

 


Appendix A: Ebook Proofing Instructions

 

ePDFs

Open the file in Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat Pro.

File Name

Check that the file name is the ePDF ISBN, not the hardcover, paperback, or EPub ISBN. You can find the assigned ISBNs for any title on the H: drive, in the Departments/Production/CIP ISBN ISSN/ISBN folder.

Cover

Check the cover for image quality. Make sure that the image is clear and the type legible. Compare against hard copy of book if necessary (see UBC Press’s Permanent Library located in the Meeting Room, Rm 113).

Make sure that the title and author/editor name(s) are present, and are spelled correctly. Check the spelling against the full title page on the interior, if necessary.

CIP Page

Scroll down to the copyright information page (usually p. iv). Make sure it is the paperback CIP page: i.e., it should list the ISBN numbers for all formats, print and electronic.

Table of Contents (ToC)

Scroll down to the ToC page (usually p. vii).

Make sure the ToC page is linked. Click on a chapter title to go to the opening page of that chapter. Click on the title again to return to the ToC page.

If it isn’t already displayed, open the bookmarked ToC by clicking on the bookmark icon that appears in the lefthand sidebar.

Make sure there is a bookmark for each chapter, and that there are no typos in the chapter titles.

Click on the bookmarks—including the bookmark for the Cover Page—to make sure that they link to the right page.

Illustrations

Scroll down to the List of Illustrations (aka Maps, Figures and Tables, p. ix).

Make sure the name of each illustration/figure/map/table links to those images in the text.

Check the image quality of the illustrations.

Click on the image or image title to link back to the List of Illustrations.

Body

Spotcheck pages throughout the book, checking for odd line breaks.

If the book contains endnotes, click on some of the supernumerals: these should take you to the appropriate chapter in the Notes section. Click on the note number again to return to the main text.

Scroll through the Notes section quickly to make sure the notes in each chapter are linked.

Spotcheck other internal links (e.g. to figures). When checking hyperlinks, make sure the pop-up blocker on your browser is turned off.

Make sure the pages in the PDF file are numbered correctly. The number indicated in the menu bar above should match the number on the page. The prelim pages (for the title page, etc.) should be numbered in roman numerals.

Index

Spotcheck the page numbers in the index to make sure they are linked, and that they take you to the right place. Links for page ranges (p. 88-108) may take you either to the first or last page number in that range.

 

EPUBs

Validate the File

Before opening the file, you need to validate it—i.e., make sure that its code is well-formed and that the file is formatted properly.

To do this, upload the file to Epubcheck, an online validation tool from Threepress Consulting. Visit http://threepress.org/document/epub-validate. Browse to find the location of the EPUB file on the H: drive, then click “validate.”

If the EPUB is valid, a green checkmark will appear. If it is invalid, a red X and an error message will appear.

If the file does not validate, make a note of this, but continue proofing.

Check the File Name

The file name should be the EPUB ISBN for that title — not the hardcover, paperback, or ePDF ISBN. You can find the assigned ISBNs for any title on the H: drive, in the Departments/Production/CIP ISBN ISSN/ISBN folder.

Open the File

Use a free ereading software program like Adobe Digital Editions <http://www. adobe.com/products/digitaleditions/> that can be downloaded from the web and installed locally on your computer. Do not use Sigil to proof these files: in order to open a file within this program, you have to unzip (i.e. dismantle) it, and the linked table of contents will be lost.

Once you have installed such a program, you will usually have to import or add the EPUB file into your “library” in order to view it. To do this, some programs require you to move the file into the program (instead of just viewing the file via the program). If this is the case, make duplicate copies of the files before importing them into the library.

You can also use web-based reading applications, like Ibis Reader, which usually require you to create an account and upload the files to your personal online “library.”

If you have an e-reading device on hand (e.g. data phone or tablet that has an ereader app), you can also use that to check most of the issues below. You can also use a designated ereading device like a Kobo or Nook to view the file; however, at this point in time, Kindles do not read EPUBs and so cannot be used to proof these files. UBC Press has purchased an iPad for this purpose. Check with Laraine or Peter for permission and instructions on how to use this device.

Once the file is open in “reading” mode, check the elements listed below

Cover

Check the cover for image quality. Make sure that the image is clear, that the type is legible, and that the cover is not stretched horizantally or is too small. If necessary, compare it against the hard copy of the book (see UBC Press’s Permanent Library located in the Meeting Room, Rm 113).

Make sure that the title and author/editor name(s) are present and are spelled correctly. Check the spelling against the title page, if necessary.

CIP & Series Pages

Make sure that the copyright information page and series page (if used) have been moved from the beginning of the file to the end of the file.

Make sure that the CIP page is the paperback version: i.e. it should list the ISBN numbers for all formats, print and electronic.

Tables of Contents

There are two ToCs to check: the embedded ToC that appears in the body of the text, and the navigational ToC that appears beside it.

To view the embedded ToC, scroll down through the prelimary pages until you reach the Table of Contents. Make sure the items on the ToC page are linked. Click on a chapter title to go to the opening page of that chapter. Click on the title again to return to the ToC page.

If the navigational ToC is “hidden” when you first open the file, look to the lefthand sidebar. There is usually a Bookmark or Contents button that you can click to view the bookmarked ToC. In Adobe Editions, there is also a small arrow that you can click and drag to expand this viewing pane.

Make sure there is a bookmark for each chapter, and that there are no typos in the chapter titles.

Click on the bookmarks—including the bookmark for the Cover Page—to make sure that they link to the right page.

Illustrations

Scroll down to the List of Illustrations (aka Maps, Figures and Tables).

Make sure the name of each illustration/figure/map/table links to those images in the text.

Check the image quality of the illustrations.

Make sure that the titles and captions appear above/below the images, not beside them.

Make sure that the text surrounding the images is well placed and not interrupted by the image.

Check for problems with tables (e.g. misaligned cells or cell contents, tables that have three or more columns and are appearing as text instead of images).

Click on the image or image title to link back to the List of Illustrations.

Body

Scroll/flip through the file, checking for the following problems:

• strange line breaks

• hyphens that appear in odd places, like the middle of a line, or that divide words which shouldn’t be hyphenated

• diacritics/accents that have been captured as images instead of as text. This tends to happen often with Asian characters, but can also happen with accented letters in French words. You will be able to tell if they are images because they will not seem aligned with the rest of the text, and cannot be resized.

Spotcheck internal links. If the book contains endnotes, click on some of the supernumerals: these should take you to the appropriate place in the Notes section. Click on the note number again to return to the main text. If checking hyperlinks, make sure the pop-up blocker on your browser is turned off.

Unlike the ePDF, the text here is reflowable. Don’t worry if it seems like there are odd page breaks (e.g. the title page seems spread across two different pages); the amount of text being displayed adjusts to the size of your screen/window.

Although your reader/browser might display page numbers, these page numbers are not actually a part of the EPUB file. Don’t worry if they aren’t in roman numerals or don’t match the ePDF page count.

Index

Unlike the ePDF, the index in an EPUB is not linked to the main text.

Make sure the following disclaimer is present at the beginning of the index: “The page numbers in this index refer to the print edition of this book.”

Metadata

The EPUB ISBN should also appear as the ID in the file metadata. Most ereading devices will allow you to view the metadata for an EPUB file, but in order to do this on a computer, you usually need to open up the EPUB file.

One way of doing this is to download and install a free ebook management tool like Calibre <http://calibre-ebook.com/ along with a free text editor like Notepad++ http://notepad-plus-plus.org/download/v5.9.3.html>.

After adding the EPUB file to the Calibre library, right-click on the title and select “Tweak EPUB.” The select “Explode EPUB.” This will unzip the EPUB so that you can view the files within it.

Look for the .OPF file. It may be contained within the OEBPS folder, and may have a very long name, but it will end with the “.opf” extension.

Right-click on the .OPF file, and choose “Open with” or “Edit with Notepadd++.” This will open the .OPF file, which contains information about the book wrapped in XML tags.

Within the first 20 lines or so, you should see “<dc: identifier,” followed by the EPUB ISBN. If the ISBN number is missing, take note of this.

After checking the metadata, you can exit Notepad++ without saving, and hit “Cancel” on the Calibre “Tweak EPUB” screen.

 

POD PDFs

The Print on Demand (POD) PDF files are essentially print-ready files that are sent to Lightening Source, which prints short runs of softcover books.

Before proofing these files, please consult the LSI File Creation Guide found in Departments/Production/Style Guides and Training/Ebook Proofing, or visit the Lightening Source website to learn more about the specifications for these files <http://www.lightningsource.com/digital_bookblock_creation.aspx#standardBooks>.

There should be 2 separate PDF files for each title: one for the cover, the other for the book’s interior. Open these files in Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat Pro, and check the following:

File Names

Make sure that both file names contain the paperback ISBN — not the hardcover, EPUB or ePDF ISBN. You can find the assigned ISBNs for any title on the H: drive, in the Departments/Production/CIP ISBN ISSN/ISBN folder.

Cover File

Unlike the ePDF and EPUB files, which use lower resolution images, the cover for the POD file should be the high-resolution paperback cover.

This cover should also be the full-wrap cover, with front, back, and spine—not just the front cover.

The back cover should also display the paperback barcode.

Interior File

This PDF should have the paperback copyright information page (CIP page): i.e., it should list the ISBNs for all formats, print and electronic.

Because this file is destined for print, it will not have a linked ToC or any other interactive features contained in the other ebook files.

 

 


References

 

Books and Articles

Anderson, Chris. “The Long Tail.” Wired (12.10) October 2004.

Albanese, Andrew. “Macmillan Poised to Test Library E-book Model.” Publishers Weekly September 24, 2004.

Castro, Elizabeth. EPUB Straight to the Point: Creating Ebooks for the Apple iPad and Other Readers. Berkeley, CA: Peach Pit Press, 2011.

“Cook-Book Misprint Costs Australian Publishers Dear.” BBC News Online April 17, 2010.

Coughlan, Sean. “Spelling Mistakes ‘Cost Millions’ in Lost Online Sales.” BBC News Online. July 13, 2011.

Crawley, Devon. “Libraries Experiment with E-book Lending,” Quill & Quire June 1, 2000.

Crawley, Devon. “Online E-book Services Struggle to Survive,” Quill & Quire November 1, 2001.

Crawley, Devon. “Scholarly Presses Forgo E-books,” Quill & Quire November 1, 2001.

Crawley, Devon. “University Presses Tread Cautiously with E-books,” Quill & Quire 1 Nov. 2000.

Heffernan, Virginia. “The Price of Typos.” The New York Times [Opinion Pages] July 17, 2011.

MacDonald, Scott. “Heritage Grant Kickstarts E-book Initiative for Indie Publishers,” Quill & Quire, October 20, 2009.

Murray, Chelsea. “Canadian Electronic Library Strikes Potentially Lucrative International Deal for Publishers,” Quill & Quire August 12, 2010.

“Newly Incorporated eBound Canada Offers Digital Solutions to Canadian Publishers,” Quill & Quire June 27, 2011.

Ng-See-Quan, Danielle. “University Libraries Make Canadian Digital Connections,” Quill & Quire November 1, 2008.

Sewell, David and Kenneth Reid. “TEI: Scholarly Publishers Collaborate on XML,” The Exchange, Spring 2010. Association of American University Presses website.

Smith, Briony. “Canadian Firm Pushing Homegrown E-Books to Expanding Academic Market,” Quill & Quire 27 June 2006.

Wittenberg, Kate. “Reimagining the University Press,” Journal of Electronic Publishing 13.2 (Fall 2010).

 

Interviews

Coates, Laraine. Interview by author, August 5, 2011.

Keller, Holly. Interview by author, August 5, 2011.

Milroy, Peter. Interview by author, August 5, 2011.

 

Email

Boshart, Nic. “Question re: Conversion Houses.” July 26, 2011.

Boshart, Nic. “Conversions.” November 17, 2011.

Izma, Steve. “Re: Electronic Publishing at Wilfrid Laurier Press.” March 12, 2011.

Rahtz, Sebastian. “Re: TEI and Ebooks” [TEI-PUB-SIG listserve]. September 22, 2011.

Reed, Kenneth. “Re: TEI and Ebooks” [TEI-PUB-SIG listserve]. September 22 and 26, 2011.

 

Online Sources

CRKN. “About.” Canadian Research Knowledge Network website. 2011.<http://www.crkn.ca/about>

Digital Book World. “Beyond the Publishing Headlines Roundtable” [webcast]. September 29, 2011. <http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2011/beyond-the-publishing-headlines-roundtable-92911/#ixzz1ZMWkL1iq>

“eBOUND SFU Production Nightmares Round Table”

. eBOUND website. 1 Nov. 2011. 25 Jan. 2011. <http://www.eboundcanada.org/index.php/resources/tutorials/98-ebound-sfu-production-nightmares-round-table >

Lovett, Michael. “Hachette Book Group’s New Library eBook Pricing.” OverDrive Digital Library Blog. September 14, 2012.<http://overdriveblogs.com/library/2012/09/14/hachette-book-group%E2%80%99s-new-library-ebook-pricing/>

“Prioritizing Ebook Production: Which Books Should You Convert First?” eBOUND Canada website, April 19, 2012.

Salo, Dorothea. “A Tale of Two Conversion Houses.” Yarineth Blog. 1 April 2000.<http://yarinareth.net/articles/a-tale-of-two-conversion-houses/>

University of Lethbridge Journal Incubator website.<http://www.uleth.ca/lib/incubator/>

“What is DocBook?” DocBook.org website. <http://www.docbook.org/whatis>

 

MPub Project Reports

Brand, Megan. “Outsourcing Academia: How Freelancers Facilitate the Scholarly Publishing Process.” Master of Publishing Project Report, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, 2005.

Knight, Alison Elaine. “The Tangled Web: Managing and Confronting Scholarly Ebook Production at UBC Press.” Master of Publishing Project Report, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, 2007.

 

Reports

Aptara. “Uncovering eBooks’ Real Impact: Aptara’s Third Annual eBook Survey of Publishers.” Falls Church, VA: Aptara, September 2011.

Baldwin, John R. and Wulong Gu. “Basic Trends in Outsourcing and Offshoring in Canada.” Ottawa: Micro-Economic Analysis Division, Statistics Canada, 2008.

Goss Gilroy Inc. “Formative Evaluation of the Aid to Scholarly Publications Program (ASPP) Part II: Context for Scholarly Publishing.” Ottawa: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, 22 November, 2004.

McKiel, Allen. “ebrary Download Survey Report.” Monmouth, OR: ebrary, 2011.

—. “200 Global Librarian Ebook Survey.” Tahlequah, OK: ebrary, 2007.

Morissette, René, and Anick Johnson. “Offshoring and Employment in Canada: Some Basic Facts.” Ottawa: Business and Labour Market Development Division, Analytical Studies Branch, Statistics Canada, 2007.

UBC Treasury Strategic and Decision Support. “UBC Press Business Model Review (draft).” Vancouver: UBC Treasury, June 28, 2001.


Foot/Print: Reducing the Carbon Footprint of the Canadian Magazine Industry

 

 

By Jessie Johnston

ABSTRACT: Individuals and business people around the world are looking for ways to reduce their impact on the environment, and Canadian magazine publishers are no exception. In order to help publishers “green” their businesses, Magazines Canada collaborated in 2008 with the environmental organization Markets Initiative (now Canopy) to produce the Magazine Ecokit. This document highlighted a number of ways magazine publishers could reduce their harmful impacts on the environment.

Recognizing climate change as the most pressing environmental issue facing humanity, Magazines Canada and Canopy collaborated again in 2011 to create a guide specifically focused on how Canadian magazine publishers can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions: The Carbon Footprint Compendium.

During an internship with Magazines Canada, I was responsible for assembling the Compendium into a single straightforward and practical document. The process revealed the complexity and controversies surrounding carbon reduction in the magazine industry, as well as the lack of information available on Canadian publish­ers’ environmental activities. In-depth examinations of either of those topics would not have been appropriate within the context of the Compendium, but both are certainly worthy of study and discussion.

By tackling both subjects together, this report provides a detailed picture of the state of Canadian magazines’ response to climate change, beginning with an analysis of existing studies of magazines’ climate impacts and the strategies they suggest, continuing with case studies of Canadian publishers’ environmental practices, and concluding with an examination of the challenges and possibilities of the future, including possible directions for scientific research and collective action within the publishing industry. Issues examined include the challenges of creating high-quality paper from recycled fibre, paper mills’ claims of carbon neutrality, and whether digital publishing provides environmental benefits.

 

 


DEDICATION

I dedicate this report to the memory of my grandfather, Derek Lukin Johnston, who loved nothing more than the printed word, and of his father, Rufus, from whom many members of my family inherited the publishing bug.

 

 


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This report would not have been possible without the passion and support of the entire team at Magazines Canada, most notably the inimitable Barbara Zatyko, and the dynamic duo that are Gary Garland and Chantal Sweeting. Their belief in the importance of the Carbon Footprint Compendium is what made both that document, and this report, possible.

I am indebted to Neva Murtha at Canopy for her willingness to share her under­standing of complex climate science and how it relates to publishing. I also wish to thank all of my interview subjects, who took the time to explain to me how their businesses operate, and Keith Neuman of Environics, who shared his company’s valuable research with me free of charge.

I am grateful to my peers in the MPub program—particularly those currently or previously resident at 1408 McLean Drive—for their encouragement, humour and inspiration. And of course the faculty of SFU’s Publishing Program, in particular my ever-gracious senior supervisor Roberto Dosil, and the insightful John Maxwell, for their feedback on this project.

Last but not least, I want to thank my parents, Jane and Lionel, and the rest of my family for their unwavering enthusiasm for each and every endeavour I undertake.

 

 


CONTENTS

Dedication

Acknowledgements

List of Tables

1. Introduction: The Carbon Footprint Compendium

2. Carbon Footprints: What They Are and How They’re Measured

3. Magazine Life Cycle Assessments
++++3.1 Time and InStyle
++++3.2 The Green Press Initiative
++++3.3 Backpacker
++++3.4 Discover
++++3.5 National Geographic
++++3.6 Findings for the Magazine Industry

4. Strategies, Challenges, and Controversies
++++4.1 Certified Paper
++++4.2 Low-Carbon Paper Production
++++4.3 Recycled Paper
++++4.4 Other Paper Strategies
++++4.5 Public Education
++++4.6 Reducing Print Runs
++++4.7 Low-Carbon Printing
++++4.8 Sustainable Transportation Methods
++++4.9 Office and Travel Strategies
++++4.10 Offsets

5. Canadian Case Studies
++++5.1 Alternatives Journal
++++5.2 The Ark
++++5.3 Corporate Knights
++++5.4 Cottage Life
++++5.5 Rogers Publishing
++++5.6 St. Joseph Communications
++++5.7 Teacher
++++5.8 Transcontinental
++++5.9 The Watershed Sentinel

6. The Future
++++6.1 Availability of Eco-paper
++++6.2 The Digital Question
++++6.3 Cradle to Cradle Certification

7. Conclusions

Notes

Bibliography
++++Books and Articles
++++Interviews
++++Online Sources

 

 


LIST OF TABLES

Table 1: Summary of Print Industry Carbon Footprint Study Findings, with Averages

Table 2: Hypothetical Magazine Industry Carbon Emissions Percentages with Biomass Removal Included

 

 


1. INTRODUCTION: THE CARBON FOOTPRINT COMPENDIUM

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has described climate change as “the single most important challenge which we are facing these days.”[1] Over the last two and a half decades, this issue has achieved prominence thanks to events like the widely publicized (if not always successful) climate change conferences in Kyoto, Copenhagen and Durban; former U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize for his environmental activism and Academy Award-winning documentary; and dramatic natural disasters including Hurricane Katrina, the 2010 flooding in Pakistan, and the East African drought and famine of 2011.

As a result of public concern about climate change—according to polls conducted by Environics, Canadians rated it the most important environmental issue facing the country for all but six months between 2007 and 2011[2] —industries of all kinds have taken steps to improve their environmental reputations. It is currently possible to buy putatively eco-friendly wine, running shoes, bed sheets, cell phones and laundry detergent, to name just a few “green” products. Members of the publishing industry have also joined the movement toward environmental responsibility, perhaps most notably when Canada’s Raincoast Books chose to publish the Harry Potter series on Ancient Forest Friendly branded paper.[3]

Magazines have also joined the shift toward greener practices, primarily in the United States, where prominent publications—including National Geographic, Time, InStyle, and Backpacker—have commissioned studies assessing the environmental impacts of their operations, and shared the results with the public. In Canada, a partnership between the Canadian Magazine Publishers Association (now Magazines Canada), the British Columbia Association of Magazine Publishers (now the Maga-zine Association of B.C. or MABC) and the environmental advocacy organization Markets Initiative led to the creation of The Coated Paper Eco Kit in 2004, which outlined ways publishers could reduce their environmental impact through imp-roved paper choices.[4] In 2008, Magazines Canada and Markets Initiative collaborated on an updated Magazine Eco Kit, which examined the same issues in greater detail and was printed on the Wheat Sheet, a newly developed coated paper incorporating agricultural waste into its fibre mix.[5]

Magazines Canada and Markets Initiative (now known as Canopy) collaborated again in the summer of 2011, producing a follow-up to the eco kits called The Carbon Footprint Compendium. This straightforward and practical guide for publishers explaining why they should be concerned about their greenhouse gas emissions, what the major sources of that “carbon footprint” are in magazine publishing, and how they could go about reducing their operations’ contribution to climate change is now available for download from the Magazines Canada website.[6]

I assembled the Compendium as part of an internship with Magazines Canada. The process made me aware of the complexity and controversies surrounding carbon reduction in the magazine industry, as well as the lack of information available on Canadian publishers’ environmental activities. In-depth examinations of either of those topics would not have been appropriate within the context of the Compendium, but both are certainly worthy of study and discussion. By tackling both subjects together, this report will provide a detailed picture of the state of Canadian magazines’ response to climate change, beginning with an analysis of existing studies of magazines’ climate impacts and the strategies they suggest, continuing with case studies of Canadian publishers’ environmental practices, and concluding with an examination of the challenges and possibilities of the future.

 

 

2. CARBON FOOTPRINTS: WHAT THEY ARE AND HOW THEY’RE MEASURED

Climate change is a complex process, involving the interaction of both naturally occurring and human-generated factors. The primary human contribution to the cur­rent changes in our climate is the release of “greenhouse gases” into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases are so called because they trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, contributing to global temperature increases the same way a greenhouse’s walls trap heat to warm the plants within. The most common greenhouse gases are water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and human-manufactured aerosol gases like CFCs. By far the most prevalent of all greenhouse gases—both naturally and produced by human sources—is carbon dioxide.[7] As a result, many of the terms used to describe greenhouse gas measurement and reduction refer to “carbon” as a stand-in for greenhouse gases as a group.

A carbon footprint “measures the total greenhouse gas emissions caused directly and indirectly by a person, organization, event or product.”[8] Carbon footprint mea­surement grew out of the existing practice of conducting a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), in which the entire environmental impact of a product, process or service is measured, from raw materials extraction and production, through distribution, con­sumption, and disposal. The central idea of the LCA has been focused specifically on greenhouse gas emissions in what we now call carbon footprint measurement, and the technique has also been extended to allow entire organizations’ footprints to be measured. As such, it can be applied to the operations of magazine publishers.

Unlike the products, processes and services measured by an LCA, organizations do not have clearly defined beginning and end points. In order to analyze an organiza­tion’s carbon footprint, then, emissions must be measured over a specific period of time. As a general rule, organizations measure their carbon footprints in terms of the quantity of greenhouse gases released during a single year.

One of the reasons this process is called “carbon footprint” measurement rather than “greenhouse gas footprint” measurement is the way the results are presented. Each greenhouse gas traps heat within the earth’s atmosphere at its own rate, called the gas’ “global warming potential” by environmental scientists. Methane, for instance, has a global warming potential of more than 20 times that of carbon dioxide.[9] In other words, releasing a tonne of methane into the atmosphere has the warming effect of releasing more than 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Because organizations release a combination of greenhouse gases, and because these kinds of analyses are most useful when they can be compared both to similar organizations and within the same organization over time, it was important to develop a standard that would allow these cumulative emissions to be compared.

Because carbon dioxide is both the most common greenhouse gas and has the lowest heat trapping capacity, the accepted standard is to convert all measured emissions into the quantity of carbon dioxide required to generate the same global warming potential. Thus, carbon footprint measurements are expressed in terms of quantities of carbon dioxide, even though the emissions being analyzed are in all likelihood of a variety of greenhouse gases.

Carbon footprint measurement is an extremely complex and expensive undertaking. It requires not only a detailed listing of all the various activities an organization undertakes that cause greenhouse gas emissions, but a calculation of the frequency and duration of those activities throughout the year, plus a measurement or calculation of the quantities of gases each activity releases. Even the first part of the process, identifying relevant carbon emitting activities, is more challenging than it might seem. For example, if a company’s employees drive themselves to work in cars, should their commutes be factored into the company’s carbon footprint? If a publisher’s customers send their reading material to the landfill instead of the recycling plant when they finish with it, should the resulting methane emissions be considered part of the publisher’s total footprint?

To help organizations answer these questions, the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development developed the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHGP) corporate standard in 2001. Subsequently, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) used the protocol as the basis for its own internationally recognized standard, the Specification with Guidance at the Organiza-tion Level for Quantification and Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Removals (ISO 14064), published in 2006.[10] Carbon footprint measurements that are based on the same standard can easily be compared, either between organizations or within a single establishment over time.

The implementation of such standards is voluntary, however, and some companies choose to set their own boundaries for carbon studies, making the results challenging—if not impossible—to compare. This is the case with most of the publishing-related carbon footprint analyses conducted to date. One reason publishing companies may choose not to follow the GHGP and ISO protocols is that, as generic organizational standards, they don’t take into account the specific issues that arise in particular industries. A print-industry-specific standard for carbon footprint measurement is under development at the ISO (ISO 16759—Quantification and communication for calculating the carbon footprint of print media products) and its publication is expected sometime in 2012.[11] The existence of print-specific measurement guide­lines may encourage more publishers to conduct carbon footprint analyses that adhere to established standards.

Because of the complexity and expense of carbon footprint measurement—given the specialized knowledge required, carbon footprints are usually measured by outside consultants—it is not a process many companies can afford. As a result, no Canadian magazine publisher has undertaken a complete carbon footprint analysis of its operations to date, despite the fact that many publishers are concerned with and have taken action to reduce their environmental impacts. In the U.S., however, a handful of publishing organizations have had both the desire and the means to measure their greenhouse gas emissions during the last decade, and analyzed together these studies can provide a picture of the typical sources of emissions in magazine publishers’ carbon footprints.

 

 

3. MAGAZINE LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENTS

Between 2006 and 2009, a number of American magazine publishers and a pair of publishing organizations decided to invest in the process of carbon footprint analysis to determine the environmental impacts of the publishing process. Most defined the scope and boundaries of their own study independently, so comparing their results isn’t straightforward. However, there are trends among the studies that make it possible to draw general conclusions about the carbon emissions generated by magazine publishing.

 

3.1 Time and InStyle

The first study examined two Time Inc. titles: Time and InStyle magazines. The H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment analyzed them as part of a larger study titled Following the Paper Trail—The Impact of Magazine and Dimensional Lumber Production on Greenhouse Gas Emissions: A Case Study. The study was conducted in 2006, and measured the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the production of both magazines and “dimensional lumber” (lumber cut to standardized dimensions, for instance a 2×4) for sale at Home Depot stores. These products were studied in tandem because wood wastes from the saw mill supplying the Home Depot lumber are used in the pulp that goes into the papers used by Time and InStyle.

The study began its measurement for all three products, with logging operations. The measurement at this first stage was limited to the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the machinery and tools used for logging. Like most publishing studies, no account was made of the lost carbon sequestration capacity of the trees that were cut down. This is an important omission, which will be discussed later in this section.

Following the logging of the timber, a number of areas were identified as causing greenhouse gas emissions in the life cycles of both Time and InStyle. Those sources of emissions were: transportation of wood fibre to pulp and paper mills, transporta­tion of clay (used in coated paper) to the paper mill, production of pulp, production of paper, transportation of paper to printers, printing, distribution of printed maga­zines, and what the study called the “final fate” of the magazines (whether recycling, landfill or incineration).

For the majority of these sources, the cause of greenhouse gas emissions is easy to grasp—the equipment involved (saws, trucks, printing presses) is either powered directly by fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas), or with electricity generated by burn­ing fossil fuels. “Final fate” emissions are more complicated. Some emissions from the final life cycle stage are typical—the trucks used to transport the magazines to the recycling plant, and the plant itself, use energy resulting from fossil fuel combus­tion. For incinerated magazines, there is an additional release of carbon dioxide that occurs when paper is burned. The greatest source of emissions, though, is the paper that winds up in the landfill. When paper and wood products decompose in an anaerobic environment (which is typical in a landfill, since waste is quickly covered with other waste, cutting it off from oxygen), it produces methane gas. Since methane has a global warming potential of more than 20 times carbon dioxide’s, the disposal of magazines in the landfill is a significant source of emissions in a publica­tion’s life cycle.

The final results showed the following breakdown of emissions sources for the two magazines: Production at the pulp and paper mills was the most significant, generating 61% of Time’s emissions and 77% of InStyle’s. Next came “final fate,” which generated 16% and 10% of emissions respectively. This was followed by the distribution of the printed magazines to customers, at 9% and 5%, then transporta­tion of raw materials to the pulp and paper mills, at 8% and 3%. The transport of paper to the printer and printing itself constituted a mere 4% and 2% for each magazine. And last of all, the process of harvesting the wood itself contributed 2% of the emissions for each magazine.[12]

 

3.2 The Green Press Initiative

The next publishing life cycle study did not focus on the magazine industry. However, it is important to consider because it included measurements left out of all the magazine studies. The study in question, Findings from the U.S. Book Industry: Environmental Trends and Climate Impacts was initiated by the Green Press Initiative (GPI) in collaboration with the Book Industry Study Group. The GPI study’s findings are the result of a survey sent in 2007 to 1,000 book industry stakeholders, including publishers, printers, paper manufacturers, retailers and distributors.[13] The study then applied a set of standardized calculations to the data in the survey responses (which were sent back by 13 printers, six paper mills, 76 publishers, eight distributors and three retailers) to come up with the breakdown of carbon emissions within the industry as a whole.

The most significant aspect of the GPI study is that it identifies forest biomass loss as the largest contributor, by far, to the book industry’s carbon footprint. The term “biomass” refers to biological material contained in living, or previously living organisms, such as trees used in paper production. Trees are the most important of the planet’s photosynthesizing allies, with forests responsible for absorbing 67% of the carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere by living organisms.[14]

When trees are cut down, not only is much of the carbon stored in them released into the atmosphere when processing by-products are used for fuel (this form of energy is known as biomass energy, and will come up for discussion later in this report), but the trees’ capacity to absorb further carbon dioxide is eliminated. Even if new trees are planted immediately in logged areas, the carbon storage capacity of those areas is significantly depleted, because new trees absorb far less carbon than old and middle growth stands. In fact, for their first decades, replanted forests emit more carbon than they absorb, according to the Environmental Paper Network.[15] Old growth forests’ carbon storage capacity continues to increase over time, so even once a replanted forest has begun to absorb carbon, the new forest will never reach the absorption levels the existing forest would have attained by the same date.[16]

The GPI’s inclusion of the carbon impacts of biomass removal sets this study apart from the other print industry carbon footprint analyses conducted to date. With biomass loss included in the calculations, the breakdown of emissions sources changes dramatically. From greatest to least, the emissions sources identified in the GPI study were: biomass removal, 44.4% (resulting from the calculation that 61.2% of the carbon impacts came from biomass removal, but 16.8% of those emissions were recovered in the form of carbon stored in books and biomass used for energy production); paper production, 22.4%; distribution of printed books, 12.7%; methane releases from landfilled books, 8.2%; publishers’ emissions (office energy and paper use, business travel, etc.), 6.6%; printing and binding, 4.2%; harvest and transport of fibre to the mill, 1.5%.[17]

Leaving out the biomass removal and other areas not measured in both studies, the findings in the Time Inc. and GPI studies are not drastically different. (The Time Inc. study focused exclusively on production and transportation of physical magazines, so didn’t measure publisher or retailer emissions.) Paper production is the greatest source of emissions, printing, transport and harvest are the three smallest sources, and distribution and “final fate” fall in between, though these two are reversed between the two studies—perhaps unsurprisingly, as magazines do intuitively seem more likely to wind up in the landfill than books.

The importance of the GPI study, though, lies precisely in the 44% of emissions resulting from biomass removal. Given the rest of the study’s consistency with the findings of the Time Inc. analyses, it is reasonable to extrapolate that were biomass removal considered in the magazine studies (from Time Inc. and those to follow), it would amount to an equally significant portion of the emissions generated.

 

3.3 Backpacker

The next carbon footprint study was probably the most exemplary of the magazine studies (though it too neglected to factor in biomass removal). In 2008, Backpacker magazine engaged energy auditor Cooler to conduct a carbon footprint analysis of their entire operation the previous year, including publisher-related emissions like staff commutes and contributor travel.[18] Because no such study had been conducted by a magazine before, Backpacker and Cooler developed their own parameters, making this study challenging to compare with previous and future analyses.

Backpacker’s research uncovered the following breakdown of emissions sources: paper production, 48%; magazine distribution, 26%; staff and writer travel, 9%; printing and production, 8%; ink, 5%; office, 4%.[19] The results, though not exactly comparable, again fall in line with the two previous studies: paper production is the greatest source of emissions, followed by distribution, with printing and publisher emissions near the bottom. This study doesn’t include any measurements of “final fate” emissions, so those can’t be compared. And the inclusion of staff and writer travel at this adventure-focused publication is a divergence from the previous studies.

 

3.4 Discover

The first magazine to take guidance from the Greenhouse Gas Protocol for its carbon footprint measurement was Discover, also in 2008.[20] However, their adoption of the GHGP doesn’t make the results any easier to compare with previous studies, as Discover was the first publication to use the standard. Once again, a different list of emission sources was included in the analysis: biomass removal was omitted; disposal, staff transport, ink, and subscription insert cards were included.

The three most important emissions sources were paper manufacturing (63.8%), “afterlife” (what Time Inc. called “final fate”—18.3%) and printing (5.4%). Distri-bution was divided into transport to subscribers (3.3%) and newsstand distribution (.8%) but taken together as they are in the other studies, they make up the fourth most important source at 4.1%. Logging and lumber transport, as well as the manu-facture and transport of the inserts each contributed about 2%. Transport of paper to printer was 1.4%, and ink, office energy use, and staff transport all factored in at 1% or less. The picture, though once again missing some previously measured sources and including others previously neglected, is familiar: paper is the greatest source of emissions, magazines in landfills cause significant carbon impacts, printing and distribution play a role worth measuring, and all other factors have a minor effect.

 

3.5 National Geographic

The final, and most problematic, magazine carbon footprint analysis was conducted at National Geographic Magazine (NGM), and was published in 2009.[21] Once again, the parameters for the study were established by the magazine and its measurement partner, Harmony Environmental, this time taking guidance from the ISO’s standards for life cycle assessment, as well as the GHGP’s corporate standard.[22] Like the other magazine studies, NGM’s did not include biomass removal. Also like the other studies, paper production was the greatest contributor to NGM’s carbon footprint (at 70%).[23]

But that is where the similarities end. Unlike any of the other print industry studies cited, NGM found that printing contributed significant greenhouse gas emis­sions: 26%. The study notes the discrepancy, and suggests that the reason for the divergence is that a greater number of factors were included in the “printing” figure: “The printing step includes cradle-to-gate GHG emissions for the manufacture of solvents for inks, gravure printing of the magazine pages allocated on the basis of the number of pages printed, and transportation by the printer to magazine drop off sites.”[24] Ink solvent manufacture is not mentioned in any of the other studies, so that may provide a partial explanation for the discrepancy.

Another theory offered by the study’s authors is that the relative percentages of emissions between paper manufacturing and printing are unusual because the energy source for their paper manufacturing is Canadian hydro-electricity, while the printer is powered through an electric grid dependent in large part on fossil fuel combustion.[25] While plausible, this argument loses credence when considering the fact that paper manufacturing’s percentage of emissions is not notably low in the NGM study. At 70%, it’s actually higher than the percentages measured by Discover (63.8%), Time (61%) and Backpacker (48%) and not much lower than InStyle’s 77%. If the printing emissions were disproportionately high because of the difference in energy sources, it is surprising that paper emissions were not disproportionately low for the same reason.

Another anomaly in the NGM study is its treatment of what it calls “end of life management” (equivalent to the “final fate” and “afterlife” emissions in other studies). Whereas the studies that examined their “afterlife” (Backpacker didn’t) found a significant contribution to their footprints from the methane released by decomposing paper, NGM claims a greenhouse gas “credit” for the “afterlife” of its magazines. It should be noted that NGM differs significantly from other magazines in that its subscribers are widely known to archive their issues rather than disposing of them. Surveys conducted by the National Geographic Society show that approxi­mately 60% of copies are archived by consumers.[26] Nonetheless, the study assumes that all copies not archived end up in landfills, so it stands to reason that methane emissions would be attributed to those copies as in the other studies.

Instead, NGM makes the following claim:

Coated magazine paper in landfills sequesters more carbon, measured as carbon dioxide equivalents, than is released by the degradation of the magazine paper (Barlaz et al. 1997). This is because the magazine paper contains a significant portion of groundwood pulp. Groundwood contains lignin, which prevents degradation of the wood pulp in landfills.[27]

This claim contradicts the science supporting all the other carbon footprint studies. Hoping to clarify how this statement could be scientifically supported, I consulted the Barlaz article cited in the quotation above: “Biodegradability of Municipal Solid Waste Components in Laboratory-Scale Landfills” by Morton A. Barlaz et al., published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

However, the Barlaz article makes no reference to coated magazine paper sequester­ing carbon or to the lignin in coated paper preventing it from decomposing. In fact, Barlaz’s study measures the quantity of methane emitted by coated paper as it decomposes within a simulated landfill environment.[28] Even if it is possible that un-degraded coated paper in landfills sequesters more carbon than its decomposing portions release methane (and no scientific studies were found to confirm this claim), that carbon would continue to be sequestered (without methane being released), if the magazines were recycled instead of landfilled. As such, it is disingenuous to attribute a carbon credit to landfilling when it produces more emissions than other methods of magazine disposal, even if all other claims about landfilled coated paper in the NGM study were true.

With paper manufacture and printing taking up a total of 96% of emissions measured, the remaining sources (distribution, pallets and packaging, publisher operations and travel, and “end of life”) were all found to have contributed between -1.7% (the credit for “end of life” management) and 2.5% of the magazine’s carbon footprint.

The final unusual aspect of NGM’s study is that it investigated whether the inclusion of “recycled content” (the study doesn’t specify whether said content would be post- or pre-consumer waste) would have an effect on the magazine’s carbon footprint. Calculations simulated the inclusion of 5% and 10% recycled fibre in the magazine’s paper. According to the study, such changes in the magazine’s fibre makeup would have an “insignificant” effect on the total carbon footprint.[29]

There is, however, a significant problem with this assertion. Like the other magazine studies, NGM’s does not attribute any carbon impacts to the removal of biomass when virgin fibre is sourced from the forest. As such, the reduction in emissions that would be achieved by leaving those trees standing is left out of these calculations. If the carbon impacts of logging had been included in the analysis, the study would undoubtedly have shown reductions in emissions as recycled fibre increased, since the carbon impacts from biomass removal would have decreased. If that reduction remained at an “insignificant” level, it might be appropriate to attribute its insignifi­cance to the fact that the study only measured the change when 5% and 10% of the fibre was switched from virgin to recycled sources. If greater percentages of recycled fibre were considered, the resulting improvements would surely be more evident.

Interestingly, while no such statement is made in the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment article describing the NGM study, the webpage where the magazine describes its results claims that using recycled fibre in magazine paper “would do more harm than good.”[30] This claim is then justified as follows: “before they can be used to make high-quality paper of the type we put in our books and magazines, [recycled] fibers must be cleaned and re-bleached—an expensive process that requires the use of toxic substances that may be both non-biodegradable and extremely harmful to the environment.” The validity of this and other claims about the viability of using recycled paper in magazine production will be assessed in the following section of this paper: Strategies, Challenges, and Controversies.

 

3.6 Findings for the Magazine Industry

As we have seen, the publishing industry carbon footprint studies conducted to date are difficult to compare, as publishers defined the scope and boundaries of their own studies independently. However, even with these differences, trends do emerge, though an effort must be made to ensure that the measurements being compared are as equivalent as possible. Table 1 (on p. 14) is an attempt both to compare the studies, and draw some conclusions about the sources of carbon emissions within the magazine industry.

Since no two studies measured exactly the same emissions sources, the table lists all the categories of emissions studied, and notes are included to explain if and how emissions have been accounted for if a study didn’t provide a specific measurement for that particular source (e.g. some quantified ink-related emissions on their own, others included them in printing emissions). Because the studies have been pre­sented to the public in different forms (the NGM study was published in a scientific journal, the Backpacker and Discover studies were published only as articles directed toward their readers, etc.) it is not always clear whether a particular source of emis­sions was not measured at all, or simply wasn’t mentioned in a document created for public consumption. The table indicates “not measured” for those sources that clearly were not studied, but “not mentioned” for sources that seem likely to have been measured given the study’s methodology, but for which a specific number was not provided (for instance if a percentage was provided for transport of fibre to the mill, but not transport of paper to the printer). In the instances when a study measured a source that was not mentioned by any of the other studies, that mea­surement was folded into the source other studies would most likely have included it under. This too is noted in the table (for instance Discover’s measurement of emissions connected to their insert cards).

The table also includes a column for average values. However, given the many differences among the studies, it was not possible simply to calculate the mean percentage from each row. The first step to enabling a comparison between all the studies was to recalculate the results of the GPI study as if biomass removal had not been a factor. While the reality of carbon measurement suggests that the opposite approach is more accurate (i.e. biomass removal should be factored into the other studies, rather than factored out of the GPI study), the fact that only one study has measured the carbon impacts of logging means it is not yet possible to estimate what a realistic percentage of carbon emissions from biomass removal would be. It is the percentages from this recalculated column (not the original numbers from the study—indicated with the light grey background) that were used in calculating the average percentages in the table.

The next step was to ensure that numbers being averaged were as equivalent as possible. Since percentages bundled together in any one study (say ink and printing emissions) can’t be separated out, the averages had to combine those emissions sources across all studies. As a result, Transport to Mill emissions have been included in Harvest emissions, Staff Travel was included in Publisher emissions, and Ink and Transport to Printer were both included in Printing emissions.

The final step to coming up with comparable emissions numbers turned out to be excluding the NGM study. The study used such different methodology from the others—as evidenced by the end of life credit assigned to landfilled magazines and the disproportionately high percentage of emissions attributed to printing—that including it in the calculations would likely obscure any trends that could be detec-ted among the other studies. Additionally, NGM’s decision to combine sources of emissions in a quite different manner from the other studies (Transport to Mill and Transport to Printer are both included in Paper Milling emissions, when other studies either separate them out or include them with Harvest and Printing emis­sions, respectively) would make the numbers impossible to compare even if the methodologies behind them were similar. To draw any conclusions at all about the data, it was necessary to leave NGM out of the average calculations. Those results are therefore also displayed with a light grey background.

Two additional mathematical steps were taken to reach final average numbers. If a study simply didn’t measure or mention a particular emissions source, it was left out of the average calculation. For instance, the percentage derived from logging was calculated only with figures from Time, InStyle, GPI and Discover, since the Backpacker study did not include it. As a result of each average being based on dif­ferent combinations of magazines, the average percentages as first calculated added up to 107.7%, instead of 100%. They were thus adjusted so that the total of all the averages would equal 100%.

 

Table 1: Summary of Print Industry Carbon Footprint Study Findings, with Averages

(Columns with light grey backgrounds were not included in calculating averages.)


It would be unreasonable to adopt these averages as any kind of definitive description of the sources of carbon emissions in the magazine industry, but the trends are certainly instructive. As seen throughout the studies, paper production is the greatest source of emissions (when biomass removal is discounted, as in Table 1), at 54.2%. Next is disposal (called variously “final fate”, “end of life” and “afterlife” in the studies) at 13.7%, followed closely behind by distribution, at 12.4%. Printing, publisher emissions and harvest all come in below 10%.

Since it would be a more accurate reflection of real-world emissions to include biomass removal when calculating the averages, Table 2 presents an example of what the industry-wide averages might be, were biomass removal included. As only the GPI study has measured this emission source so far, it is impossible to know for certain how it might play out in the magazine industry. For the purpose of comparison, I have assigned a figure of 40% (slightly more conservative than the GPI’s 44.4%) for the carbon impacts of biomass removal. The resulting hypothetical percentages are included in Table 2.

 

Table 2: Hypothetical Magazine Industry Carbon Emissions Percentages with Biomass Removal Included

(The adjusted averages excluding biomass and GPI study results from Table 1 are included for comparison)

It is clear from the results displayed in both tables that the majority of carbon emissions in the production and disposal of magazines result from paper manufacturing, whether or not biomass removal is considered. However, since some of the other emissions sources may be easier to address, they are worth including in any plan to reduce a magazine’s carbon footprint.

As a result of their carbon footprint measurement activities, many of the magazines discussed above undertook various actions to reduce their carbon footprints. The next section of this report will examine the strategies employed by these magazines, as well as other potentially helpful ways to approach carbon reduction, the challenges presented by some of these strategies, and the controversies surrounding others.

 

4. STRATEGIES, CHALLENGES, AND CONTROVERSIES

4.1 Certified Paper

In its 2009-2010 Sustainability Report, Time Inc. identified purchasing paper from certified sources as one of the pillars of the company’s sustainability strategy.[31] Forestry certification schemes arose in the 1990s as a tool that would enable con-sumers (whether corporate or individual) to better understand where their wood products came from. The first forest certification scheme was the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), founded in Toronto in 1993.[32] In the following years, a number of other certification systems with comparable objectives have arisen: the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) in 1994,[33] the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Sustainable Forest Management System in 1996,[34] and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) in 1999.[35]

Since FSC certification is the system with the most support from environmental organizations,[36] it will serve as the example for explaining how forestry certification works. The FSC creates forest management standards for forestry activities around the world according to a single set of guiding principles, which includes: compliance with local laws, clearly defined land tenure and land use rights, respect for indigenous peoples’ and workers’ rights, positive community relations, biological diversity, protection of endangered species and high conservation value forests, maintenance of ecosystems, the creation of management plans, and proper plantation management.[37] For example, there are currently three accredited FSC management standards in Canada: the National Boreal Standard, the B.C. Standard, and the Maritimes Standard.[38] Once a management standard has been accredited, forestry practitioners can apply for a particular forest in which they operate to be certified by a designated third-party FSC certifier.

In order to guarantee that forestry products originating from a certified forest are not contaminated with non-certified wood once the trees have been cut down, the FSC has also implemented a program of Chain of Custody (CoC) certification. For a product (whether paper or lumber) to bear the FSC logo, the FSC-certified fibre from which it was manufactured must at all times remain in the possession of companies that have received FSC’s CoC certification. The logo can be applied to products manufactured from wood harvested in FSC-certified tenures as well as those manufactured from recycled post-consumer-waste (PCW) paper fibre that has remained in the possession of a certified Chain of Custody (and thus is verifiably recycled).

Not only does the CoC certification reassure customers that products bearing the FSC label truly are manufactured from certified forestry (or recycling) activities, but the record of a forestry product’s journey that is created through CoC certification makes it possible for paper purchasers to reliably track the fibre in their paper back to its source. For instance, a publisher could measure the distance their paper has been transported throughout its life or assess whether the forest it came from had a high carbon storage capacity.

Clearly the work of the FSC is a positive addition to the forestry landscape, and Time Inc.’s stated goal of having 80% of its paper come from certified sources is a laudable one.[39] The fact that CoC certification makes it significantly easier for paper purchasers to determine the distances timber, pulp, and paper travel before they reach the printer certainly makes certification a boon for publishers looking to reduce their carbon footprint.

That said, there is a limit to certification schemes’ ability to help reduce carbon footprints. Not all forests sequester carbon at the same rate. Intact old growth forests store carbon at a far higher rate than young, middle growth or plantation forests. In particular, the Boreal forest in both Canada and Russia, temperate rainforests in British Columbia, Alaska, and Chile, and intact tropical rainforests in Indonesia and the Amazon have a significant carbon storage capacity that simply cannot be replaced if they are logged.[40] While certification schemes like FSC may refuse to certify the logging of some parts of those forests if it would violate any of the principles of the relevant forest management standard, any logging operations that met all the criteria within these regions could be certified, despite the more significant climate impacts of logging these forests. For instance, significant areas of British Columbia temperate rainforest, and Boreal forest[41] in Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec are currently FSC-certified.[42] It is clear that while FSC certification is a positive step toward environmental and human rights protections in the forestry industry, it is not the end of the story when it comes to carbon footprint reduction.

Although not strictly a certification scheme, another program for identifying environ-mentally preferable paper is worth including in this discussion. The Ancient Forest Friendly (AFF) designation is assigned by Canopy (the environmental advocacy organization formerly known as Markets Initiative) to papers that are chlorine-free and contain a minimum of 50% PCW fibre, and whose other fibres are either pre-consumer recycled, agricultural residue, or virgin fibre from sources that fall outside the criteria for three different definitions of “ancient” forests: high conservation value forests, endangered forests and large intact forest landscapes.[43]

To date, no papers containing virgin fibre meet all the AFF standards, so for now, all AFF papers contain only recycled or agricultural residue fibre. As such, the AFF designated papers currently on the market are some of the lowest-carbon options available. While its standards are certainly more rigorous than any certification scheme’s, and the focus on preserving “ancient” forests ought to exclude many high carbon value forests, none of the AFF guidelines explicitly protect them either. There is thus still no designation on the market that specifically excludes fibre extracted from the forests that store the most carbon per square kilometre.

 

4.2 Low-Carbon Paper Production

Another strategy highlighted by Time Inc. in its 2009-2010 Sustainability Report is the adoption of renewable energy sources in the paper manufacturing process. Given that paper manufacturing is the greatest source of emissions identified in all the magazine studies (and comes second only to biomass removal in the GPI study), this is an excellent strategy for reducing magazines’ carbon footprints. Because of its enormous purchasing power (Time Inc. buys paper from four major suppliers to print its 21 magazine titles), the company is in a position to influence its suppliers to reduce their emissions. After conducting the life cycle assessments for Time and InStyle, Time Inc. gave its paper suppliers a choice of three different carbon reduction targets, one of which they had to meet by 2012.[44] While this may not be possible for publishers on a smaller scale, they can at least seek out paper manufacturers that make use of low-carbon energy sources to power their mills.

Forms of low-carbon energy that can help paper manufacturers lower their emissions include: hydro-electricity, solar power, wind power, geothermal energy, wave or tidal energy, combined heat and power (CHP—also known as cogeneration—which is heat energy generated by power stations), and biogas (gas generated by waste decomposing in landfills). An example of a mill powered by renewable energy is Cascades’ Rolland Mill in Quebec. Not only does Cascades produce papers that all contain at least 50% PCW recycled fibre (with six of their nine product lines featuring 100% post-consumer fibre), but it uses hydroelectricity combined with biogas piped in from a landfill 13 kilometres away to manufacture all of its papers.[45] Another paper manufacturer that makes use of renewable energy is New Leaf Paper, which purchases renewable energy credits that inject electricity from wind power and other sources into the electrical grid to make up for non-renewable sources used in its mills.[46]

One challenge facing publishers seeking low-carbon fuels is the paper industry’s use of inappropriate terms to describe biomass energy. Biomass energy is derived from burning wood and wood by-products—including bark, wood chips, and “black liquor” (a combustible by-product of the “kraft” method of manufacturing wood pulp, which uses chemicals instead of a mechanical process). It is common for paper manufacturers and other users of biomass energy to refer to it as “renewable” and “carbon neutral.” Both of these claims, however, are misleading.

According to National Resources Canada (NRCan), renewable energy “is energy obtained from natural resources that can be naturally replenished or renewed within a human lifespan, that is, the resource is a sustainable source of energy.”[47] While it is of course true that logged trees can be replaced with new plantations, the same quantity of fibre will not grow back within a human lifespan if the forest was itself more than a human lifespan old. As the NRCan website states, biomass “is a renewable resource only if its rate of consumption does not exceed its rate of regeneration.”[48] Given these two facts, it can safely be stated that not all biomass energy would qualify as renewable in a meaningful sense. This is important because paper mills will often describe their energy source only as “renewable” up front, and require further investigation on the part of customers to determine what the nature of that “renewable” energy is.

The term “carbon neutral” generally refers to the idea that the greenhouse gas emissions of a process, organization, or individual can be “neutralized,” usually through a combination of emissions reductions and carbon offset purchases. When used in reference to energy, it is intended to indicate that no greenhouse gases are emitted by the energy source. Examples of carbon neutral energy sources (which, incidentally, are also renewable according to the NRCan definition) are: wind power, solar power, geothermal energy, and wave energy.

The problem with claiming that biomass energy is “carbon neutral” is, simply, that it’s not. Burning wood and wood by-products does release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.[49] It seems biomass energy users have decided that energy derived from trees is “carbon neutral” because it replaces the burning of fossil fuels. While avoiding fossil fuels is always a step in the right direction, that step does not in and of itself guarantee “carbon neutrality.”

This is not to say that paper mills ought not to make use of any biomass as an energy source. “Reuse” is the second of the environmentalist’s “three Rs,” and the transformation of pulping wastes and by-products into energy is certainly preferable to dumping those wastes somewhere where they would either decompose and release methane (in the case of wood chips) or pollute water courses (in the case of black liquor).

All of that said, the first of the “three Rs” is “Reduce”, and while making energy from mill by-products makes some environmental sense, the industry’s long-term goal should be to minimize the creation of those by-products so that an increasing amount of energy can be obtained instead from non-greenhouse-gas-emitting sources. And certainly, purchasing additional biomass that isn’t a mill by-product in order to burn it for fuel—something mills must certainly feel justified in doing having termed biomass energy “carbon neutral”—is very much a step away from emissions reduction.

Given the carbon impacts of biomass energy and the tendency to gloss over them within the paper industry, magazine publishers concerned about their carbon footprint should be wary of any claims of “carbon neutral” or unspecified “renewable” energy used in paper manufacturing, and if possible favour papers known to be manufactured with truly renewable power sources like biogas and wind energy.

 

4.3 Recycled Paper

Since the Green Press Initiative study found that publishing’s greatest carbon impact is caused by the removal of biomass through logging, it follows that the best way to mitigate the environmental impact of magazines would be to print on paper made from 100% recycled post-consumer-waste fibre. Unfortunately, it is a solution much easier to propose than to enact.

Paper manufacturers have been recyclers for years, long before it was something that concerned the general public. Initially, they were not recycling paper that had been used and thrown away. Like biomass energy, recycling was a way of keeping mill by-products out of the landfill: offcuts and any other paper waste from the milling process would be re-pulped and made into new paper. When paper is specified as made from recycled—but not PCW—fibre, the source of that fibre is the same paper mill waste that has always been re-pulped. The importance of post-consumer-waste fibre is that it keeps used paper out of the landfill, and prevents more trees from being cut down.

While it is easy to say that magazines should switch to 100% PCW fibre papers, it isn’t actually easy for them to do. It’s true that there has been a massive increase in the quality, availability and affordability of 100% PCW uncoated fine papers in the last decade. “The paper quality of uncoated papers in 100% post-consumer recycled is great,” Eric Kouwenhoven, an account manager with Vancouver’s Hemlock printers said in an interview. “I would use the 100% ‘post’ over virgin any day. There’s no limitation in terms of quality there anymore.”[50]

However, the vast majority of magazines are printed on coated paper. A survey of a portion of the magazine rack at Vancouver’s Chapters store at Granville and Broadway revealed the extent of the preference for coated stock. On February 28, 2012, a total of 336 magazines were examined (out of approximately 1500 different titles on display). Of those 336—which covered a wide range of subjects: celebrity, current affairs, travel, film, fashion, wristwatch design, and women’s, men’s, and gay lifestyle—only 16 (or less than 5%) were found to use some uncoated paper in their production. Only nine used uncoated paper throughout, and four of those were printed on newsprint, not fine paper. Of the 16 using some uncoated stock, the only widely recognized consumer magazine was Spin, which used uncoated paper for its cover and some back-of-book signatures, but incorporated glossy coated stock for the valuable ad inventory in the front of the book.

Coated paper made from 100% PCW fibre is almost unheard of in North America. The closest readily available option is the 100% PCW Rolland Enviro100 Satin sheet produced by Cascades, which their website describes as a “hybrid between coated and uncoated paper.”[51] New Leaf Paper out of San Francisco sells two 100% PCW coated stocks, Revival Bright and Cyclus Print, but they are only available on a made-to-order basis, and must be ordered by the full truckload. And that is the complete list of 100% PCW coated fine papers made in North America.

There are a number of explanations for this scarcity. The first is connected to fibre supply: not all papers can be recycled after use (think household products like paper towel), and not all paper that can be recycled is. According to the Environmental Paper Network’s 2011 State of the Paper Industry report, paper is only recovered for recycling at a rate of around 65% in North America (63% in the U.S., 66% in Canada).[52] Unless North American paper consumption were to decrease by about 40% per year (the current rate of paper use reduction is about 8%),[53] it would be impossible to produce all papers from 100% PCW fibre—some paper would still need to contain virgin fibre. (Additionally, when rates of paper recovery do increase, it can have an adverse effect on the quality of PCW fibre available for paper manufacturing. Brian Kozlowski, director of sustainable development at North America’s largest coated paper manufacturer, NewPage, pointed out in a telephone interview: “When you improve your recovery rate, you are collecting lower quality papers that are more contaminated [for instance with oil or food]. Paper is more contaminated than it’s ever been.”)[54]

Second, fibres lose strength each time they are re-used,[55] another reason why virgin fibre will probably always be incorporated into the paper manufacturing process to some degree. There are paper manufacturers who argue that as a result of this reduction in strength, it is impractical to manufacture coated paper (which typically contains 20-40% clay and 60-80% fibre) with recycled fibre, as it would no longer be strong enough to run on offset presses.[56] NewPage’s Kozlowski believes there are risks to producing paper with more than 30% PCW fibre (the highest percentage of PCW fibre in any NewPage product). “Customers would have to sacrifice quality and compromise functionality, the look, and the feel,” he said. “You’re going to lose brightness, you’re going to lose strength. There would be a quality loss.”

Michelle Thornton of New Leaf Paper—the makers of the only two 100% PCW coated papers manufactured in North America—says those “taboos” about recycled fibre simply aren’t true: “We’ve found that we can make a sheet that’s just as bright as its virgin fibre counterparts, that runs just as well, that prints just as well, and that can stay true to being green and helping the environment.”[57] From New Leaf’s perspective, all of the explanations for why more fine papers don’t have higher PCW content are just excuses.

Both the lack of sufficient fibre and reduction in strength with recycling are well documented and agreed upon by paper industry stakeholders (though, as we have seen, there are still disagreements about the ramifications of these facts). There are, however, other explanations for the lack of quality coated papers made from PCW fibre that are more controversial. Time Inc.’s 2009-2010 Sustainability Report, contains the following statement:

Recovered paper used in products like corrugated boxes, brown paper grocery bags and newsprint requires much less re-processing than recovered content needed for whiter, higher-quality magazine papers. Less processing means less fossil-fuel energy consumption, less solid waste generation and lower production costs. Using reco-vered content in magazine paper would divert a valuable resource from other uses that are better for the environment and better for the bottom line.[58]

These and similar statements (like the NGM assertion that recycled paper “does more harm than good”) have provoked the ire of environmental paper manufacturers like New Leaf. In a blog post subtitled “Virgin Paper Manufacturers Confuse Paper Buyers with Misleading Comparisons of the Environmental Impacts of Virgin Paper vs. Recycled Paper,” New Leaf president Jeff Mendelsohn writes:

To be clear—making fine paper from waste paper is a more efficient process than making paper from trees, using less energy, less water, creating less effluent, and generating fewer greenhouse gas emissions. These facts are supported by the most comprehensive, independent, scientific lifecycle analysis of the impacts of paper manufacturing, the paper task force final report.[59]

At first this quote might seem the obvious response of a business owner whose livelihood depends on recycled paper, but it is actually borne out by research. The Paper Task Force was a collaboration between the Environmental Defense Fund, Time Inc., Prudential Insurance, Duke University, McDonald’s, and Johnson & Johnson, which convened in the early ‘90s and published its findings after two years worth of research in 1995.[60] The Task Force studied the entire life cycles—from fibre procurement to disposal—of a number of kinds of paper, including office paper (which uses high-quality, bright white fibre equivalent to publishing paper’s). Environmental impacts examined included energy use and sources, water usage, polluting effluents and solid waste production.

The Task Force’s final report is 248 pages long, not counting the 16 detailed technical white papers that accompany it, but the most important two sentences relating to fine paper production are these (emphasis from the original):

The lifecycle comparison of virgin and recycled office paper systems developed by the Task Force examined a total of 16 parameters, including total and purchased energy, eight categories of pollutant releases to air and four to water, and quantities of effluent and solid waste. Ton-for-ton, 100% recycled paper made from deinked used office paper is preferable (for most parameters) or comparable (for three parameters) to 100% virgin paper.[61]

The only parameters where recycled paper’s impacts exceeded virgin paper’s were purchased energy and fossil fuel energy, both of which were used in greater amounts in recycling processes because of the lack of self-generated biomass energy used in virgin pulp and paper plants. Total energy used by virgin processes, however, was almost twice the total energy required by recycled paper processes.[62]

While many paper manufacturers and purchasers have made claims about the negative environmental impacts of recycled paper, none have yet produced research that actually refutes the findings of the Paper Task Force. Still, the relative lack of availability of 100% PCW coated papers does mean magazines are hard-pressed to print on them. The options for now include switching to an uncoated or hybrid stock, using an available coated paper with the highest possible PCW content (New Leaf has 60% PCW magazine papers that don’t require a custom order), special ordering large quantities of a made-to-order stock, or looking overseas for paper (which could introduce massive transport-related emissions to a publisher’s carbon footprint, depending on the means of transport and distance traveled). For the long term, the best hope for high PCW-content coated papers is for major paper purchasers to put pressure on their suppliers to up the recycled fibre content of their products.

 

4.4 Other Paper Strategies

While increasing PCW fibre content and using certified and/or low-carbon paper are the most discussed ways to reduce the climate impacts of publishing, there are other paper-related strategies available too. Backpacker, for instance, reduced the basis weight of its stock (already 10% recycled), thereby lowering its annual paper use by over 150,000 pounds.[63] The magazine also moved all of its regional pages online, a strategy whose complicated impacts will be discussed below. Additional paper-reduction strategies could include optimizing a magazine’s trim size to limit the amount of waste, or reducing the number of pages per issue.

Another aspect of publishing operations with major potential for paper use reduction (or modification) is direct mail marketing. According to Industry Canada, approximately 13 billion pieces of direct mail are delivered in Canada each year[64] —and a significant proportion of that that volume consists of subscriber recruitment and retention pieces sent out by magazine publishers. (In the U.S., advertising mail volumes hit 84.7 billion pieces in 2011.)[65] Direct mail wasn’t specifically examined by any of the magazine publishing studies (though some may have included it in their Publisher emissions category), so it’s impossible to estimate what percentage of publishers’ emissions comes from direct mail.

Given the quantity of paper involved, though, and the high contribution to emissions of biomass removal and paper production, it is reasonable to assume that direct mail sent on virgin paper, if measured, would contribute significantly to publishers’ carbon footprints. Given the continuing belief among marketers that direct mail is an effective[66] —in some views necessary—tool for the magazine industry, it is unlikely that publishers will dispense with it in the near future. However, efforts could certainly be made both to decrease the quantity of virgin fibre used in magazine marketing (through a com-bination of switching to recycled fibre and reducing mail volumes through more efficient campaigns) and to invest in marketing methods not dependent on paper.

 

4.5 Public Education

A percentage of all papers that could be recycled in North America still end up in a landfill or incinerator. Obviously, publishers are not in a position to oblige their readers to recycle magazines after reading. But, as content creators and branding professionals, they are in a position to effectively encourage eco-friendly behaviour.

Time Inc., for example, has participated in two recycling promotions: ReMIX (REcycling Magazines Is eXcellent)—a public education campaign conducted in New York and four other American cities—and Please Recycle This Magazine, a campaign that includes recycling messages in magazines themselves.[67] Similarly, both Backpacker and Discover published the results of their carbon footprint analyses in their magazines to help readers understand the sources of the magazine’s emissions, and encourage them to reduce the part of the footprint they have control over. Like their American counterparts, Canadian magazines have the opportunity to promote recycling to their readers. One way is to participate in Magazines Canada’s “Read. Share. Recycle” program, which provides member magazines with logos and full-page ads encouraging recycling.[68]

 

4.6 Reducing Print Runs

Reducing print runs is a strategy that is rarely discussed by magazines looking to reduce their environmental impact, but which could quickly bring about a massive improvement. In 2011, the typical North American magazine averaged a newsstand sell-through rate of 33%.[69] While there are arguments to be made that a sell-through rate approaching 100% would not only be impossible, but also undesirable (it would mean somewhere copies were unavailable where they could have been sold), there is surely a middle ground between 33% and 100% that could maximize newsstand exposure while minimizing the waste inherent in a system in which all unsold magazines are sent straight to the recycling depot. There is a significant opportunity for greater efficiency to be introduced into the magazine supply chain to reduce the quantity of paper waste (and related carbon impacts) it creates.

 

4.7 Low-Carbon Printing

Just as the carbon impacts of paper manufacturing can be reduced by employing renewable, non-carbon emitting energy sources at pulp and paper mills, the emissions from printing can be reduced with the help of sustainable energy and efficiency measures. Hemlock, for example, has worked with the company Offsetters to document their sources of emissions, reduce them as much as possible, and then purchase offsets to make up for those that can’t be eliminated.[70] In addition, they offer clients the opportunity to offset the emissions caused by their own print jobs.[71] And, as a result of being powered through British Columbia’s electrical grid, their electricity comes primarily from non-emitting hydro power.

 

4.8 Sustainable Transportation Methods

The transportation of raw materials, paper, and printed magazines are all significant contributors to magazines’ carbon footprints, so switching to lower emitting forms of transportation could significantly reduce publishing carbon footprints. Shipping has been estimated to produce only 5-10% of the emissions of trucking freight the equivalent distance, and rail produces about 15% of road transport’s emissions.[72] Obviously neither of these means of transportation is available for all the transport required for the production and distribution of printed magazines, but it would certainly behoove publishers to inquire about the means of transport used at each stage, give preference to paper manufacturers and printers that make use of transport by ship and rail, and pressure their suppliers to make use of the lower-emitting forms of transport whenever possible.

If it’s not possible for a publisher to influence the way a magazine and its paper travels those larger distances, there are still things that can be done about shorter distances. Hemlock, for instance, started making smaller deliveries within Vancouver by hybrid vehicle shortly before Kouwenhoven was interviewed for this report. Smaller magazines with primarily local distribution could easily encourage their printer to adopt a similar strategy, or even employ a cycle-based delivery system like Vancouver’s Shift Urban Cargo.[73]

 

4.9 Office and Travel Strategies

Both Backpacker and National Geographic have identified a litany of ways to reduce carbon emissions within their offices and among their staff. After its footprint measure-ment exercise, Backpacker set a goal of converting its headquarters to a “zero-waste facility,” in which all office waste would be either recycled or composted.[74] Since contributor travel was considered a necessary evil of their subject matter, office staff committed to collectively walk, bike or take transit 25,000 miles over the course of 2008. Other changes included adopting energy efficient bulbs, adjusting thermostat settings, switching to 100% recycled office paper and developing a workflow that minimizes paper use. To date, no subsequent updates have been published to indi-cate whether their zero-waste or commuting goals have been reached.

The National Geographic Society as a whole has adopted a number of environmental initiatives at their headquarters in Washington, D.C. Energy savings were found by eliminating unnecessary lighting, installing energy efficient bulbs, putting lights on motion sensor switches, setting thermostats lower in winter and higher in summer, closing the office for ten Fridays every year and shutting down boilers during off hours.[75] Headquarters keeps 60% of its waste out of landfills with extensive composting and recycling programs, and the organization promotes carpools, tele-commuting and public transit commuting among employees. Society staff are encouraged to keep printing to a minimum, and to print on 30% PCW paper if necessary.[76]

Even though office and contributor emissions are typically one of the smaller sources of a magazine carbon footprint, reducing them is often the low-hanging fruit of emissions reduction. There are many small steps that can be taken around an office to reduce its greenhouse gas output. Additionally, if an office is located in an area whose electrical grid doesn’t source power from non-emitting sources, one of the best options is to invest in renewable energy through a program like that offered by Bullfrog Power. This Canadian company produces energy from renewable sources, and customers pay a premium to have the quantity of energy they purchase monthly from their local utility injected into the grid from Bullfrog Power’s generators.[77]

 

4.10 Offsets

The last major strategy that publishers can consider adopting is purchasing carbon offsets. The reason this strategy should come last is that it is preferable to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible before attempting to compensate for what remains. “Reduce” is, after all, the first of the environmentalist’s “three Rs.”

The David Suzuki Foundation defines carbon offsets as “credit for greenhouse gas reductions achieved by one party that can be purchased and used to compensate (offset) the emissions of another party.”[78] Examples include investing in non-emitting energy sources, energy efficiency improvements, and carbon sequestration projects. Backpacker and the National Geographic Society both included ongoing offset purchases among their carbon footprint reduction efforts.

Like Backpacker, Discover claimed to undertake their carbon footprint measurement process as a first step toward making their operations more environmentally friendly. After the study, Discover purchased $4,796 worth of carbon offsets from the organization Carbonfund.org, enough to compensate for the emissions produced by the issue in which the carbon measurement information was published.[79] It is not clear, however, whether Discover has gone on to purchase any additional offsets, or undertake further carbon reduction activities, as they have never published an update to their original report.

One additional factor is worth mentioning regarding Discover’s offset purchase, which funded both renewable energy projects and tree planting. While tree planting in and of itself is valuable, and can certainly contribute to reducing the greenhouse effect, it is problematic as a form of carbon offset.[80] Among the reasons the David Suzuki Foundation does not recommend tree planting as an offset is the fact that tree plantations are not permanent, and their potential to succumb to disease or fire (or logging) means that all the carbon they sequester initially could be emitted into the atmosphere in future. Another is a lack of land—there isn’t enough space for the number of trees needed to compensate for the quantity of greenhouse gases humans will emit in coming years. Most importantly, tree planting does not contribute to reducing humans’ dependence on fossil fuels. By putting offset dollars into projects geared towards reducing fossil fuel use (like all Gold Standard certified offsets),[81] companies can contribute to long-term solutions to the climate change crisis, instead of short-term “band-aid” fixes.

 

 

5. CANADIAN CASE STUDIES

Having summarized the research undertaken and carbon reduction strategies adop-ted by a number of American magazines, this report will now focus on actions being taken by Canadian publications. No Canadian publisher to date has invested in a carbon footprint measurement project of its own, but that hasn’t stopped publishers north of the border from taking steps to reduce their contributions to climate change. The following case studies were compiled from a combination of publicly available documents and interviews conducted expressly for this report, and cover carbon footprint reduction strategies adopted by Canadian publishers large and small.

 

5.1 Alternatives Journal

Canada’s oldest environmentalist magazine, Alternatives Journal was founded in 1971.[82] The publication is a hybrid consumer magazine and scholarly journal published bi-monthly by the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of the Environment. Given its subject matter, environmental practices have always been central to the magazine’s operations. Marcia Ruby, Alternatives’ production co-ordinator, described those practices in a telephone interview.

The magazine has been printed on paper containing recycled content for two decades. Initially, Alternatives applied for and received a grant of $20,000 to help pay for the then-expensive paper. After that first grant, their paper has always contained some recycled content. Since mid-2011, the magazine’s interior has been printed on Cascades’ 100% PCW Rolland Enviro100 Satin sheet, the hybrid paper previously discussed (p.15). The cover is currently printed on an FSC-certified, 30% PCW glossy coated stock. Ruby says she has experimented with cover stock with more recycled content, but has yet to find one that prints images in a way that they still “jump out on the newsstand.”[83]

One of the considerations Ruby says Alternatives has always weighed in its paper choices is where the paper comes from.

There started to be 100% recycled paper available at a price point that we probably could have gone for, but it wasn’t domestic. So then you have to weigh ‘whether ‘tis nobler’ to buy 100% recycled from across the sea, or to buy domestic paper. North America would be the second choice, and the first choice was Canadian… It became really important to me to keep our dollar in Canada.

Another area where Alternatives has tried to make improvements is newsstand waste. In the past the magazine tried to have retailers and distributors send unsold copies to Alternatives’ office rather than recycle them, but Ruby says she hasn’t been able to arrange those kinds of returns since a small American distributor she worked with went out of business. Still, the magazine has been reducing draws where appropriate so that not too many copies are sent straight to recycling. Alternatives has also attempted to limit paper waste by eliminating direct mail campaigns from its promotional activities, but to date has found it impossible to do so without losing subscribers. “Direct mail is still the necessary evil,” says Ruby.

Within the office itself, emissions are reduced through telecommuting (the editor is only present physically two days a week), printing double-sided, walking and biking to work, and purchasing Bullfrog Power. Alternatives also benefits from being part of the Faculty of the Environment, where eco-friendly practices are an institutional priority, taking some of the burden off the magazine staff’s shoulders. “Our office is in a place where it’s somebody else’s business to be handling that,” says Ruby. “We’re in a nice little island.”

Last but not least, the magazine is in the business of teaching people about making their own lives greener. Says Ruby: “I think the very act of us informing people should count for something.”

 

5.2 The Ark

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) publishes three issues of The Ark each year. The magazine serves as the organization’s newsletter for members, and features lush wildlife photography alongside updates on the NCC’s work. In a telephone interview, editor Christine Beevis shared some of the eco-friendly practices at this conservation-minded publication.

Like Alternatives, The Ark is printed on Cascades’ Rolland Enviro100 Satin, and has been since 2006. The magazine is printed by Warren’s Waterless Printing, which, in addition to its unique waterless technology, uses Bullfrog Power to run its operations, reducing carbon emissions from the printing process.[84] The NCC’s main Ontario office is also Bullfrog powered, as is Beevis’ home, from which she telecommutes some days every week. (Beevis is based in the Nova Scotia office, a donated space, so Bullfrog energy isn’t purchased there.) To reduce the impact of working so far from the NCC’s national headquarters, Beevis has as many meetings as possible through online conference calls, and proofs are sent back and forth as PDFs, rather than printed and couriered. Other simple office practices include double-sided printing, printing on scrap paper, and an active recycling program.

In future, The Ark is considering moving in a more digital direction as a carbon reduction strategy. The NCC’s annual report is already exclusively online. Says Beevis, “The move to digital is really something we’re investigating quite strongly.”[85]

 

5.3 Corporate Knights

Tagged “the magazine for clean capitalism,” Corporate Knights was founded in 2002, and is distributed quarterly along with copies of The Globe and Mail in Canada, and the Washington Post in the U.S.[86] It is also sold on the newsstand, but single copy sales form only a tiny percentage of the magazine’s circulation. Co-founder, publisher and CEO Toby Heaps discussed the company’s carbon reduction efforts in a telephone interview.

Five years ago, Heaps says Corporate Knights made the decision to “reflect our mission in our medium”[87] by printing on eco-friendly paper. Its cover stock is now one of the ubiquitous-seeming Rolland Enviro100 sheets, and inside pages are printed on an FSC-certified stock manufactured by Catalyst, which claims its manufacturing practices are “carbon neutral” in part thanks investing in reforestation carbon offset programs.[88]

Beyond paper and printing, the magazine also ships its printed copies by train when timing allows (tight timelines occasionally get in the way). Around the office, they’ve reduced heating and cooling energy use (employees wear sweaters in the winter) and installed a bike rack for cyclists (none of the 15 or so staffers drive to work). Corporate Knights also obtains carbon offsets and Bullfrog Power for all events they run. Next up on their eco-checklist: convincing the magazine’s landlord to install solar panels on the roof of their office building, and investing more in digital offerings.

 

5.4 Cottage Life

Cottage Life has been recognized numerous times for its eco-friendly printing practices, including a pair of Aveda Environmental Printing Awards in 2007 and 2009.[89] The magazine is printed on FSC-certified Ancient Forest Friendly paper produced by Leipa in Germany,[90] which contains between 85% and 100% PCW fibre for inside pages, and 30% PCW fibre for the cover.

Beyond making low-carbon paper choices, the magazine has lowered office and staff emissions through a number of emission-reduction practices, including: programmable thermostats; secure bike lock-up and showers for cyclists; compact fluorescent lightbulbs; double-sided printing; and replacing paper filing with digital filing. The magazine also promotes its (and others’) environmental endeavours by giving out an annual Environment Grant and spreading the word on a web page called “Cottage Life Helps Out.”

 

5.5 Rogers Publishing

In 2007, Canada’s largest magazine publisher, Rogers Publishing, created a Magazine Paper Procurement Policy, which can be viewed on the company’s website.[91] The publisher behind Maclean’s, Chatelaine, Today’s Parent, and MoneySense (among many others) committed to purchasing all its paper from suppliers with chain-of-custody certification from CSA, SFI or FSC—with preference for FSC-certified papers if possible. Rogers also claimed it would “strive” to increase the average PCW content of its magazine papers from 10% to 15% by 2009. In addition, the company said it would “aim to reduce paper waste, promote paper recycling, promote manufacturing advances in fibre efficiency, and where possible, use lighter weight paper.” Despite a stated goal of annually reviewing the policy and providing updates, none have been published since the policy was posted online in 2007, so it is unclear how successful Rogers has been in its carbon reduction efforts.

 

5.6 St. Joseph Communications

St. Joseph is both a publisher of magazines in its own right—including Toronto Life, Quill & Quire, and Fashion—and operates printing facilities where other magazines are printed. St. Joseph Print’s facilities are all CoC certified by FSC, PEFC and SFI.[92] In 2005, the company switched to printing Quill & Quire on an Ancient Forest Friendly stock, and the company’s website mentions an “Ancient Forest Friendly Stew-ardship Policy” adopted in 2006, though the text of the policy does not appear to be posted online. St. Joseph is also heavily involved in tree-planting, having collaborated since 1990 with Scouts Canada on the Partners in Growth reforestation project, and encouraging staff to get in on the action with designated volunteering days.

 

5.7 Teacher

The B.C. Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) publishes a member “newsmagazine” seven times a year called Teacher. Along with fellow case study subjects Corporate Knights and The Ark, the BCTF is a member of Green America’s Better Paper Project, which encourages magazines to print on environmentally friendly papers by promoting them to consumers as environmental leaders.[93] In a telephone interview, Donna Coulombe, who works in the BCTF’s executive office, provided information about the carbon cutting efforts involved in publishing Teacher.

The magazine has been printed on BPM’s 100% PCW uncoated Envirographic 100 paper since 2009. In recent years, they have also reduced their run from 442,000 copies to 402,000 copies per issue, a significant reduction in both paper use and printer emissions. The magazine is printed by Mitchell Press, which outlines a number of carbon reduction measures on its website, including: using warmth generated by industrial processes to heat the plant, high efficiency lighting on motion sensors, cooling presses with water cooled by ambient air temperature in rooftop units, and a significant recycling program.[94] Coulombe says the organization is considering encouraging more teachers to access the magazine digitally (it’s posted online in PDF and HTML formats) in the future.

Like Alternatives, Teacher benefits from being published by a larger organization with strong environmental initiatives. The BCTF has an internal Green Work Group that examines practices throughout the union’s headquarters. Major initiatives include office composting and recycling endeavours that reduced landfill waste generated by employees by 67% between 2008 and 2009. Staff are encouraged to recycle and compost by having only very small trash bins by their desks that they are required to empty themselves. Staff receive subsidized transit passes, and carpoolers have designated stalls in the otherwise limited parking garage. Efficient light bulbs have been installed, and office lights shut down at 6 p.m. In addition to its own internal strategies, the BCTF makes significant contributions to the environmental charity Evergreen, whose school-ground greening projects—though not technically a carbon offset—contribute to environmental education for children. The donation, says Coulombe, is “in keeping more with the BCTF’s objectives” than a typical carbon offset.[95]

 

5.8 Transcontinental

Like St. Joseph Communications, Transcontinental is an integrated printing and publishing operation, putting out its own magazines—including Canadian Living, Elle Canada, and The Hockey News—and providing printing services to other publishers, including Rogers. In 2009, Transcontinental published a white paper titled Reducing the Carbon Footprint of Magazines, which summarized some existing research and provided guidance for publishers, as well as touting some of the com-pany’s own carbon reduction practices. Those measures included: FSC, SFI and PEFC certification of their printing facilities, digital workflows to eliminate paper waste from the proofing process and “paper purchasing policies that promote the use of environmentally preferable papers.”[96]

Additionally, the company has an environmental policy that it proudly points out was developed as early as 1993, and overall makes public significantly more information about its environmental policies and practices than other major publishers. The environmental policy, paper purchasing policy (introduced in 2007), internally developed classification of environmental papers and sustainability reports for the years 2009 through 2011 are all available for download on the company’s site. The Environmental Policy itself is vague, identifying intentions rather than clearly defined and measurable goals. The items in the policy that would contribute to carbon reduction are: cooperating with other organizations to increase recovery and recycling of Transcontinental’s products, using energy and resources more efficiently, encouraging “the use of papers with maximized post consumer and deinked recycled fibre and maximized agricultural residue fibre,” giving preference to certified sources when virgin fibre is purchased, and seeking to transition to low carbon and renewable energy sources.[97]

The company’s paper purchasing policy echoes the statement quoted above, and adds the intention to avoid paper from “high conservation value” forests, and provides a definition of the qualities that identify those forests.[98] Like the environmental policy, the paper purchasing policy avoids quantitative goals or measurable targets. Transcontinental’s internally developed environmental paper classification system does, however, include specific percentages for things like the quantity of PCW or certified virgin fibre required for each of the five classes of environmental paper defined within it.[99]

It is in Transcontinental’s annual sustainability reports (first published in 2009) that quantitative goals set by the company are identified, and progress measured. For instance, in 2011 Transcontinental met the goals it had set for 2012, to increase the use of paper it defines as Gold Plus and Gold (containing high percentages of PCW, recycled, certified and agricultural waste fibres) to 55%, and reduce the quantity of Bronze papers to 10%.[100] (This latter goal was actually surpassed; Bronze purchases were reduced to 6%.) Other goals include reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption at printing and office facilities. In order to reduce energy use, Transcontinental has created a fund dedicated to energy efficiency pro-jects that its various business units can apply to.[101] The report highlights a handful of projects that contributed to the company’s overall 20% reduction in energy consumption since 2008.[102]

Other actions identified in the sustainability report include supporting the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement and the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements, establishing a Sustainable Development Steering Committee involving representatives from all sectors of the company, and introducing an energy policy (which, unlike their other sustainability documents, is not available online).

 

5.9 The Watershed Sentinel

Founded in 1980, The Watershed Sentinel is an environmentally minded magazine published six times a year out of Comox, B.C. At the time that editor and publisher Delores Broten was interviewed for this report, the magazine was trying to cope with the recent closure of their paper supplier, Grays Harbor, and searching for a new stock to replace the chlorine-free 100% PCW paper they had been printing on for many years.[103]

Because The Watershed Sentinel is a very small operation, its non-paper and printing emissions are negligible. The magazine is published out of a home office, so Broten has no commute, and all office appliances are plugged into power bars, so it’s easy to avoid unnecessary energy usage. The magazine has tried to move as much as possible of its interaction with subscribers online, and now only sends renewal notices by mail if subscribers request it specifically. Broten also expressed an interest in moving more content online as a way of reducing paper use. And last, but not least, The Watershed Sentinel, like the other environmental publications profiled, uses its platform to educate consumers about their own environmental impacts.

 

 

6. THE FUTURE

Magazine publishers already have options available to them if they are interested in reducing their carbon footprints, as evidenced by the many strategies employed by the publishers profiled above. Not all of these options—printing on 100% PCW coated paper, for instance—are as readily available as they ought to be, however. And other solutions, like moving content from print to digital formats, are more complex than they may first appear. There is definitely room for improvement in the future, both in terms of the availability of environmentally friendly papers suitable for magazine printing, and our understanding of the environmental impacts of digital publishing.

 

6.1 Availability of Eco-Paper

While the case studies show the multitude of small ways magazine publishers can reduce their carbon footprints, the only way to make a major dent in the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions is to significantly increase the percentage of PCW fibre in the paper magazines are printed on, and to purchase those papers from mills using non-emitting sources of energy in their manufacturing processes—i.e. energy from hydro power, biogas, wind, solar and geothermal energy. Unfortunately, the availability of these kinds of papers is not something magazine publishers—particularly small ones—have any control over.

It is true that a number of smaller magazines (including some profiled in this report) have switched to papers with high percentages of PCW content, so it is not impossible to do in the current market. However, most of those magazines are printing on either uncoated or “hybrid” stock like Cascades’ Enviro100, an option most publishers will probably not be willing to consider (evidenced by the overwhelming percentage of magazines printed on coated paper). It is also easier for smaller magazines to switch to papers that are available in limited quantities (like New Leaf’s made-to-order coated stocks), because they require much smaller quantities of paper than large, multi-title publishers. Major players in the magazine industry need to know that a given paper is available in large volumes whenever they choose to print before they will consider adopting it. For that same reason, it is unreasonable to expect most companies to follow in Cottage Life’s footsteps and order their paper from overseas. The odds of the paper being at sea when it needs to be on press are just too high. For a significant number of Candian magazines to switch to paper with a significant proportion of PCW fibre, it will need to be manufactured in large quantities, and on North American soil.

Individual publishers might not be able to influence the multi-billion-dollar paper industry to make such a change, but there is the possibility that large-scale cooperation between publishers could prove fruitful. If magazine publishers—potentially organized by an industry group like Magazines Canada—pledged to seek out papers with higher PCW content immediately, rather than waiting to see what the paper industry chose to provide, they might inspire manufacturers to develop higher PCW-content magazine papers sooner rather than later.

Equally, magazine publishers could potentially band together with other major paper purchasers (book and newspaper publishers, printers, office supply companies) to apply pressure to mills to seek out non-emitting sources of energy. Coast Paper specification representative Brenda Cofield pointed out in an interview that the vast majority of paper mills in North America are over a century old: “Paper mills are really, really old. They’re not something that just pops up and you have them the length of a cell phone,” says Cofield. “The majority of all paper mills that we represent would be well over 100 years old. Many of them would be going back to about the 1880s-1890s.”[104] As long as the industry can get away with using century-old technology without losing business, there is no incentive to upgrade to energy efficient equipment optimized for PCW fibre and run using non-emitting energy. The technology already exists, and if major paper purchasers demand it, suppliers will find it difficult not to update their operations.

 

6.2 The Digital Question

A number of the publications discussed in this report, from Backpacker and Corporate Knights to The Ark and Watershed Sentinel, identified offering magazine content digitally (whether online, on mobile devices, or both) as a way of lessening their environmental impact. In a very simple way, it is true that if a publisher replaces a paper copy of a magazine with a digital equivalent, the publisher eliminates the emissions that would have been generated by creating that paper copy. But, for digital publishing to be a truly environmental choice, it would also have to be true that the emissions released by producing, distributing, and reading the magazine digitally were less than what would be emitted to produce, distribute, and read the paper copy. Otherwise, switching from print to digital is simply off-loading part of the magazine’s emissions from the publisher to the reader.

Over the last 11 years, a handful of studies have compared the environmental effects of digital and print reading. While the overall trend identified among the studies is that digital reading is less harmful to the environment than reading from paper, there are some significant caveats to those findings. An additional caveat is that none of these studies focused specifically on magazines. Newspapers, books, telephone directories and scholarly journals have all been examined, but each presents a slightly different reading scenario from a magazine, and the differences tend to be in the areas that matter most when it comes to emissions. A third caveat is that it is not clear from any of these studies whether biomass removal was factored into the measurement of the emissions resulting from reading on paper. If it was omitted (which seems likely given how frequently that has happened in other publishing studies), then the carbon impacts of reading from paper would have been significantly underestimated in all of these studies.

The first such study was conducted by Hischier and Reichart in 2001. They examined a number of “digital vs. print” scenarios, including the aforementioned telephone directory. The part of their study most relevant to this report examined newspaper reading. They compared both the environmental impact of reading a single article, and of the larger activity of getting the daily news from a physical newspaper, television, or an online newspaper. The study found that reading online caused fewer greenhouse gas emissions than reading printed material if it was “not very time-consuming.”[105]

Once reading online reached a duration of 20 minutes, it produced the same quantity of emissions as reading from paper. Any additional reading beyond the 20-minute mark would have increased the emissions above those generated by print. It should also be noted that these findings were based on the power mix in Switzerland’s electrical grid, which is primarily hydro (like Canada’s). If the study had been conducted in the U.S.—where almost 70% of electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels[106]—the results would have favoured paper even earlier. Given that magazine readers average 42 minutes with each issue, a similar study looking at magazine reading might have come down in favour of print.[107]

A study by Gard and Keolian in 2003 looking at academic journals reached a conclusion complementary to Hischier and Reichart’s. Journals are different from consumer magazines in that their subscribers tend to be institutions rather than individuals, and they are generally accessed by multiple members of those institutions. That said, the overall finding was that the traditional paper format was more environmentally costly for “low-traffic” journals, while sticking to print resulted in environmental benefits for popular journals.[108] Again, if a work was read at length (or by a high number of readers), it was more environmentally sound for it to remain in print than switch to digital. It follows that publishing in print form is probably a benefit for magazines with high numbers of readers per copy.

The next two studies both came down unequivocally on the side of digital reading, however. Kozak compared a 40-volume academic library to its digital equivalent.[109] This scenario is so different in both size and usage from a magazine or even an entire subscription, however, that it seems unwise to extend those findings to the magazine industry. And Toffel and Horvath’s comparison of receiving daily copies of the New York Times for a year with reading New York Times articles on a personal digital assistant (PDA) for an hour every day is again comparing a quantity of paper so much more vast than would ever be generated by a magazine subscription that extrapolating from it to magazine reading would be difficult to justify.[110]

The most recent examinations of this issue have all been led by Åsa Moberg, who has compared print reading and e-reading in a number of studies. Her 2007 paper identified the major sources of emissions for three kinds of newspaper reading: print, online and on a dedicated e-reader.[111] For print, as we have already seen, the major source is paper. Online reading generates the bulk of its emissions through the power used by the computer. Once again, when online reading reached a duration of 30 minutes or longer, it generated impacts in the same range as the printed newspaper.

Using a dedicated e-reader—with its significant reduction in power usage relative to a computer—generated most of its emissions from the production of the device itself. Despite e-readers’ lower energy requirements, their use for magazine reading does not guarantee a lower environmental impact than paper. Because the major source of emissions resulting from e-readers is their manufacturing, moving a magazine from print to a version optimized for an e-reader is only an environmental advantage if the reader is getting the most from their device—i.e. they are using it for purposes beyond magazine reading, and keeping the device for a number of years before replacing it.

In her 2011 study comparing paper and e-books, Moberg writes that in order for it to be an environmentally preferable choice,

an e-book reader should be used frequently, the lifetime of the device should be prolonged, as far as possible, and when not in use anymore, the device should be disposed of in a proper way, making material recycling possible. In addition, the production of the e-reader should be energy efficient and striving towards minimization of toxic and rare substances.[112]

The question of toxic and rare substances in e-readers, while not directly related to carbon emissions, is certainly an important one to consider. Rare metals used in electronic devices are often sourced from—and the source of conflict in—war-ravaged areas like the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One other key issue Moberg highlights is that, because e-reader devices are made in China, their manufacture is generally powered by coal—which contributes 72% of the Chinese power grid.[113] So if publishers make a point of seeking out paper manufactured with non-emitting renewable energy, they could significantly reduce the relative emissions of print compared to e-reading.

Given the possibility that biomass removal was omitted from some or all of these studies, their findings must be taken with at least a grain of salt. That said, they are also the only research currently published on the subject, and there are certainly lessons that can be learned from them. To begin with, the relative emissions of paper and digital reading depend on a number of factors. The first is the source of the energy used to power any digital device. Readers in areas powered by fossil fuels may be better off reading from paper (as long as it wasn’t also manufactured using fossil fuels). The second is duration of reading. The longer spent reading a particular publication, the fewer relative emissions caused by the print version. The third is sharing—a magazine that is often passed hand-to-hand may be preferable in print form, environmentally speaking. And the fourth is appropriate use and disposal of e-reading devices. Used properly, these devices can certainly reduce the carbon footprint of magazine reading, but if their owners get caught up in the cycle of planned obsolescence and replace their device whenever a new one comes on the market, they could instead cause significant greenhouse gas emissions. “Digital comes with a price too,” says Alternatives’ Ruby.

What should magazine publishers do, then, in response to the existing research? First they should inform themselves and understand the studies that have been done, rather than assume that “digital equals green.” Next, they should strive to inform their audience. Instead of simply making both print and digital versions available to subscribers, they could educate readers that casual digital reading is preferable to casual print reading, but for reading a magazine cover to cover and passing it between many readers, print may be preferable. Furthermore, in the same way they encourage print readers to recycle their magazines, publishers should encourage digital readers to use and dispose of their devices appropriately in order to minimize their environmental impact.

Another useful step would be for a group of publishers—again perhaps through an organization like Magazines Canada—to commission a study explicitly comparing the life cycle of a printed magazine to its digital equivalent, rather than being forced to draw on research conducted on newspapers, books and scholarly journals. Such a study ought, of course, to include the removal of biomass in any calculations relating to print-related emissions in order to ensure that all significant sources are accounted for. Last, publishers should—as this entire paper has argued—seek out the lowest emitting papers available, so that the discrepancy between print and e-reading is further reduced.

 

6.3 Cradle to Cradle Certification

One other approach to sustainable development is worth briefly mentioning as a potential future help to publishers wishing to reduce their carbon footprints. The Cradle to Cradle (C2C) framework has been developed over the last two decades by architect William McDonough and chemist Dr. Michael Braungart and their consulting firm MBDC. Intended to recognize manufacturers for “using safe materials that can be disassembled and recycled as technical nutrients or composted and absorbed as biological nutrients,”[114] C2C certification is now conducted by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, and assesses five criteria: material health, material reutilization, energy, water, and social responsibility. The parameters for assessing each of these criteria are compatible with other established standards, including the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and FSC guidelines.

To date, only one paper product has been C2C certified, a 100% recycled office paper whose Dutch manufacturer provides it to the same companies whose waste paper was used to make it. Clearly, there is enormous potential for paper manufacturers to pursue this holistic level of sustainability. Another publishing-related realm that would benefit greatly from C2C principles is the manufacturing of electronics, notably those used for reading. The environmental implications of the paper vs. digital discussion would be significantly altered if any e-reader manufacturer pursued Cradle to Cradle design. As it stands, no electronic device has achieved C2C certification yet.

 

 

7. CONCLUSIONS

Thanks to the studies conducted by American publishers and publishing organizations, Canadian magazines are in a good position to understand the nature of their carbon footprints and take actions to reduce them. Unfortunately, the largest area for improvement lies in the hands of another industry entirely: the paper industry. Individual publishers may not be able to pressure their paper manufacturers to adopt lower-carbon fibre and energy sources, but by banding together (and possibly joining forces with other major paper buyers), they certainly have the potential to influence their suppliers. In addition, because of their role as trusted purveyors of information to the public, Canadian magazine publishers have a platform from which they can educate consumers about these issues and engage them in a campaign for lower carbon papers.

As can be seen from the case studies, there are many ways that publishers large and small can immediately reduce in their carbon footprints, even if they can’t afford to measure those reductions. It is important, however, that industry players make a point of understanding the science of magazine carbon footprints clearly, or working with those who do, so that apparent solutions—like going digital, investing heavily in tree planting, and purchasing paper manufactured with biomass energy—aren’t adopted without a complete grasp of the ways in which they do, and don’t, contribute to a reduction in greenhouse emissions.

 

 


Notes

1 Ki-Moon, “Innaugural Speech,” 2011. RETURN

2 Environics, Canadian Public Opinion, 2011, 17. RETURN

3 Long, Marketing a Message, 2003. RETURN

4 Canadian Magazine Publishers Association and British Columbia Association of Magazine Publishers, Coated Paper Eco Kit, 2004. RETURN

5 Magazines Canada, Magazine Eco Kit, 2008. RETURN

6 At http://www.magazinescanada.ca/uploads/File/AdServices/CarbonFootprint2012/CarbonFootprintEN.pdf RETURN

7 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Global Greenhouse Gas Data,” 2011. RETURN

8 Carbon Trust, “Carbon Footprinting,” accessed 2011. RETURN

9 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Glossary of Climate Change Terms,” 2011. RETURN

10 Greenhouse Gas Protocol, “About the GHG Protocol,” accessed 2012. RETURN

11 Verdigris, Sustainable Standard, 2011, 1. RETURN

12 Gower et al., Following the Paper Trail, 2006, 44-48. RETURN

13 Book Industry Study Group and Green Press Initiative, Environmental Trends, 2008, 1. RETURN

14 Landsberg and Gower, Applications of Physiological Ecology, 1997, quoted in Gower et al., 2. RETURN

15 Environmental Paper Network, “Paper Myths.,” accessed 2012. RETURN

16 Environmental Trends, 2008, 36. RETURN

17 Ibid., 2. RETURN

18 The Backpacker Editors, “Backpacker’s Carbon Neutral Project,” 2008, 1. RETURN

19 Ibid., 2. RETURN

20 Barone, “How Big is Discover’s Carbon Footprint?” 2008. RETURN

21 National Geographic Society, “National Geographic Magazine Life Cycle Assessment,” accessed 2012. RETURN

22 Boguski, “Life Cycle Carbon Footprint,” 2010, 635. RETURN

23 Ibid., 639. RETURN

24 Ibid., 642. RETURN

25 Ibid. RETURN

26 Ibid., 637. RETURN

27 Ibid., 641. RETURN

28 Barlaz et al., “Biodegradability of Municipal Solid Waste,” 1997, 912. RETURN

29 Boguski, “Life Cycle Carbon Footprint,” 2010, 643. RETURN

30 National Geographic Society, “Recycled Paper,” accessed 2012. RETURN

31 Rowzie, Time Inc. 2009-2010 Sustainability Report, 2010, 11. RETURN

32 Forest Stewardship Council Canada, “History,” accessed 2012. RETURN

33 Sustainable Forestry Initiative, “Basics of SFI,” accessed 2012. RETURN

34 Canadian Standards Association, “CSA SFM,” accessed 2012. RETURN

35 PEFC, “History,” accessed 2012. RETURN

36 Sprang and Meyer-Ohlendorf, Public Procurement and Forest Certification, 2006, 13. RETURN

37 Forest Stewardship Council Canada, FSC Principles and Criteria, 2004, 1-7. RETURN

38 Forest Stewardship Council Canada, “Forest Management Systems,” accessed 2012. RETURN

39 Rowzie, Time Inc. 2009-2010 Sustainability Report, 2010, 11. RETURN

40 Markets Initiative, Resource Guide 2008, 2008, 16. RETURN

41 Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, Map, accessed 2012. RETURN

42 Forest Stewardship Council Canada, “Certified Forests in Canada,” accessed 2012. RETURN

43 Markets Initiative, Your Guide to the Ancient Forest Friendly Brand, 2007, 4. RETURN

44 Rowzie, Time Inc. 2009-2010 Sustainability Report, 2010, 7. RETURN

45 Ford, 100% Recycled Papers, 2008, 5. RETURN

46 New Leaf Paper, “Climate Change,” accessed 2012. RETURN

47 Natural Resources Canada, “About Renewable Energy,” 2009. RETURN

48 Ibid. RETURN

49 Mainville, Fuelling a BioMess, 2011, 16. RETURN

50 Eric Kouwenhoven (account manager, Hemlock), in discussion with the author, February 20, 2012, in Burnaby, British Columbia. RETURN

51 Cascades Fine Papers, “Rolland Enviro100 Satin,” accessed 2012. RETURN

52 Environmental Paper Network, State of the Paper Industry 2011, 2011, 4. RETURN

53 Ibid. RETURN

54 Brian Kozlowski (director of sustainable development, NewPage Corporation), in discussion with the author, May 8, 2012. RETURN

55 MacGuire, “Paper Recycling: Exposing the Myths,” 2011. RETURN

56 Sappi Fine Paper, “Recycled Fiber and Recycling,” accessed 2012. RETURN

57 Michelle Thornton (team leader, New Leaf Paper), in discussion with the author, April 5, 2012. RETURN

58 Rowzie, Time Inc. 2009-2010 Sustainability Report, 2010, 7. RETURN

59 Mendelsohn, “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall,” 2011. RETURN

60 Paper Task Force, Paper Task Force Recommendations, 1995. RETURN

61 Ibid., 89. RETURN

62 Ibid., 90. RETURN

63 The Backpacker Editors, “Backpacker’s Carbon Neutral Project,” 2008, 3. RETURN

64 Office of Consumer Affairs, “Consumer Trends Report,” 2011. RETURN

65 United States Postal Service, “Postal Facts,” 2012. RETURN

66 McGee, Thorin, “Media Usage Forecast 2012,” 2012, Chart 5. RETURN

67 Rowzie, Time Inc. 2009-2010 Sustainability Report, 2010, 8-9. RETURN

68 Magazines Canada, “Join the ‘Read. Share. Recycle.’ Campaign,” accessed 2012. RETURN

69 MagNet, “First Half 2011 Sales,” accessed 2012. RETURN

70 Hemlock, “Walking the Talk,” accessed 2012. RETURN

71 Hemlock, “How Zero Works,” accessed 2012. RETURN

72 CN, “Greenhouse Gas Calculator Emission Factors,” accessed 2012. RETURN

73 Shift Urban Cargo Delivery, “Hello and Welcome,” accessed 2012. RETURN

74 The Backpacker Editors, “Backpacker’s Carbon Neutral Project,” 2008, 3. RETURN

75 National Geographic Society, “Our Carbon Footprint,” accessed 2012. RETURN

76 National Geographic Society, “Green Workplace,” accessed 2012. RETURN

77 Bullfrog Power, “Green Electricity,” accessed 2012. RETURN

78 David Suzuki Foundation, “Problems with Carbon Offsets,” accessed 2012. RETURN

79 Barone, “How Big is Discover’s Carbon Footprint?” 2008. RETURN

80 David Suzuki Foundation, “Problems with Carbon Offsets,” accessed 2012. RETURN

81 Gold Standard Foundation, “Who We Are,” accessed 2012. RETURN

82 Alternatives, “The Alternatives Story,” accessed 2012. RETURN

83 Marcia Ruby (production co-ordinator, Alternatives Journal), in discussion with the author, November 2, 2011. RETURN

84 Warren’s Waterless Printing, “Genuine Environmental Printing,” accessed 2012. RETURN

85 Christine Beevis (editor, The Ark), in discussion with the author, October 26, 2011. RETURN

86 Corporate Knights, “About Us,” accessed 2012. RETURN

87 Toby Heaps (publisher and CEO, Corporate Knights), in discussion with the author, October 24, 2011. RETURN

88 Catalyst Paper, Manufactured Carbon-Neutral Paper, 2011, 2. RETURN

89 Cottage Life Media, “Cottage Life Helps Out,” accessed 2012. RETURN

90 Maria Musikka (acting production manager, Cottage Life), e-mail message to author, March 20, 2012. RETURN

91 Rogers Publishing, “Magazine Paper Procurement Policy,” 2007. RETURN

92 St. Joseph Communications, “Reducing our Footprint,” accessed 2012. RETURN

93 Better Paper Project, “Green Magazine Promotions,” accessed 2012. RETURN

94 Mitchell Press, “Environmentally Responsible,” accessed 2012. RETURN

95 Donna Coulombe (executive assistant to the executive director, British Columbia Teachers’ Federation), in discussion with the author, November 2, 2011. RETURN

96 Transcontinental Printing, Reducing the Carbon Footprint of Magazines, 2009, 17. RETURN

97 Transcontinental, Transcontinental Environmental Policy, accessed 2012. RETURN

98 Transcontinental, Transcontinental Paper Purchasing Policy, accessed 2012. RETURN

99 Transcontinental, Classification of Environmental Papers, accessed 2012. RETURN

100 Transcontinental, Sustainability Report 2011, 2011, 30. RETURN

101 Ibid., 39. RETURN

102 Ibid., 10. RETURN

103 Delores Broten (editor and publisher, The Watershed Sentinel), in discussion with the author, November 2, 2011. RETURN

104 Brenda Cofield (specification representative, Coast Paper), in discussion with the author, February 21, 2012, in Vancouver, British Columbia. RETURN

105 Hischier and Reichart, “Multifunctional Electronic Media,” 2003, 397. RETURN

106 U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Net Generation by Energy Source,” 2012. RETURN

107 Magazines Canada, Put Magazines to Work for You 2011, 2011, 10. RETURN

108 Gard and Keoleian, “Digital versus Print,” 2003, 129. RETURN

109 Kozak, Printed Scholarly Books and E-book Reading Devices, 2003, ii. RETURN

110 Toffel and Horvath, “Environmental Implications of Wireless Technologies,” 2004. RETURN

111 Moberg et al., Screening Environmental Life Cycle Assessment, 2007, 6. RETURN

112 Moberg et al., “Books from an environmental perspective,” 2011, 238. RETURN

113 Moberg et al., Screening Environmental Life Cycle Assessment, 2007, 93. RETURN

114 Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, “Program Details,” 2012. RETURN

 

 


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Moberg, Åsa, Martin Johansson, Göran Finnveden and Alex Jonsson. Screening Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Printed, Web Based and Tablet E-paper Newspaper. Stockholm: KTH Centre for Sustainable Communications, 2007. www.infra.kth.se/fms/pdf/Report_epaper_final.pdf.

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Toffel, Michael W. and Arpad Horvath. “Environmental Implications of Wireless Technologies: News Delivery and Business Meetings.” Environmental Science & Technology 38, no. 11 (2004): 2961-2970. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/es035035o.

 

Interviews

Beevis, Christine (editor, The Ark). Interview by author, October 26, 2011.

Broten, Delores (editor and publisher, The Watershed Sentinel). Interview by author, November 2, 2011.

Cofield, Brenda (specification representative, Coast Paper). Interview by author, February 21, 2012.

Coulombe, Donna (executive assistant to the executive director, British Columbia Teachers’ Federation). Interview by author, November 2, 2011.

Heaps, Toby (publisher and CEO, Corporate Knights). Interview by author, October 24, 2011.

Kouwenhoven, Eric (account manager, Hemlock). Interview by author, February 20, 2012.

Kozlowski, Brian (director of sustainable development, NewPage Corporation). Interview by author, May 8, 2012.

Ruby, Marcia (production co-ordinator, Alternatives Journal). Interview by author, November 2, 2011.

Thornton, Michelle (team leader, New Leaf Paper). Interview by author, April 5, 2012.

 

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Data-driven Publishing: Using Sell-Through Data as a Tool for Editorial Strategy and Developing Long-Term Bestsellers

By Amanda Regan

ABSTRACT: This report examines how sell-through reporting has revolutionized the editorial, marketing, publicity, and sales strategies of Sourcebooks and Raincoast Books since the introduction of BookScan and BookNet. It analyzes how Sourcebooks developed its line of college-bound books through data analysis, using Harlan Cohen’s The Naked Roommate as a case study to learn the strategies that the publisher implemented to grow the title into a New York Times bestseller after six years over four editions. The report also explores how Raincoast Books, the distributor of Sourcebooks titles in Canada, analyzes sell-through data to identify concerns in the book’s performance, and its plans to fix the issues. The main goal of this report is to offer insight into the ways that various departments of a publishing house can practically analyze sales data and utilize the information creatively and strategically to grow its editorial vision, guide its marketing decisions, and improve book sales.

 

 


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would like to thank Jamie Broadhurst, Danielle Johnson, Siobhan Rich, Elizabeth Kemp, Crystal Allen, Peter MacDougall, Chelsea Theriault, and everyone at Raincoast Books for your warm welcome and assistance during my internship and for being willing to answer my questions. Special thanks to Jamie for helping me to formulate the topic for my report, and for your invaluable input and insight into the world of book marketing and publicity.

I would like to thank Todd Stocke at Sourcebooks for taking the time to share your publishing experiences. It is very much appreciated. Thanks also to Heidi Weiland for helping to connect me with the right staff person at Sourcebooks.

To the MPub folks, my thanks to John Maxwell and Rowland Lorimer for your input and guidance in completing this report, and to the rest of the faculty and Jo-Anne Ray for your advice and assistance throughout the program.

To my husband, Tyler, thank you for your unwavering support, love, and understanding throughout my time in grad school. It is what kept me going.

 

 


CONTENTS

Acknowledgements

List of Figures

List of Tables

Introduction
+++About this Report
+++Overview of the Topic

I – The Impact of Sell-Through Reporting on the Business of Book Publishing
+++Impact on Editorial Acquisitions
+++Impact on Marketing, Publicity, and Sales Functions

II – Leveraging Sell-Through Data at Sourcebooks and Raincoast Books
+++Overview of Sourcebooks
+++Overview of Raincoast Books
+++Leveraging Sell-Through Data

III – Case Study: The Naked Roommate by Harlan Cohen
+++Beginnings of the Sourcebooks College Vertical
+++About Harlan Cohen
+++Selling The Naked Roommate in the United States
+++Selling The Naked Roommate in Canada

IV – Review and Analysis
+++A Successful Vertical Strategy
+++Considerations for the College Vertical in the Canadian Market
+++Considerations for Other Book Categories and Publishing Scenarios

Conclusion

Appendices
+++A: US Marketing, Publicity and Sales Promotion Campaign
+++B: Fourth Edition Press Release
+++C: Sourcebooks Catalogue Features
+++D: Fourth Edition New York Times Bestseller Press Release
+++E: US Media Coverage and Public Relations Events Confirmed
+++F: Raincoast Books Spring 2011 Graduation Promotion
+++G: Canadian Press Release
+++H: Canadian Media Targeted for Publicity Mailings
+++I: Canadian Media Coverage and Public Relations Events Confirmed
+++J: Sample Topics and Questions for Author Interview

Notes

References

 

 


LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 1 Sales Cycle of College Guides
Figure 2 Sales Cycle of College Survival and Success Books

 

 


LIST OF TABLES

Table 3.1 Three streams of data that Raincoast Books provides to its publishers
Table 3.2 Items listed on Raincoast Books’ Major Sales Grid
Table 4.1 Publication dates for in the United States
Table 4.2 Fall enrolments in degree-granting institutions in the United States
Table 4.3 University enrolment in CanadaTable 4.4 College enrolment in Canada

 

 


INTRODUCTION

The book publishing industry has gone through major changes over the past few decades with the contraction of traditional media outlets and the expansion of new technologies. The persistent issues of poor supply chain practices and massive returns continue to this day. Now added to that are the questions and concerns over adapting to new technologies such as ebooks, web publishing and social media. Technology is always evolving and publishers are expected to be open to adapt to change to keep their businesses thriving.

In the past decade since the turn of the century, one major development in the book publishing industry in North America is the establishment of sell-through data reporting services. Sell-through data, also known as point-of-sale (pos) data, is the information collected at the point when the final business-to-consumer (b2c) sales transaction occurs during checkouts at retail outlets, where the ownership, and typically the possession, of the product is transferred from the seller to the consumer, as opposed to the business-to-business (b2b) sales transaction from the publisher into the bookstore (Wikipedia, “Point of Sale”; BusinessDictionary.com). Sell-through data reveals where, when, and how many copies of a product, in this case a book, is bought by a customer at a retailer.

Nielsen BookScan and BookNet Canada are the organizations that respectively provide American and Canadian book sales data to their industry subscribers. Prior to this, publishers often acted in the dark and could only find out about how their books were doing via returns, which sometimes came back months later. They would have had to maintain close relationships with retailers to keep tabs on how their own titles were doing on a regular, weekly basis. It was a time-consuming process. Now, sell-through reporting services allow publishers to track the performance of not only their own titles, but also those from their competitors, in a timely manner. This development has had significant implications within the industry, and has influenced all aspects of book publishing, from editorial to marketing and sales departments.

As with all advancements in technology, there is need for continued research, gathering of information and understanding of best practices to shape the future of the book and the publishing business in the midst of these changes. This report seeks to examine the practical implications that sell-through reporting has had on some publishers and how sales data can be leveraged successfully in the business of book publishing.

 

ABOUT THIS REPORT

The main goal of this report is to offer insight into ways that publishers can practically analyze sell-through data so that the various personnel in editorial, marketing, publicity, and sales departments can utilize the information creatively and strategically to grow their editorial vision, guide their marketing decisions, and improve sales of their books. To accomplish this goal, this report examines how sell-through reporting has revolutionized the business strategies of Sourcebooks and Raincoast Books since the introduction of BookScan and BookNet in the United States and Canada. It will look at how these two companies leverage sell-through data in the process of developing their list of books, getting them into the market and into the hands of consumers.

The strategies explored in this report are particularly applicable to publishers of non-fiction and genre fiction titles where a specialty reputation can be established within niche communities. The approach can help push sales of mid-list titles, or frontlist titles that are not blockbusters from the outset, and possibly turn them into bestsellers over time.

The information in this report was collected in the period of April to December 2011, which includes the three months of my summer internship with the marketing and publicity department at Raincoast Books. It was obtained from interviews conducted with the staff at Sourcebooks and Raincoast Books, personal staff emails, marketing materials provided by the staff, analysis of bnc SalesData, books and journals from the Simon Fraser University Library and database, as well as blogs, websites, and magazine and newspaper articles found online.

 

OVERVIEW OF THE TOPIC

Raincoast Books is a division of Raincoast Book Distribution Inc., an award-winning, Canadian-owned book wholesale and distribution company based in Richmond, British Columbia. Founded in 1979, Raincoast Books provides comprehensive sales, marketing, and distribution services to a select number of international publishers. It distributes books on a wide range of topics including food, health, kids, pop culture, travel, as well as gift products such as notebooks and stationery.

In 2010, Raincoast Books signed a distributor contract with an independent us publisher, Sourcebooks, and began shipping its titles in January 2011. Raincoast had noticed the big gaps that existed between the American and Canadian sales of some of Sourcebooks’ titles. These gaps were apparent for Sourcebooks’ line of college-bound books, such as The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College by Harlan Cohen. The fourth edition of the book was released in April 2011 and was under-performing in Canada compared to sales in the us, a situation similar to every one of its previous three editions.

The senior marketing and sales management staff at Raincoast Books wanted to put more resources into the fourth edition of the book because of the noticeable difference between American and Canadian sales. Why was it that for four editions now, the book continues to sell so well in the us—with the fourth edition becoming a New York Times bestseller—but consistently does so poorly in Canada? Now that the issue is identified, how can it be fixed?

During my internship with Raincoast Books from April to July 2011, I was assigned to help with marketing and publicity initiatives to boost the Canadian sales of The Naked Roommate. I decided to analyze the case for this report. Using the book as a case study, the report analyzes how Sourcebooks developed its line of college-bound books through analysis of sell-through data, and the strategies it implemented to successfully grow the title into a New York Times bestseller over four editions after six years. The report then explores how Raincoast Books used sell-through data analysis to identify concerns in the sales performance of the book in Canada, and its plans to fix the issues—specifically, its plans to try to close the gap between the book’s excellent American sales and its under-performing Canadian sales.

The report focuses on the college guide market and the decision-making process to provide observations on how the considerations and strategies can be adjusted for future publishing seasons and perhaps be extrapolated onto other categories of books.

 

 

I.THE IMPACT OF SELL-THROUGH REPORTING ON THE BUSINESS OF BOOK PUBLISHING

Book publishing has never been an easy business. If one takes some time to read the books about the industry over the recent decades, it will not take long before one discovers the list of challenges that publishers consistently face up to this day. In the book, In Cold Type, author Leonard Shatzkin (1982, 2-3) provides a sobering description of the stark difference between books and other consumer products that was apparent back in the eighties. Compared to other consumer products, the book publishing industry has a larger number of suppliers (publishers) in relation to distributors (retailers), and the suppliers experience a lack of direct influence over the distribution system. Not many other consumer industries have products with so short a shelf life as books, where each individual product has its own personality and requires different marketing methods (3). As such, sales of books tend to vary unpredictably and at random. Added to that is the “limited replenishment” (3) nature of the business which makes the task of improving sales a unique challenge for publishers because a reader who enjoyed a book does not usually “rush out to buy another copy so he can have more of the same pleasure” (3). Not to mention the limited shelf space of so few retailers. The book trade has always been a rather unprofitable business which operates close to the break-even point (9).

Up until the end of the twentieth century, publishers were mostly acting in the dark due to the lack of access to real-time sales statistics to forecast market trends accurately. It was difficult to discern sales patterns to see how well or poorly a book was doing until much later—sometimes months later—when the publishers receive returns. However, the book publishing industry was in for a turn of events when Nielsen BookScan was introduced in 2001. Previously, tracking of book sales was not done using concrete raw data, but rather by estimation whereby a survey and sampling of sales from a few selected retailers was used to estimate the patterns of the larger population (Dreher 2002). This was evident in the discrepancies between various bestseller lists such as the New York Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal. The rankings would be published without the actual sales figures, which meant that there would be no way to tell the difference between first and second place, or first and fiftieth place. After BookScan was formed, it would eventually be treated as the authoritative source on book point-of-sale data.

Owned by the same company[1] that introduced SoundScan to the music industry in the early nineties, BookScan tracks point-of-sale information from a variety of participating retailers from in-store scanners, and reports to subscribers on a weekly basis the number of copies sold and where they were sold (Nielsen, n.d.; Hutton 2002, 45). Today, it is the world’s largest continuous sales tracking service that provides sales data reports and analysis to publishers and booksellers in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Italy, the United States, Spain, New Zealand, and India (Nielsen, n.d.). Of these countries, BookScan tracks data from more than 31,500 bookstores, presenting the information by market size and market share of different book categories, individual publishers, specific imprints, authors, and price points (Nielsen, n.d.). At the time of writing, BookScan tracks 75 percent of all point-of-sale information in the us, which includes large retailers like Barnes & Noble, Costco, Amazon.com, and Target, as well as many independent bookstores. It does not track sales from Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club (Nielsen, n.d.). Publishers who would like access to these point-of-sale reports must pay thousands of dollars, up to $75,000 per year, for the hefty BookScan subscription fee (Hutton 2002, 47).

Five years after the formation of BookScan, Canada joined many of the other English-language book markets in tracking sales data using BookNet Canada’s bnc SalesData service. The process of setting up this service began in September 2001 with the formation of the Canadian book industry Supply Chain Initiative (sci) for the purpose of identifying inefficiencies in the Canadian book publishing supply chain, recommend solutions, and implement changes to improve the state of the industry (MacLean 2009). sci focused on three priorities that were identified as critical to improving supply chain: bibliographic data, electronic data interchange (edi), and point-of-sale data collection (MacLean 2009). sci funding eventually led to the creation of the not-for-profit agency, called BookNet Canada, in December 2002.[2] BookNet’s website states that the agency “focuses on bibliographic data, electronic data interchange (edi), sales data analysis, international standards and the sourcing of other technologies and services to enhance supply chain efficiencies” (“About BookNet Canada”).

The first few years at BookNet were taken up with finding ways to improve the quality of and establishing a national standard for bibliographic data. It was not until the time between 2005 to 2006 that the agency launched bnc SalesData, a comprehensive Canadian book sales data reporting and analysis service for the English-language market (Canadian Heritage, The Book Report 2006, 17). Today, this service tracks 75 percent of all Canadian book sales—an average of one thousand retail locations—including data from large chains, independents, online retailers, college and university bookstores, and non-traditional channels such as airport shops, grocery chains, and discount stores (BookNet Canada, “BNC SalesData”). The cost of subscription is a minimum of $2,000 per year (BookNet Canada, “BNC SalesData Group Buy Plan”).

 

IMPACT ON EDITORIAL ACQUISITIONS

BookScan did not arrive without controversy. Some publishing professionals—from publishers and agents, to authors and pundits—were concerned about how being numbers-driven would affect the quality of content produced, as illustrated by the impact of the implementation of SoundScan on the music industry (Hutton 2002, 46). Not long after the formation of SoundScan, record labels became increasingly hit-driven and were chasing the artists who could make the charts quickly, namely those in the pop genre. This meant that lesser known artists would be less likely to be given a chance at a record deal. As a result, critics felt that the music charts became gradually filled with songs that were formulaic and of the same “shoddy, market-driven pop music” genre (Dreher 2002). Likewise, with the formation of BookScan, book industry professionals began to fear a similar fate where the bestseller lists would be filled with similar, formulaic books that were perceived as having blockbuster potential to bring in big money (Hutton 2002, 47).

This fear of the blockbuster phenomenon actually began well before the implementation of BookScan. In the latter half of the twentieth century, there was an increasing concern over the widespread consolidation and mergers of publishing houses, declining readership, the growing blockbuster-driven culture, and competition from other media (Greco, Rodríguez, and Wharton 2007, 187-189). In the sixties, trade book publishing was subjected to a major shift: from a predominance of independently owned and run publishing houses, to a predominance of concentrated ownership of such houses under publicly owned corporate organizations (Whiteside 1981, 1-2). These large corporations were in turn absorbed into huge conglomerates.

While mergers were occurring on a small scale since the start of the twentieth century, it was the events during the sixties that set the tone for what was to come, particularly when Alfred A. Knopf was taken over by Random House, which in turn was acquired by rca (Radio Corporation of America) as part of the wider trend towards corporate conglomerates in America (Whiteside 1981, 3). The growing number of corporate consolidations, combined with the unprofitable nature of book publishing, caused many publishers to increasingly place emphasis on chasing celebrity and the blockbuster. Publishers were concentrating their attention on searching for and promoting potential bestsellers, and the trade book business appeared to be “a component of the conglomerate communications-entertainment complex” (22):

“This concentration on the blockbuster is reinforced by other developments that have been occurring in the industry—among them the growth of large chains of retail bookstores, the strong rivalry of paperback publishers for rack space in retail outlets, the computerization of inventory and warehousing systems, the arrival on the scene of a new breed of big-time literary agent, the influence of television talk shows that regularly feature authors as guests, the control by entertainment conglomerates of hardcover and paperback publishing companies as well as motion-picture companies and the like, and the increasingly active involvement of Hollywood in the business of book publishing itself.” (Whiteside 22)

In Greco, Rodríguez and Wharton’s (2007, 188) survey of fifty-seven respondents at all levels within the industry, they found that the chase for profit, celebrity, and the blockbuster, coupled with widespread consolidation, raised concerns among some in the industry for the small independent presses that were bought up by larger companies. The fear was that these small independent presses might be subjected to massive change or be shut down in the process, causing the loss of their contribution of a unique voice and quality of content in the trade. Some publishers were concerned that the blockbuster-driven industry had a detrimental influence on the quality of the content being published—a type of “dumbing down” (187)—as publishers were less inclined to take chances on a risky or unique book whose market is not easily identifiable.

This trend placed pressure on editors in the acquisition process to look for the commercial potential of the manuscript as well as the media-friendly personality and connections of the author. Focusing on a manuscript’s commercial potential to be a moneymaking blockbuster does not reinforce the strategic development of an editorial plan, but rather the practice of making publishing decisions book by book (L. Shatzkin 1982, 13). To this day, the trend towards media platforms is an increasingly important consideration for all books. It has become an expectation that publishers have of authors (Greco, Rodríguez, and Wharton 2007, 184). How well an author performs in media or an author’s pre-existing connections to media outlets are key factors in determining whether a book will be published. Publishing and public relations strategist, Jodee Blanco, puts it this way: “the most vital selling point when pitching a media contact is how much the author will affect and engage the audience, because that’s the producers’ and editors’ first priority” (2004, 3). It is a shift from finding “great writers” with strong writing, to searching for “marketable writers” that can make money at the expense of poorly edited books (Greco, Rodríguez, and Wharton 2007, 184). Even early on, Whiteside also noted of this shift in focus on “the author as a personality rather than the book as a book” (1981, 37).

What publishers deemed as marketable was probably heavily informed by the media and non-substantive bestseller lists, not by studying concrete sell-through data to see what consumers are actually buying. Nonetheless, now with availability of sell-through data provided by BookScan, the concern that poor literary quality content will populate the bestseller lists is still a fear for some publishers. In the early days of BookScan, publishing professionals feared that “authors with prize potential or with prestigious, intellectual, or literary works would be buried” (Hutton 2002, 47), lost in the sea of commercial titles that bring in the money but not necessarily carry the same weight in literary excellence. That fear and controversy linger on to this day. Stephen Henighan’s article, “The BookNet Dictatorship” published in Geist magazine in early 2011, is an example of the worries that some have today about BookNet sales data. Henighan asserts his opinion that BookNet is detrimental to the quality of Canadian literature, that it “incarnates how corporate imperatives are squeezing the creative juice out of our fiction” (2011). He suggests that today’s editors in Canada are enslaved to BookNet sales data and no longer rely on literary taste, stating that “the novel on a deeply personal subject is shuffled aside in favour of the blockbuster that reflects yesterday’s headlines and promises to sell film rights” (2011), a sentiment similar to the long-time concern about the blockbuster phenomenon.

On the other hand, some publishing pundits saw the potential of BookScan early on to open up the book market to new categories that have been previously overshadowed by blockbusters (Hutton 2004, 48). When SoundScan was introduced, previously niche genres of rap and country music that were underrated by big record companies soon garnered more listeners and were brought to the public’s attention alongside pop blockbusters (Hutton 2004, 48; Dreher 2002). Similarly with BookScan, smaller, alternative books by independent publishers that would previously not be noticed can be brought to the public and bookseller’s attention more readily with BookScan. For example, a book that perennially sells a small number of copies per week steadily for many years will never make onto a bestseller list, even though it would technically be on par with a book that had big sales in the opening weeks, made it on the bestseller list, but stopped selling soon after four weeks. BookScan will be able to establish more credibility in the market for the smaller book.

Much like the movie business with a perpetual reproduction of “typical Hollywood” movies and emphasis on opening weekend sales at the box office, there may well be a continuing trend towards the homogenization and “dumbing down” of books among some publishers and categories of books due to the blockbuster phenomenon and its heavy emphasis on sales within four to six weeks of a book’s release (Thompson 2010, 266). However, the availability of sell-through data can help create greater public awareness of non-blockbuster, smaller titles.

 

IMPACT ON MARKETING, PUBLICITY, AND SALES FUNCTIONS

Not only has sell-through data impacted the editorial function in how a publisher decides on which manuscript to publish, but it has also influenced the marketing and sales functions of the business. The publisher essentially has to accomplish two things once an author contract is signed: firstly, to ensure that the book is available in stock where prospective buyers can access it, then secondly, to let these buyers know about the book and give compelling reasons for them to purchase it (L. Shatzkin 1982, 25). To accomplish the former, the publisher employs a sales force that sells directly to retailers, distributors and wholesalers. To do the latter, the publisher will have to engage in publicity, public relations, promotions or advertising. The former is the sales function of achieving sell-in—getting the books onto the store shelves; the latter is the marketing function of achieving sell-through—getting the books into the hands of the end user (Blanco 2004, 10-11).

However, the marketing function also greatly affects sell-in as well. When Leonard Shatzkin wrote In Cold Type in 1982, he observed that much of the publishers’ efforts were placed on selling in. He noted:

“…in contrast to most other industries producing consumer goods, the selling effort is still almost entirely directed to getting the product into the store.” (7)

“Most other industries have reached the point where, it is no longer necessary to negotiate every single unit of every single item, the selling job is to move the product through the store.” (7)

Fast-forward twenty years later, the efforts seemed to have shifted to pushing for sell-through. Jodee Blanco (2004, 12) suggests in her book, The Complete Guide to Book Publicity, that sometimes publishers make the mistake of focusing publicity and promotional efforts too much on sell-through and not enough on sell-in.

Essentially, both sell-in and sell-through are equally important and mutually dependent. A widely held opinion in the book industry is that word-of-mouth is a powerful factor for sell-through (L. Shatzkin 1982, 46). Word-of-mouth is “the passing of information from person to person by oral communication” (Wikipedia, “Word of Mouth”). It is often generated by media publicity, public relations, or strong advertising and promotion. However, if enough word-of-mouth is generated for a prospective buyer to enter the bookstore looking for the specific title, but the bookstore has none in stock, the word-of-mouth reaction can slow down or come to a halt completely (47). For some time in the late twentieth century, publishers sometimes based their decision on whether or not to publish a title, or whether or not promote a title in a big way, on the level of enthusiasm or cooperation by the bookseller to carry the book or promote the book in the store with prominent displays (Whiteside 1981, 46). Thus, the sell-in process of getting the book retailer to place enough advanced orders in the right store locations is just as vital to the life sales of a book as sell-through. The right balance of a publisher’s resources for both the sell-in and sell-through processes would benefit titles tremendously. The efforts to promote a book can be used both for encouraging a retailer to stock up on a book as well as for a prospective buyer to go out and purchase it.

The bookselling process has changed over the past few decades due to the advancements of technologies. Kermit Hummel (2004) described in this article, “The Perishing of Publishing,” about how the business of bookselling has shifted from an enthusiasm-based bookselling method to that of ‘analogy bookselling.’ He writes, “…what makes things tick is the notion that there is nothing new under the sun. We sell books and distribute books by analogy. ‘This book will appeal to the readers of ‘X’. If you liked X, you’ll love Y’.” (160). The old-school bookselling method of relying on sheer enthusiasm for the new title was being replaced in the eighties and nineties by the analogy selling method of providing analysis of competitive or comparable books that are “like” this new title (160). The analogy selling method is used to this day when trying to encourage sell-through, such as Amazon’s “Frequently Bought Together” and “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” recommendations on its online store, and it is also used during the sell-in process when sales reps attempt to persuade booksellers to stock the shelves with their books.

This shift towards analogy selling was an extension of the development of new technologies in enabling sales data tracking, first just by booksellers of their in-store products, then later by participating publishers who subscribe to a sell-through reporting service. As such, “instead of raw and uninformed enthusiasm, predictability became a vastly more operative concept in the book distribution system” (Hummel 2004, 161). The irony, Hummel pointed out, is that publishers are trying to market new books as unique and entirely different, but using “a sales and distribution system that increasingly depends entirely upon an assumption of the fundamental fungibility of titles” (161). The process has become less about the content of the book, and more about the sales expectations of a previously published book (by the same author or another). Essentially, the book has been commodified.

To aid the bookselling process, publishers combine sales data with a number of marketing initiatives, which may include publicity, public relations, advertising or promotion. Publicity and public relations events for the author and his or her book have always been crucial. Publicity is media or news coverage that is free, unlike advertising which is paid for by the publisher (Blanco 2004, 4-5). Public relations is “the function of perpetuating an image through a variety of means that connect specific sectors of the public with the product or person that image is attached to” (5), and involves public author appearances, such as at bookstores and seminars, that not only allows live interaction with the audience but also helps place the author and the book in a positive light. As such, public relations can be a means to gain publicity as the media may be invited to be present at the event to report on it. These initiatives create awareness and help to develop word-of-mouth reaction.

According to John B. Thompson (2010, 238) in his book, Merchants of Culture, the real battle that is currently taking place in publishing, and probably always has been, is that of getting a book seen, heard of and talked about—the concept of word-of-mouth. It is increasingly difficult to make a book visible in a crowded, competitive marketplace as the number of books being published is growing almost every year and readers are faced with an abundance of books to choose from.[3] While the challenge of making the book stand out has remained the same for marketing and publicity departments over the past thirty years, today the channels that are available and the timing of when to push books have changed fundamentally (243).

Traditionally, in the sixties, promotion of books was limited to advertisements in the book-review sections of newspapers and magazines, author appearances at bookstores, sending out press releases and a few review copies (Whiteside 1981, 23). Twenty years later, television and radio interviews quickly became a focus in book publicity due to the capability of an author appearance to spike sales, although the opportunity is subject to the personality of the author and what the publishers and producers deem will work best for television or radio (33-35). Today, specialized channels or ‘micro media’ are becoming more important for marketing and promoting books, whereas traditional mass media channels such as print advertising and multi-city author tours have become less effective due to increased competition for limited space, although these mass channels have not become irrelevant (Thompson 2010, 243-246).

Thompson reports that today, most marketing managers tend to agree that they are increasingly focusing their efforts on micro media, “trying to identify specific, fine-grained ways of reaching the people who comprise what they see as the readership, using an array of different channels which, in addition to traditional print media, now include a variety of new media” (246). Digital channels have become a game-changer in book marketing and publicity with the growth of online marketing through online advertising, online outreach, and the management of web properties such as search engine optimization, e-newsletters, reading groups, websites, blogging, and helping authors start their own social networking sites (251-257). With these smaller and specific channels for marketing, a book will require multiple hits—or mentions in the media—before it can generate substantial word-of-mouth reaction. When an individual is exposed to the ripple effects of word-of-mouth and media mentions, research shows that it could take six to twelve touches in the individual’s mind for the person to eventually come to a decision to take action and buy the book (244).

The growth of new media channels has also influenced the timing on when to push books. The timing has shifted from aiming for a great break of publicity on publication date and the weeks after, to be more focused on slowly building pre-publication awareness and momentum through new media channels (Thompson 2010, 248-251). When a marketing campaign is built slowly over time, it can “[get] people talking about a book and [generate] interest and excitement well in advance of publication” (249). This pre-publication interest has shaped the pre-order phenomenon at Amazon, whereby publishers are now able to obtain book sales numbers prior to its physical availability at the retailers—an impossible feat before the development of new media. When physical book retailers notice the buzz online and its status on Amazon’s pre-order list, they can be more easily persuaded by sales reps to increase their initial order. Thus, a pre-publication marketing and publicity campaign built slowly over time is effective not only for creating awareness through multiple touches in the minds of prospective buyers, but also for obtaining healthy sell-in which can in turn act as another touch point in the minds of casual browsers when they see a sizeable amount of stock placed at the front-of-store display.

BookScan has become an effective marketing tool in creating pre-publication awareness. The ability to find out where books are selling, when they sell, and how many are sold can ensure marketing expenditures are allocated more accurately. Sell-through numbers of previous editions of a book, competitive and comparable books and retailers, can influence sell-in decisions. If a seller is hesitant to place an order for an unknown author, healthy sell-through numbers can push a bookseller to increase his initial order on a book he did not initially believe in. This can reduce the risk of not having enough stock in the store, which can kill a word-of-mouth reaction quickly. Analysis of sell-through data can also reduce the persistent problem of returns through more accurate sales and distribution forecasting. Booksellers can use data to discern the effect of a book review and learn about what their customers are looking for (Hutton 2004, 48).

BookScan and BookNet have also allowed for more accurate sales forecasting because they allow publishers to identify which titles or categories of titles are selling well, manage print runs and inventories, reduce returns, and fine-tune pricing, marketing and publicity strategies. This was precisely what those involved in the Canadian book publishing Supply Chain Initiative wanted to accomplish with BookNet Canada, as stated in the Printed Matters report published by Canadian Heritage in 2004:

“Market data analysis allows publishers to make more effective printing and reprint decisions, manage marketing budgets more effectively and focus sales efforts. Retailers also have access to bestseller lists that truly represent the diversity of the marketplace in which they operate.” (31)

Jonathan Nowell, president of Nielsen Book, also touted the benefits of using the point-of-sale system back in 2004, citing that when uk publishers fully adopted it, returns across the industry reduced from 19 percent to 12 percent (Milliot 2004).

The benefits and practical uses of sale data analysis have become increasingly evident over the past decade for some publishers. Sell-through reporting requires publishers to not only monitor data on a daily basis but to also use it to drive their decisions (Thompson 2010, 288). Jean Srnecz, who was the Senior Vice President of Merchandising at Baker & Taylor and a longstanding Director of the Book Industry Study Group with over thirty years experience in the book industry, recommended back in 2004 that publishers need to seriously consider investing into information technology to develop data analysis tools for their books (Milliot 2004). As Srnecz puts it, data should be the dna of the publishing house.

Few are more exemplary than Sourcebooks, one of America’s leading independent book publishers, as well as Raincoast Books, a Canadian book wholesale and distribution company that distributes Sourcebooks titles. In the next section, this paper will explore in more detail how these companies leverage sell-through data in their business operations.

 

 

II.LEVERAGING SELL-THROUGH DATA AT SOURCEBOOKS AND RAINCOAST BOOKS

OVERVIEW OF SOURCEBOOKS[4]

Sourcebooks is one of the leading and largest independent book publishers in North America. Located in Naperville, Illinois, it was founded in 1987 by the savvy and charismatic Dominique Raccah. She started the company with only one title, Financial Sourcebooks Sources, with a focus on publishing professional finance titles. In the nineties, Raccah expanded Sourcebooks into publishing self-help, parenting, business, and reference titles, all of which continue to be the backbone of the Sourcebooks list to this day.

In 1997, Sourcebooks was listed as the sixth fastest-growing small publisher in America by Publishers Weekly. After moving to number two in 1999, it had expanded beyond the “small publisher” classification, with sales figures doubling every two years during that time period. Its growth can be attributed to the acquisition of imprints over the years to include publishers of relationship-, sex-, and wedding-oriented self-help books (Casablanca Press, acquired in 1996), consumer-oriented self-help law books (Sphinx Publishing, acquired in 1997), humour and women’s interests books (Hysteria Publications, acquired in 1998), and gift and history titles (Cumberland House, acquired in 2008).

Another key factor to Sourcebooks’ rapid growth was its revolutionary, entrepreneurial vision. In 1998, the publisher introduced an innovative new genre of publishing, featuring compact discs of integrated content to accompany Joe Garner’s We Interrupt This Broadcast. This book that showcased the creative pairing of live audio with photographs and the written word generated a buzz within the bookselling industry and was Sourcebooks’ first New York Times bestseller. This hit book, together with another called And the Crowd Goes Wild, helped grow the company from a reported $1 million in revenue with six employees in 1992, to $20 million in revenue and fifty-six employees in 2000 (Kirch 2007).

The turn of the century marked the start of a new phase of growth for the company, beginning with the prestigious recognition of being the only book publisher to be listed as one of America’s fastest-growing companies on the Inc. 500 list for the year 2000. Since then, Sourcebooks also launched new imprints such as Sourcebooks MediaFusion (2000) for integrated mixed-media projects, Sourcebook Landmark (2001) for fiction titles and Jane Austen sequels, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (2007) for children’s books, and Sourcebooks Fire (2010) for young adult titles. With Sourcebooks MediaFusion, the publisher became America’s leading publisher of integrated mixed-media projects, led by Poetry Speaks and Poetry Speaks to Children, a book and compact-disc combination featuring noted poets reading their own work. These poetry anthologies not only helped revitalize the way adults and children experience poetry, but also found their way onto the New York Times bestseller list. Sourcebooks also had success with its fiction imprint, Sourcebooks Landmark, which was led by the 2000 British Book of the Year, Tony Parsons’ Man and Boy, and Michael Malone’s New York Times bestseller First Lady and all of Malone’s backlist. In 2007, the publisher expanded the Sourcebooks Casablanca imprint (previously Casablanca Press) into the realm of romance fiction and quickly established itself as a top ten publisher in the genre. Later in 2010, more than seventy backlist books by children’s and gift book author Marianne Richmond were added to the Sourcebooks list, including the picture book phenomenon, If I Could Keep You Little.

Today, Sourcebooks continues to expand the breadth of its list of titles by publishing authors in various subjects, and in formats it describes as both “classically physical and dynamically digital” (Sourcebooks.com, “The Sourcebooks Story”). It is now a strong vertical publisher and established authority in a number of non-fiction categories—college-bound books, baby name books, gift books, grieving and recovery books—as well as a strong competitor in commercial and historical fiction, romance novels, children’s books and more. Still headquartered in Naperville, Sourcebooks now has satellite offices in New York City and Connecticut, a staff of more than seventy employees, and an annual output of over three hundred titles at the time of writing (Bookjobs.com).

This is an impressive feat for a company that started out in the spare bedroom of a house belonging to someone without a traditional publishing background. Unlike many of her publishing colleagues, Dominique Raccah came from a scientific background. Her father was a physicist who accepted a position at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and moved the family from Paris to America when Raccah was nine (Kirch 2009). She graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and later obtained a Master’s degree in quantitative psychology. She went on to establish a flourishing career at Leo Burnett advertising agency in Chicago for seven years, performing quantitative research for major corporate clients before leaving to pursue her love for books in the publishing industry (Kirch 2009). Her scientific background, while unconventional within the industry, will prove to be integral to Sourcebooks’ business strategy and culture—one that is essentially data-driven.

 

OVERVIEW OF RAINCOAST BOOKS[5]

Raincoast Books is a Canadian-owned book wholesale and distribution company based in Richmond, British Columbia, specializing in providing comprehensive sales and marketing coverage, logistical support, and distribution services to a select number of international publishers. It distributes a variety of genres of books, both fiction and non-fiction titles, for all ages from kids and teens to adults. Its non-fiction titles cover a wide range of topics including food, health, kids, pop culture, travel, as well as gift products such as notebooks and stationery.

Raincoast Books is a division of Raincoast Book Distribution Inc. that also includes Publishers Group Canada, a distribution division focused on specialty independent publishers, and Book Express, its wholesale division. Raincoast Books and Book Express were founded in 1979 by Allan MacDougall and Mark Stanton. The company started with seven employees with a goal to be a small regional wholesale operation. It signed its first distribution deal with Chronicle Books in 1988, and, together with Publishers Group Canada, it has grown to serve over one hundred international publishers today, providing fast shipping service capable of shipping over 20,000 new titles to more than 2,500 bookstores and specialty retailers across Canada.

Over the years, Raincoast has won awards and achieved industry recognition for its services. It won the Distributor of the Year Award as voted by the Canadian Booksellers Association (CBA 1998-2010) in 1999, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2010, and was nominated in 2008 and 2009—more often than any book distributor or publisher in Canada. Quill & Quire named it the fastest distributor in Canada in its 2003 and 2004 industry surveys. It further won the Marketing Achievement of the Year Award in 2006, and short-listed again in 2007 and 2008 (Raincoast, Always Connected 2010, 17).

In the mid nineties, Raincoast endeavored to publish books as well. Raincoast Publishing was founded in 1995. The spotlight was on Raincoast when it secured the contract to be the publisher and distributor of the Harry Potter series in Canada. In 2003, the company set a record in Canadian publishing history with the largest domestic print run and single-day lay-down for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which was later surpassed by the book’s sequel, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in 2005, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007. Books published by Raincoast Publishing were also short-listed or won major literary prizes in Canada, including a Governor General’s Award for literature in 2003. However, the publishing program was shut down in 2008 to focus on its core distribution and wholesale businesses. The publishing program was deemed unprofitable due to the appreciation of the Canadian dollar in 2007 and the subsequent decision to reduce suggested retail prices by 20 percent (Raincoast, “Raincoast Gets Back to Basics” 2008).

Over the years, Raincoast has placed itself in the forefront of the Canadian publishing industry with its investment and use of new technologies to improve its systems and book sales. Responsible for successful online promotional campaigns for the Harry Potter series in Canada and being the first publisher to start a blog and begin a literary podcast series, Raincoast Publishing established itself in the Canadian publishing industry and on the international front as one of the top five publishers to implement new media technologies and strategies (Trottier, “About Monique”). Raincoast’s Chief Executive Officer, John Sawyer, has been an active member in the Canadian book industry sci and BookNet Canada’s edi conference. Consequently, Raincoast was an early adopter of edi and established onix[6] compliance early on in the initiative (Raincoast, Always Connected 2010, 19).

The company strives for what it calls “context-smart technology” (Raincoast, Always Connected 2010, 19), regularly looking for ways to improve its systems through customizing and modifying its programs. Its recent efforts in 2010 include implementation of a customized warehouse management system, the launch of an electronic catalogue for sales representatives to use when selling titles to its accounts, and the expansion of its publisher extranet site[7] which provides one of the three streams of detailed data reports to its client publishers (17, 19).

The first stream of data consists of publisher month-end reports of sales, returns, and inventory movement, customized for some of its publishers to suit their respective reporting systems. The extranet site supplies the second stream of data including demand, stock status, current and historical sales, and channel breakdowns for specific titles that is updated and accessible in real-time. These first two streams of data are based on data pulled from Varnet, Raincoast’s internal database, and then repackaged for its clients. They are not based on BookNet numbers as that data is always one week behind and only covers 75 percent of the market.

The third stream is what Raincoast calls its “most unique” stream of monthly reports designed to help publishers “understand what is going on in our market” (17). This third stream of reports is based on BookNet and BookScan numbers compiled by Raincoast’s in-house Data Analyst and includes information such as the top titles, top customers, detailed titles sales for a publisher’s top five customers, and “peer gap analysis” that tracks Canadian versus American sell-through numbers. Sell-through data is an invaluable resource to publishers for tracking the effectiveness of any promotion, hence Raincoast ensures that its client publishers have access to BookNet data of their own titles. Table 3.1 shows a breakdown of the three streams of data provided by Raincoast to its publishers.

 

Table 3.1: Three streams of data that Raincoast Books provides to its publishers


(Source: Raincoast, Always Connected 2011, 17)

 

Today, Raincoast is headquartered in Richmond, British Columbia, with a second sales and marketing office in Toronto, and employs over ninety people over three divisions (Raincoast, Always Connected 2010, 24).

 

LEVERAGING SELL-THROUGH DATA

Sourcebooks prides itself in being a data-driven company, placing emphasis on the analysis of sales data and looking for trends in the numbers. In an interview with the Vice President and Editorial Director of Sourcebooks, Todd Stocke (2011), he professes the company to be a heavy BookScan user. BookScan is used across all departments at Sourcebooks—editorial, marketing, publicity, and sales—many of whom “can’t really live without it” (Stocke 2011).

At Raincoast Books, both marketing and sales departments are also regular users of BookNet. The company has sell-through data stored in its internal Varnet database so that numbers can be pulled up easily and regularly (Broadhurst 2011).

This section explores how both these companies use sell-through data analysis to their advantage in selling books.

 

Tool for Editorial Creativity

The argument for homogenization of content as a result of the availability of sell-through data persists to this day, and the industry will likely continue to see rip-offs of successful books that validate that line of argument. However, some publishers like Sourcebooks have chosen to use sell-through data in different and creative ways.

Sourcebooks describes its use of sell-through data as a “weapon for creativity” (Stocke 2011). Sourcebooks uses data to identify books that are selling well in the market within the categories it covers. The purpose is not to create a rip-off, but to analyze them and “come out of it in a creatively different place” (Stocke 2011). The end goal is to use data to deliver a better book for readers.

Using this approach, Sourcebooks was able to become a leading publisher in a number of categories in the country, such as the baby names subcategory where it now owns 60 percent of the market share (Stocke 2011). It was able to accomplish that in a crowded category by studying the books at the top of the category at the time, and being creative in developing more substantial, interesting, and contemporary content compared to those previously published books. Chapter Three of this report will further illustrate how Sourcebooks uses this same approach to publish The Naked Roommate in the college guide category.

 

Forecasting, Reducing Returns, and Improving Inventory Turn Rate

Before sell-through reporting, it was difficult to know how well books did after they were shipped. Only the book retailers knew, but their knowledge was limited to information from their own stores. Publishers would hope that once books were shipped out from the warehouse that only a few would be returned. A book with small sales would tend to remain small throughout the course of the year, and it was difficult to know how a big frontlist title was doing until the retailer informed them after some time (Broadhurst 2011). It was thus difficult to make necessary adjustments on time to help with sales of books. For Sourcebooks, the process entailed waiting for faxes from its customers every Monday to see how its books performed (Stocke 2011).

The situation was similar at Raincoast. Raincoast’s Director of National Accounts, Peter MacDougall (2011), explained that before BookNet, his week would involve numerous phone calls and emails to his customers on Mondays and Tuesdays to find out what the week’s sell-through was for the books that Raincoast distributes. That information, too, was limited to only the company’s own books, not the competing titles.

From the get-go, Raccah believed that a service like BookScan could provide information for finding cost savings in the supply chain (Milliot 2004). To achieve cost reduction, Sourcebooks focused its efforts on tackling three areas: advances, inventory and returns. BookScan numbers, such as sales of an author’s previous titles or sales of compatible and competitive titles, are used to “help rationalize the predictive process” (Milliot 2004) and determine the demand for the new book. After analyzing the data, a fair author advance could be more accurately determined and the amount of unsold inventory reduced. According to Raccah:

“Sourcebooks makes its inventory decisions by looking at reprints and first printings. In managing reprints, Sourcebooks examines where the demand for the reprint is coming from, why the reprint is needed and what is the inventory on hand in the channel; the company also reviews sell-through information with its major accounts.” (Milliot 2004)

Adopting this approach, Sourcebooks reduced its first printings quite aggressively and planned for more rounds of reprints by collaborating closely with printers (Milliot 2004). Raccah reported that the inventory-days-on-hand benchmark was very helpful for determining when a reprint run should be ordered (Milliot 2004). She believed that even though smaller first printings and more reprints can increase the cost of goods sold, it could, on the other hand, increase cash-on-hand and reduce returns. This approach helped lower Sourcebooks’ returns by 25 percent in 2003 (Milliot 2004). In a market where returns place huge pressure on pricing and cash flow, working closely with customers and printers, coupled with adjusting first printings and number of reprints to print-on-demand, can shorten lead time and minimize returns for publishers (Milliot 2004).

Similarly at Raincoast, regular tracking of sell-through has also improved sales forecasting and inventory turn rates (how often the stock turns over in the warehouse on an annual basis). Its warehouse does not store stock for six months worth of demand. Sales directors and reps are able to forecast initial orders more accurately, and they track sell-through on a weekly basis to anticipate subsequent orders more precisely on a four- to six-week on-demand basis (Broadhurst 2011). As discussed in Chapter One regarding the importance of sell-in, it would be detrimental to book sales if the publisher could not print fast enough and has to try to catch up with demand because the upward sales momentum could dissipate quickly from a lack of sufficient stock. A healthy inventory turn rate also frees up the warehouse to stock up on a wider variety of titles.

 

Closing the Gaps

Beyond reducing costs, sell-through data can also be used to determine marketing and promotional strategies to increase sales. This is another benefit that Sourcebooks has come to identify and implement. As discussed in Chapter One, in old-school bookselling, the publisher’s team of sales and publicity personnel had to try to cultivate media and author contacts through sheer enthusiasm and strong persuasive skills, and promote its list of titles by developing word-of-mouth. Today, the added benefit of having sell-through data can add to a sales rep’s arsenal of tools to help with his or her pitch to booksellers in the environment of analogy bookselling. The ability to discern sales patterns, and identify the gaps in different market segments and retailers, can help the sell-in process and boost the sales of underrated titles.

Gap analysis has been key to Sourcebooks’ and Raincoast’s marketing and sales strategies to leverage sell-through information to increase sales and create long-term bestsellers. While all departments at Sourcebooks employ data analysis, analysis of gaps is more specific to the sales department who uses the method on a regular basis. Its application is sometimes broad—for example, total sell-through of customer X versus customer Y, versus their market shares (Stocke 2011). Another broad application is to analyze gaps by channel—for example, whether or not the library channel or the Canadian channel is attaining sell-through that is comparable to that of competing publishers (Stocke 2011).

Analysis of gaps is applied to sell-in data as well. Examining the advanced orders of compatible retailers can reveal gaps that help with the sell-in process to persuade the buyer to increase the advance orders if the competing retailer has taken a huge position on a book. That scenario is less likely to occur for Barnes & Noble in the us and Chapters Indigo in Canada as they are the dominant large chain bookstores in their respective countries. However, comparing the chain bookstore orders with that of a dominant online retailer like Amazon, or comparing compatible specialty channels, has been beneficial to both Sourcebooks’ and Raincoast’s businesses.

MacDougall (2011) now finds sell-through data to be an indispensable tool for selling and pitching to his customers. A book sales rep for eleven years, he expresses how enormous the positive impact of BookNet has been to his work: “It is hard to overstate how amazing BookNet has been in terms of selling and being able to look at peer-to-peer data, and comparing what Indigo is doing versus other retailers in Canada” (MacDougall 2011). Now MacDougall can track the data himself to be prepared with the information for his pitches, whereas prior to BookNet only the retailers could to do the work of tracking the data. He can also see which channels a book tends to sell better and make necessary adjustments. The process is now more efficient.

The gap analysis method can be applied at a granular level by title as well, and this level is the most regularly used by both Sourcebooks and Raincoast. Sourcebooks’ sales department generates these reports and systematically reviews them every week (Stocke 2011). According to Todd Stocke (2011), granular level gap analysis has become interesting for Sourcebooks in the area of ebook pricing. He explains that with some variables from the print publishing model eliminated in the electronic realm—inventory is the big one—there should not be any wild fluctuations in sales percentages among online retailers. Gap analysis would then be used in the electronic realm to identify “outliers and look for what one e-tailer might be doing with a title as opposed to others, and [see if you can] replicate it elsewhere” (2011). Oftentimes, gaps appear due to the influence of ebook pricing. Regarding ebook pricing, Stocke notes:

“The effect of pricing is something publishers never had the power to impact, we printed the price on the book and what happened, happened. That’s no longer the case, so most publishers are hiring pricing analysts.” (2011)

Raincoast also does granular, title-by-title “peer gap” analysis on a weekly basis, and provides the results of the analysis to its client publishers on a monthly basis as part of its third stream of data (Table 3.1). From a practical standpoint of applying data analysis in its everyday operations, Raincoast looks at core frontlist titles and identifies significant gaps between BookNet and BookScan numbers—the books that do well in the us but under-perform in the Canadian market (Broadhurst 2011). For those books where there exists a considerable difference in their recent weeks’ sales, they are called out during Raincoast’s weekly Major Sales meetings to discuss further marketing and publicity options so to improve sell-in and sell-through.

The Raincoast staff gathers every Thursday at 1:00 p.m. for the Major Sales meeting. The staff who attends these meeting include all marketing and publicity personnel, select sales staff (Sales Director, Director of National Accounts, Special Accounts rep, and Data Analyst) and some of the warehouse inventory personnel. Once a month the Vice President of Sales, Paddy Laidley, attends the meeting to give a ‘State of the Union’ report of updates and highlights from the past month’s sales revenue and performance of different publishers. To prepare for the meeting, the Data Analyst, Jim Allan, pulls out the key data and creates a grid divided into columns with selected information. This particular set of information is what Raincoast focuses on to base its marketing and sales promotions decisions. The selected data on the Major Sales Grid are listed in Table 3.2.

 

Table 3.2: Items listed on Raincoast Books’ Major Sales Grid

 

The meeting is chaired by Jamie Broadhurst, the Vice President of Marketing, who studies the grid before the meeting to make notes on the titles he wishes to call to attention. The meeting would always commence with updates from the publicists on upcoming author tour events and media coverage for specific titles. The staff then switches their attention to the sales grid. Broadhurst would point out significant gaps in the past week or month, if any, between BookScan and BookNet numbers of specific titles so that the sales reps and publicists are aware of the books that need more push. Furthermore, sell-through information is invaluable for highlighting books that are doing unexpectedly well and for tracking the effectiveness of current marketing, publicity, and promotional efforts.

Therefore, while access to sell-through data is available for all publishers who can afford to subscribe to BookScan or BookNet, the key point is less about having access, and more about being able to do something with the data—dissecting, analyzing, and breaking down the mass amount of information into digestible pieces, such as what Sourcebooks and Raincoast have done with their sales grids and charting of sales cycle graphs—so that it makes sense to the sales reps and retailers and can subsequently be used to sell more books. While a major portion of a publisher’s resources will continue to be used toward pushing the few potential bestsellers on the frontlist, the availability of sell-through data can, in effect, help push the mid-list or under-performing frontlist books. Both Sourcebooks and Raincoast have found this to be so. In the case of The Naked Roommate, as will be explored in Chapter Three, it took Sourcebooks four editions to push the book into a New York Times bestseller, using diligent analysis of sales data and adjusting marketing and sales strategies accordingly. It is Raincoast’s goal as well to use that information and gap analysis to improve book sales in the Canadian market, when traditionally a publisher would most likely have given up on it after it fails to do well in the first season.

According to Broadhurst (2011), one of the factors why Raincoast made the commitment to push The Naked Roommate on a long-term basis was due to the data-driven nature of Sourcebooks and its proactive communication of the American data findings and reports to Raincoast. Within eleven months that Raincoast had been with Sourcebooks, the Canadian book distributor had already recorded a 70 percent increase in sales across all titles compared to Sourcebooks’ previous distributor (Broadhurst 2011). Sell-through data analysis was an integral part of this accomplishment.

 

 

III.CASE STUDY: THE NAKED ROOMMATE BY HARLAN COHEN

THE BEGINNINGS OF THE SOURCEBOOKS COLLEGE VERTICAL

If anyone was looking for a college guide in America, he or she would most likely come across the number one college guide in the country, Fiske Guide to Colleges. The partnership that began ten years ago between Sourcebooks and former New York Times education editor, Edward B. Fiske, has gone on to grow Sourcebooks into a leading college reference trade publisher (Rosen 2003).

Fiske Guide to Colleges was published by Random House for twenty years before Sourcebooks picked it up in 2001 to publish the eighteenth edition. The book did decently well with Random House and was the number six college guide in the country at the time (Rosen 2003). Nonetheless, after conducting some market research on its own, Sourcebooks felt that it could give the book a better marketing push in the broader trade market (Stocke 2011). Todd Stocke (2011) describes how Sourcebooks had talked to several college counsellors at the time and found that even though the Fiske Guide was not the number one college guide in the country, it was the one that was most recommended by counsellors. The publisher wanted to fix that disconnect, and eventually managed to accomplish that goal. It succeeded in tripling sales in just two years, making it the number one college guide in the country in 2003 with the its 2004-2005 edition (Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 6; Stocke 2011).

What was crucial to the extraordinary success of the book was the market research and data analysis that Sourcebooks conducted to identify the prime time periods to promote the book. The biggest sales for college guides were during the late summer before the fall semester began, but there was also a sales spike earlier in the year when early admission letters went out to the student prospects (Rosen 2003). Figure 1 shows the sales cycle for college guides in a year.

 

Figure 1: Sales Cycle of College Guides


(Source: Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 14)

 

After Sourcebooks identified the key time periods, it “reformatted the book, revisualized it and repackaged it” (Rosen 2003). The publisher updated the book’s design, made the trim size slightly bigger, tweaked how the content was delivered to be “more browsable” (Stocke 2011), changed the publication schedule to be released earlier in June, set up author appearances in media, aggressively pursued drive-time radio advertising in mid-April when rejection and acceptance letters went out, and used traditional marketing methods of offering co-op for end-caps, front-of-store and window displays to “help persuade booksellers that the book could outperform its previous track record” (Rosen 2003). Its efforts paid off, placing the book as the bestselling college guide in many independent bookstores (Rosen 2003).

With the success of the Fiske Guide to Colleges, the publisher quickly identified college-bound titles to be one of the key verticals and categories that it wanted to own. Within the bisac (Book Industry Standards and Communications) subject category system, the main “Study Aids” category can be generally divided into two subcategories: college guides and test prep (Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 2). The college guides subcategory includes three groups of books: one group consists of guides that provide information about different colleges to help with choosing a school; another are books that offer advice on successfully getting into college; and a third group of college survival and success books that help with the transition into college life.

While there are a number of college guides devoted to help with choosing the best college, Sourcebooks noticed a hole in the market for the subcategory consisting of books relating to the college transition and survival experience for both students and parents. There is a substantial market base for this subcategory: a 2009 survey by the Associated Press and mtvU revealed that 85 percent of undergraduates experience stress on a daily basis (quoted in Shatkin 2010). This percentage has been growing every year and has been accompanied by increased visits by students to mental health and counselling services (Shatkin 2010). For parents of college-bound students, a study by nyu Child Study Center found that the transition to college can be a stressful time in a parent’s life: “The departure is a significant milestone in the life of a family and ushers in a time of separation and transition, requiring an adjustment on the part of parents, the college-bound teenager and the whole family” (Shatkin 2010). Parents can feel a sense of loss from the separation, feel left out when they find they are “no longer needed in the same ways,” and must relinquish control to let their children make their own decisions (Shatkin 2010).

When Sourcebooks identifies a possible subcategory, its practice is to conduct market research by bringing in all the books in the subcategory to study their content and sales numbers (Stocke 2011). Through its research, it discovered that the two good books in this subcategory at the time was Letting Go by Karen Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger, and Been There, Should’ve Done That by Suzette Tyler. However, Sourcebooks found that no publisher was really hitting it out of the ballpark. That was when it decided to publish Harlan Cohen’s The Naked Roommate as its first book in this subcategory of the college transition and survival experience.

 

ABOUT HARLAN COHEN

Harlan Cohen is one of the most widely read and respected advice columnists in America for people in their teens and twenties (Sourcebooks.com, “Harlan Cohen”; apb, “Harlan Cohen”). His areas of expertise include teen issues, college life, parenting, pregnancy, dating, relationships, sex, rejection, risk taking, leadership, and women’s issues (Cohen, “About”). His syndicated “Help Me, Harlan!” advice column is distributed by King Features Syndicate and is read by millions of readers in local daily and college newspapers across the us and internationally. Cohen is also a professional speaker who has toured over four hundred high schools and college campuses to give talks to students, parents and educational professionals. He has appeared on television and radio programs across North America.

Cohen began writing at Indiana University’s school newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student. After interning with The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in the summer of 1995 and meeting a fellow writer who started an advice column in college, Cohen decided he wanted to pen his own advice column. When he returned to Indiana University, he launched his advice column, Help Me, Harlan! He initially started the column by writing his own questions and answers, but soon after, letters from individuals with real questions started to come in. He consulted experts to help with his replies, and provided responses with honesty, humour and practical help. His approachable tone and style turned the column into an instant success on campus. King Features Syndicate picked it up for distribution in 2002 and the column eventually spread across the country and overseas. Cohen has since contributed to such publications as The Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition, The New York Times, Real Simple, the Chicago Tribune, Psychology Today, Seventeen, and Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul III.

In time, Cohen delved into authoring his own books and is now a New York Times bestselling author in the us. His first book, Campus Life Exposed: Advice from the Inside, was published by Peterson’s in August 2000 (Amazon.com). He went on to write a number of books published by Sourcebooks, The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College in March 2005, Dad’s Pregnant Too! in June 2008, and The Happiest Kid on Campus in May 2010. His newest book, Naked Dating: Five Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life (While Fully Clothed and Totally Sober), will be released in April 2012 by St. Martin’s Press.

Cohen is a featured speaker every fall at college freshman orientations, touring all across North America campuses (Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 45; Stocke 2011). Online, he devotes time to build a strong web presence through regular activity on his websites, blog and social media. He incorporates interactivity into his line of books by creating websites that go hand-in-hand with them—HappiestKidonCampus.com, NakedRoommate.com, and DadsPregnant.com—in addition to running HelpMeHarlan.com.

He has since gone on to start social awareness projects to further involve and help his audience. He is the founder of Rejection Awareness Week and president of The International Risk-Taking Project, both of which seek to help those who struggle with relationship rejection (Cohen, “About”).

 

SELLING THE NAKED ROOMMATE IN THE UNITED STATES

Sell-through data was “extraordinarily integral” (Stocke 2011) to the release of the first edition of The Naked Roommate. Through market research and data analysis, Sourcebooks realized that there were not many comparable titles for sales reps and booksellers to look at. While Letting Go and Been There, Should’ve Done That did pretty well in sales, Sourcebooks felt that Cohen’s book could deliver content that was different. Letting Go catered to the emotional experience of parents dealing with letting go of their kids as the kids leave for school; Been There, Should’ve Done That catered to the college-bound students but the content was delivered as a collection of quotes and one-liners from real students. The bestselling competing title, How to Survive Your Freshman Year, was released in 2004 and the content is delivered as a collection of quotes from former and current students as well.

While all of these books were effective, the editorial team at Sourcebooks felt that The Naked Roommate could stand apart from the existing books because of Cohen’s appealing tone of voice and expert advice. Cohen comes across more like a “big brother” whose advice students would listen to, rather than an authority figure giving advice in an adult tone of voice (Stocke 2011). Cohen is personable, funny, sincere, and approachable, and he can bring to the table a vast amount of experience from interacting directly with students on a regular basis in person and online. Even though reading real quotes and stories from students offers honest insight and can be very helpful, sometimes the quotes contradict one another and might leave the reader still undecided on certain concerns at the end of the book. Sourcebooks felt that there is also value in having an author drive the book, filter through those stories, help students make sense of the information, and guide them in making wise decisions (Stocke 2011). This is what Cohen has been doing well for some time as a syndicated advice columnist. He “combines solid expert advice with fun and honest stories, quotes and advice direct from the students” (Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 46). Furthermore, The Naked Roommate also covers a wide variety of academic and social topics, such as dealing with roommates, dorm issues, relationships, laundry, cafeteria food, homesickness, social media, succeeding in class, studying, making friends, and more.

The first year that Sourcebooks tried to sell the book, it had to firstly convince booksellers that the book would fill a hole in the market as there were not many compatible books at the time. When the booksellers got on board, Sourcebooks then had to convince them on the timing on when to display the books for in-store promotion. There was a preconceived notion in the industry that back-to-school selling worked best in August, right before school starts in September (Stocke 2011). However, after mapping out the week-by-week sales data from BookScan of competitive titles, Sourcebooks noticed that while sales did spike during the traditional back-to-school selling period in August, there was an even bigger spike in sales during graduation in the spring, from mid-May to mid-June. Figure 2 shows the sales cycle for the subcategory of college survival and success books.

 

Figure 2: Sales Cycle of College Survival and Success Books


(Source: Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 54)

 

With this revelation from data analysis, Sourcebooks tried to convince booksellers that the real money to be made for the book was during graduation. This notion was something even the internal staff at Sourcebooks needed to be convinced of as well (Stocke 2011). The data revealed that graduation sales actually started its small build in March. Thus publication date for The Naked Roommate was set on March 16, 2005, and booksellers were persuaded to stock up in March to avoid missing out on a fair slice of book sales. Stocke (2011) described that as difficult as it was to persuade booksellers to change their notion of back-to-school selling when the traditional method has proven to work for years—and it still does—it was really the data that provided a strong, convincing argument for graduation sales.

Sourcebooks did not hit it out of the ballpark for the first edition although sales were fairly decent. This was because retailers did not stock enough of the books. When weekly sell-through percentages started to rise at a surprisingly fast rate—15 percent to 25 percent—the publisher and retailers started to realize that more books had to be ordered quickly (Stocke 2011). Unfortunately, they were unable to keep up with the demand.

In the second year of publication, the sales reps at Sourcebooks had to be aggressive once again at selling the book to the buyers by showing that the publisher believed in the book and was going to promote and market the book in a big way. There was huge potential for bookstores to do much better than the first year with the book. This was also a difficult process because the book was no longer on the frontlist, so the marketing department had to produce numerous special promotions and flyers to remind sales reps and booksellers that these books needed to be pushed in an aggressive way to get onto the in-store graduation displays (Stocke 2011).

This gradual build went on for all four editions, each one building on the previous edition. The subsequent editions of The Naked Roommate have been published every two years. Table 4.1 shows the publication dates in the US.

 

Table 4.1: Publication dates for The Naked Roommate in the United States


(Source: Amazon.com)

 

The sales of The Naked Roommate grew with every edition. The sell-through numbers for the third edition showed a 46.15 percent increase from the second edition (Sourcebooks, January to March Titles presentation slides 2010). While the growth was encouraging, Sourcebooks still saw potential for more growth for the fourth edition and planned a big marketing and publicity push once again.

 

US Marketing and Publicity Campaign for the Fourth Edition

The fourth edition of The Naked Roommate was marketed with a strong campaign. This section provides a comprehensive summary of how the book’s fourth edition was marketed and promoted since its release in April 2011. A detailed list of all aspects of the campaign is provided in Appendix A.

The audience that was identified for the book was college-bound students, their parents, educational professionals, and naturally, the author’s existing fan base. The positioning for the book is described as follows:

The Naked Roommate, the #1 bestselling book on college life with over 200,000 copies sold, is now completely updated and revised. Harlan Cohen is the top voice on college life, and through his speaking engagements, college tour, music, and website, has reached thousands of students helping them find college success.” (Sourcebooks, Data Sheet, 2010)

Sourcebooks summarized the appealing qualities of the books into three key selling points for marketing efforts. Firstly, it was a national bestseller, number one in the college life category with sales climbing every year. It had already sold almost 250,000 copies before entering its fourth edition (Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 47). Secondly, the author’s platform is extensive, with active social media participation and regular campus tours year-round. Thirdly, the book has a comprehensive line of accompanying products such as calendars, planners, a First Year Experience (fye) workbook, and a parents’ guide, all creating in The Naked Roommate a “comprehensive off-to-college brand” (Sourcebooks, Data Sheet, 2010). The book and its accompanying products were also appealing gift items. These were all strong points on which to build a marketing campaign.

 

Publicity Goals and Targets

The publicity goals established for the campaign were to secure national media coverage for Harlan Cohen. Sourcebooks wanted to secure appearances on at least one of the morning shows, cable news shows or late-night shows (Sourcebooks, “wam Packet – March 17, 2011”). It also wanted to gain reviews of the book or feature Cohen in major national publications to build enough publicity to push it onto the New York Times bestseller list (Sourcebooks, “wam Packet – March 17, 2011”).

To achieve these goals, the publicity efforts for The Naked Roommate was integrated with other college-bound titles on Sourcebooks’ list. Public relations events involved Cohen being part of a graduation panel that Sourcebooks put together to give back-to-school advice to college-bound students and their parents. Sourcebooks partnered with independent bookseller, Anderson’s Bookshop, to organize a series of panel discussions, called The College Insider Series, to provide opportunities for students and parents to engage with top experts in college lifestyle and college admissions (Sourcebooks.com, “Harlan Cohen and Christie Garton” 2011). Cohen appeared on such a panel with fellow Sourcebooks author, Christie Garton, on July 2011 and September 2011, and other authors such as Edward Fiske will also be featured in subsequent panels (Sourcebooks.com, “Harlan Cohen and Christie Garton” 2011).

Media publicity for the fourth edition included advertising, and mailing out advanced reading copies and press releases[8] to several major television and radio talk shows, national magazines, large daily newspapers and back-to-school issues for reviews or features (Sourcebooks, January to March Titles presentation slides 2010).

Social media and the marketability of the author has been a key marketing tool for Cohen and his books. Cohen’s online presence is crucial to reaching out to teens and those in their twenties who have grown up with the Internet and are surrounded by technology. Students can participate in discussion forums, sign up for The NAKED Daily newsletter, or become a “Naked Expert” on Cohen’s website. He regularly updates his blog and posts Naked Minute videos online. These videos are short quick tips and advice for questions that he has received from his audience. He is an active user of Facebook, Twitter (@HarlanCohen and @NakedRoommate), and YouTube. These online initiatives are a natural extension of his personality as someone who likes to connect with students directly and regularly (Stocke 2011). Additionally, he has continued to tour the country, visiting several high schools and bookstores from March to April, and college campuses from August to September of 2011 to interact with the students and offer advice (Sourcebooks, January to March Titles presentation slides 2010).

 

Marketing and Sales Promotions

Marketing efforts for The Naked Roommate included a Twitter and Facebook campaign for books within the Sourcebooks College category. Sourcebooks also marketed and promoted Cohen and his line of books at trade shows (Sourcebooks, January to March Titles presentation slides 2010). It engaged in aggressive pre- and post-tradeshow marketing with direct mail, email, and phone calls to the National Association of Student Personnel Administration (naspa), First-Year Experience programs (fye), Association of College and University Housing Officers – International (acuho–i), National Orientation Directors Association (noda) and National Association for College Admission Counseling (nacac). An email blast campaign was also targeted at parents of college bound high school students (Sourcebooks, “wam Packet – June 16, 2011”).

The book was given a two-page spread in Sourcebooks’ Spring 2011 catalogue and a one-page spread in the Fall 2011 catalogue[9] to communicate to retailers of its importance on the publisher’s list of titles. Sourcebooks also worked with some retailers to set up theme tables in the spring and end of summer, such as the ‘Dorm Essentials’ theme table at Barnes & Noble, and worked with online retailers such as Books-A-Million to do graduation and back-to-school promotions (Sourcebooks, “wam Packet – March 17, 2011”). Sourcebooks also offered back-to-school promotions for the ebook edition of The Naked Roommate with other college-bound ebook titles for $1.99 in August.

 

Section Conclusion

As a result of the comprehensive marketing campaign and sales promotion that Sourcebooks implemented, the fourth edition has been successful at achieving most of the goals that were set out in the beginning of the campaign. The most significant achievement was the book’s appearance on the New York Times bestseller list at number fifteen on the Paperback Advice and Miscellaneous list, reflecting sales for the week ending May 21, 2011 (New York Times Company 2011).[10] It was also number eight on the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Paperback non-fiction bestsellers list, reflecting the sales for the Great Lakes Association, Upper Midwest Association and Book Sense for the week ending June 5. At the time of writing, Cohen has also been interviewed on radio as well as on television on WGN Midday News in June 2011 and The Gayle King Show in August 2011. All confirmed media coverage and public relations events for Cohen and The Naked Roommate are listed in Appendix E.

This is a reflection of the persistence of a publisher in its commitment to a book and its author, based on concrete market research and data analysis that brought about a strong editorial vision, marketing and promotions strategy. Sourcebooks’ strategy, coupled with its close working relationship with the college and student counselling communities, revitalized the subcategory, and The Naked Roommate now sells twice the number of copies that the top books in the category sold prior to The Naked Roommate’s release (Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 5).

 

SELLING THE NAKED ROOMMATE IN CANADA

Gap Analysis of US and Canadian Sell-Through Data

An analysis of the us and Canadian sell-through data for the fourth edition of The Naked Roommate by Raincoast’s senior sales and marketing executives and Data Analyst revealed a stark gap between sales in the two countries. The year-to-date sell-through data retrieved from BookNet at the end of July 2011, before the back-to-school promotions in August, showed that Canadian sales was fifty-six times less than sales in the us, or 1.8 percent of us sales. That is a significant gap. According to Broadhurst (2011), anything under 4 percent is an unacceptable gap for Raincoast; it should be at least 6-7 percent, although even then it still requires an evaluation of strategies for that title.

However, it is important to keep in mind that the market size in the us is significantly bigger than that of Canada—the population in the us is nine times that of Canada according to data from the us Census Bureau and Statistics Canada websites at the time of writing—so there will inevitably be a wide gap between the sell-through figures of both countries and explains why 6-7 percent of us sales would be considered an acceptable minimum percentage by Raincoast.

Comparing the university- and college-bound market sizes of both countries reveal an even greater difference in size. Based on statistics from the us National Center for Education Statistics (2010) shown in Table 4.2, the number of students enrolled in American colleges has been increasing every year, with 20.4 million students enrolled in 2009.

 

Table 4.2: Fall enrolments in degree-granting institutions in the United States


(Source: NCES 2010)

 

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (aucc 2011, 5) reports that almost 1.2 million students were enrolled in degree programs at Canadian universities in 2010. These numbers have been increasing every year as evident from statistics provided by Statistics Canada, shown in Table 4.3.

 

 

Table 4.3: University enrolment in Canada


(Sources: Statistics Canada, n.d.; AUCC 2011)

 

While data for Canadian college enrolment for 2010 is not yet available, the numbers have remained over 600,000 for the past few years since 2004 according to Statistics Canada (Table 4.4).

 

 

Table 4.4: College enrolment in Canada


(Source: Statistics Canada, n.d.)

 

The statistics in Tables 4.3 and 4.4 show that over 1.7 million students were enrolled in Canadian universities and colleges in 2010. It means that Canadian enrolment is about twelve times less than the 20.4 million students enrolled in the us in 2010, or 8.5 percent of the us number, which is an even bigger difference than the national population size. Thus, the Canadian sales for university survival and success books will inevitably be limited by the significantly smaller number of Canadian university-bound students.

This scenario was no different from the performance of previous editions of the book in Canada. The total life sales of the first edition and second editions are not available in BookNet as the first edition was published before BookNet was launched and the second edition only shortly after.[11] According to BookNet and BookScan numbers, the total life sales for the third edition in Canada was only 1 percent of us sales. Normally, when the promotional campaign fails to sell more books, more resources would not be dedicated to push the title further. It would usually be left behind as there would be a whole new set of titles for the marketing and publicity departments to focus their efforts on. Despite three poor performances of the previous editions of The Naked Roommate in Canada, both Sourcebooks and Raincoast felt that there was still potential to keep trying to push the book in Canada. They both felt that the information gained from gap analysis, and the fact that the successful us marketing campaign had placed The Naked Roommate on the New York Times bestseller list, could be extra fuel to create buzz for the book for future selling seasons.

The key piece of information obtained from data analysis by Sourcebooks—that the graduation season in the spring was the prime time for college transition and survival titles—would also be vital to Canadian sales. However, Canadian booksellers are also not accustomed to that idea yet, a similar situation that Sourcebooks had experienced when selling the first two editions (Broadhurst 2011). Canadian booksellers still possess a traditional sense of back-to-school selling which consists of discounted dictionaries and college guides that sell in August (Broadhurst 2011). Raincoast sales reps therefore need to do the same thing that Sourcebooks sales reps had to do: persuade booksellers to start thinking about back-to-school earlier during graduation season in the spring, and to complement their list of back-to-school titles college life books such as The Naked Roommate.

However, this was difficult for Raincoast to accomplish within the first six months of its relationship with Sourcebooks. Raincoast became the distributor of Sourcebooks titles in January 2011. When Raincoast sales reps were selling for the Spring 2011 season, booksellers were not open to stocking up on Cohen’s book. In fact, the booksellers were hesitant to stock many of Sourcebooks’ titles because the publisher was still not a familiar name to Canadian booksellers. Raincoast sales reps reported that for this past Spring 2011 season, they had to spend the time introducing Canadian booksellers to the concept of Sourcebooks as a publisher (Broadhurst 2011). Thus, it was difficult to push The Naked Roommate at the time. BookNet numbers show that not many books were sold this spring. The graduation feature in the May 2011 issue of Raincoast’s Titlewave Newsletter entitled “Good Luck Grads!” and the “Gifts for Grads and Books for Back-to-School”[12] spring promotion to booksellers were not successful, with only four stores participating in the promotion (Rich 2011).

With the problem and cause identified, Raincoast decided to place more resources to push The Naked Roommate for the fall 2011 and spring 2012 seasons. To start, Raincoast assigned its marketing intern to work on market research and publicity for the book in the summer. The research and publicity work that was carried out from May to September 2011 is described in the following section.

 

Canadian Marketing and Publicity for the Fourth Edition

The target audience in Canada for The Naked Roommate is similar to the us market. With guidance from Jamie Broadhurst and Raincoast publicist, Danielle Johnson, some initial background research was initiated for this project. One of the tasks was to find hooks that would catch the attention of the Canadian media so that they will feature Harlan Cohen and his book. More time was devoted to reading through The Naked Roommate to pick out any information that would relate to the Canadian audience. Following that, research into statistics for Canadian universities and colleges was conducted. The results of this research are listed in Tables 4.3 and 4.4. The statistics show that the number of students enrolled in Canadian universities and colleges is growing every year. With the increasing rates of enrolment in Canadian universities and colleges, it means that issues of choosing a degree, excelling in classes, dealing with roommates, dating, finding friends, personal finances, sex, drugs and other mental, emotional and physical concerns that often arise in university life are affecting more and more Canadian young adults. These issues are becoming increasingly relevant in the Canadian context.

In a survey conducted by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations in 2009, it was found that more than 55 percent of Ontario’s university professors and librarians believed that students are less prepared for university than even three years prior (Bell Media 2009). The survey received two thousand responses from twenty-two Ontario universities. The Persistence in Post-Secondary Education in Canada report also found from analyzing data from Statistics Canada’s Youth in Transition Survey that about 14 percent of first-year students drop out from university:

“The overall post-secondary drop-out rate was about 16 per cent, suggesting that those who are going to drop out, do so early on. The yits followed 963,000 students who were 18 to 20-years-old in 2000 and participated in post-secondary education by 2005. Survey results from the students who left school suggest that they were already struggling with meeting deadlines, academic performance and study behaviour in their first year.” (Bell Media 2009)

With this information, Raincoast can pitch to the Canadian media that university life is vastly different from high school, and first-year students are finding it a challenge to adapt to the change. If a student’s first year in university also involves moving to a new city and living in campus dorms, the change can be even more acute. Harlan Cohen and his books are thus a valuable resource to precisely these students.

 

Publicity Efforts

Harlan Cohen was scheduled to visit Canada for two days in September 2011. Raincoast’s plan was to try to build publicity around his visit for the back-to-school selling season. The goal was to try to secure some interviews on national morning television interviews in September, plan a college radio interview tour, and pitch for reviews with national newspapers, smaller commuter papers and weeklies in major cities, and university newspapers.

Firstly, to formulate a pitch, a press release and sample interview questions needed to be written and compiled. If a publisher is not in Canada, it is a usual practice for Raincoast to request the original press release used by the publisher and then “Canadianize” the content for the local media. For The Naked Roommate, the task of editing the Sourcebooks’ media release for the Canadian market was assigned to the intern. Appendix F shows a copy of the media release that was sent out to the Canadian media. The main changes implemented were editing the word ‘colleges’ to read ‘universities and colleges’ because unlike the us, the word ‘colleges’ does not account for both universities and colleges in Canada; and including extra information that would appeal to Canadian audiences. Sample interview questions that might appeal to the local media were also included.

Next, a list of media contacts was compiled using Google and a cloud-based marketing and public relations software called Vocus. The contacts that were selected for the publicity mailing are listed in Appendix H. The seventy-three contacts include newspapers (national, city, and university), weeklies, magazines, university radio stations, and national radio talk shows that feature topics on higher education, lifestyle, advice, and parenthood. The publicity mailings went out in June, which included a copy of the book and a press release. After two weeks, a follow-up email was sent to the radio contacts to check in for interest in setting up interviews with Cohen. The email contained sample topics that Cohen would be able to discuss in an interview, as listed in Appendix J.

As a result of Raincoast’s publicity initiatives, an article by Joanne Laucius published by Postmedia News ran in a number of newspapers online across Canada in August, such as The Vancouver Sun, The Ottawa Citizen, The Montreal Gazette and The Windsor Star. A full list of newspapers that ran the article is provided in Appendix H. The article was also published in the print versions of The Vancouver Sun and The Ottawa Citizen. It features a question-and-answer session with Harlan offering advice to university students.

During Cohen’s two days in Canada at the beginning of a new school year in September, he met with students in two cities—Windsor, Ontario, and Sherbrook, Quebec—and did two radio interviews. On September 4, he held a presentation for the new students at the University of Windsor, more than one thousand of whom just moved into the campus residence (Pearce 2011). cbc Windsor interviewed Harlan on that same day (Johnson, “The Naked Roommate” 2011). The Cartier Residence Hall at the University of Windsor also included a brief segment called “Things to Think About Before and After You Get Here” adapted from Cohen’s book in its welcome letter to new students (University of Windsor 2011). The next day on September 5, Cohen spoke to the students at Bishop’s University in Sherbrook, Quebec. During that same week, the University of Manitoba’s radio station, 101.5 cjum-fm, pre-taped an interview with Cohen to air for back-to-school on its Wake Up Winnipeg segment (Johnson, “The Naked Roommate” 2011).

 

Marketing and Sales Promotions

For the July and August back-to-school promotion, Indigo decided to give the title a chance. Using co-op support, Raincoast worked with Indigo to promote The Naked Roommate in-store for the back-to-school season with a prominent front-of-store placement as part of Indigo’s plum reward points promotion. The table ran for six weeks starting August 2, 2011. Indigo was initially hesitant to buy in on Cohen’s book because the third edition did not sell well when it previously tried to promote it for back-to-school (MacDougall 2011). However, after communicating the promising expectations of the book to the Indigo buyer by showing the buyer the us sales data of the new edition and its huge potential, Indigo decided to try it again with the new edition with co-op support from Raincoast.

The results indicated that Indigo’s back-to-school promotion was “mildly successful” (MacDougall 2011). Due to the fact that the front-of-store promotion tied in with media coverage of the book through print reviews, online reviews, radio interviews, and Cohen’s visit to Canada, there was a small increase in sales during the last two weeks of August. The week’s sell-through reported by BookNet on August 28 was the highest year-to-date, and September 4 recorded the second highest. The sell-through was not bad, but it was not good either. Even though those two weeks registered as the highest sales year-to-date for the book in Canada, the total year-to-date sell-through at the end of September 2011 was still less than 3 percent compared to us sales. Of the total number of books that Indigo took for the back-to-school promotion, just over 50 percent sold through, which is not an ideal statistic (MacDougall 2011).

 

Section Conclusion

The marketing, publicity, and sales promotion plans for the 2011 back-to-school selling season did not yield much success in numbers, only a small spike in sales. However, it is a good start in a process that is going to take some time to achieve results. The process will involve having to familiarize Canadian booksellers of Sourcebooks as a publisher, reminding booksellers repetitively of the sell-through data and publicity efforts, and convincing them to rethink traditional back-to-school selling to encompass spring graduation selling as well.

Gap analysis has helped Raincoast in identifying the problem, then in pushing for the Indigo promotion. Raincoast will use data analysis in 2012 to continue to push sales for The Naked Roommate in conjunction with all the titles within the broader college guide category. Broadhurst describes Raincoast’s future plans this way:

“Raincoast will use our multiple sales and marketing channels through 2012, including a weekly bookseller newsletter reaching 1,500 Canadian industry members, to hammer home the message that the back-to-school window is bigger and longer than retailers may think. And sales data is a key part of this ongoing campaign. The vertical that Sourcebooks has identified and which is growing—post-secondary students and their parents—goes far beyond Harlan’s books. We can reach this vertical in Canada, but it will take resources, patience and persistence. Sometimes the most important impact of sales data is the stark presentation of a gap between what is and what could be. We see the potential for this category and we are going to close the gap.” (Broadhurst 2011)

Particularly for The Naked Roommate, if there were to be a fifth edition in the future, Raincoast would certainly position and market it as a big frontlist title and do an aggressive push for the graduation season as well as the back-to-school season.

 

 

IV.REVIEW AND ANALYSIS

A SUCCESSFUL VERTICAL STRATEGY

Sourcebooks’ business model focuses on developing vertical niches and creating online communities in the process. A vertical market is one where “the market for a good or service is confined to a segment constituting relatively few prospective customers (is narrow) but within which most of the customers need the item (is deep)” (BusinessDictionary.com). In contrast to expanding horizontally by targeting a diverse, mass audience, a vertical strategy targets a niche community based on specialized needs and interests.

In a time when new media and technology are evolving, publishers need to reevaluate their business models to best utilize the technologies that are available to keep their businesses thriving. Mike Shatzkin, a respected blogger of the publishing industry, is a strong proponent of publishers exploring ‘verticals’ as he believes that it is how the industry has to adjust to adapt in this digital age. Shatzkin posits that “the horizontal and format-specific product-centric media of the 20th century are inexorably yielding to the vertical and format-agnostic community-centric delivery environment for content that will soon predominate” (2010). In the context of the changing marketplace, Shatzkin (2008) believes that the future of publishing is in vertically integrated niche publishing. He predicts that there will be a rise in vertically integrated niche publishers that focus on a particular subject or category, or a small number of them, and vertically expand the depth of these subjects through various media such as text (printed and electronic), audio, video, social media, and merchandise. Shatzkin (2008) recommends that publishers need to shift their focus from selling the book in its physical form, to being audience-centric, i.e. focusing on selling content that the audience desires or needs, regardless of format.

For a publisher to establish authority within niche communities, a strong presence in the digital environment is crucial and should complement a vertical editorial vision. Today, publishers are able to make direct connections with their audience and service them through multiple channels, new media, and social media tools. Marketing efforts that are focused on driving people to the niche community website or social media accounts that are regularly updated can create a place where people can convene and participate—an active community drives the market through word-of-mouth, in both the online and physical realms, and is a potential revenue-generating opportunity.

Sourcebooks is a good example of such a vertical niche publisher, having built niche audiences around a few specific subjects and categories, such as college guides, baby names, and romance fiction. It has also endeavored to publish in a variety of formats, create dynamic specialized websites and online portals, and utilize social media. Shatzkin has named Sourcebooks’ PoetrySpeaks.com as an example of a “real vertical portal” (2009). Sourcebooks has not only been successful at publishing poetry using different formats in print and compact-discs, but also developed a website which brings together the community of poets and poetry lovers, keeping them connected online. Shatzkin (2009) touts this as an excellent method of providing a service to the reading community—not trying to sell you something—where people can celebrate their love for poetry by posting, critiquing, sharing, and selling poetry. With this model, Sourcebooks generates revenue by selling poetry content and tickets to readings and online performances, but Shatzkin (2009) proposes that it could potentially capitalize further by selling premium memberships to access more content.

Using a similar vertical expansion model and being audience-specific, Sourcebooks has created a similar online community for its college-bound books. It has created a separate section on its website called Sourcebooks College which consolidates all its college-bound books. Categories of books include those for test preparation, college search, college survival and success. This is part of the new education division, Sourcebooks edu, that the publisher recently launched to manage its “biggest existing initiatives, including the leading college-bound publishing program, a Naked Roommate first year experience program, and MyMaxScore.com, and online SAT/ACT test prep solution” (Sourcebooks.com, “New Education Division” 2011). Its mission for this category is “to help students find the right college, support the application and admissions process, including test prep, and successfully transition students into college” (Sourcebooks.com, “New Education Division” 2011). Through this platform, Sourcebooks hopes to provide convenient, solutions-oriented content from top experts in the field through innovative and engaging ways to the community of students, parents, and educators.

The vision and mission for Sourcebooks edu is a key step in building a thriving and active niche community and strengthening the brand of Sourcebooks as a leading provider of content for college-bound students, right up there with competing publishers such as Princeton Review, Barron’s, College Board, Kaplan, Peterson’s, and Spark (Sourcebooks, “Study Aids Overview” 2011, 3). The major brands that Sourcebooks has developed in the Study Aids bisac category are Fiske (college guides and essay prep), U.S. News (law and medical college guides), The Naked Roommate (college survival and success), Gruber (test prep), and MyMaxScore (test prep). Under the Sourcebooks edu umbrella, Sourcebooks has also begun to develop a line of financial aid books that offers help on how to manage money and finance the cost of going to college (Stocke 2011; Sourcebooks.com, “Sourcebooks Adds Financial Aid Resources” 2011). This is a key area in which to expand vertically as financing higher education is a source of daily stress for nearly one in three college students and their families (Shatkin 2010) and cited as “the most challenging aspect of the college process, according to a recent survey of guidance counsellors” (Sourcebooks.com, “Sourcebooks Adds Financial Aid Resources” 2011).

Over the next few years, Sourcebooks intends to continue to expand its vertical platforms. Raccah explains:

“…as the market changes, we have to continue building the infrastructure to accommodate digital, both from an architecture and an innovation point of view.” (quoted in Publishers Weekly 2011)

“Over the next five years, we believe that building vertical platforms will make an enormous difference to our company. For some of our authors, there’s a very real new set of opportunities that we are creating for them—new platforms, new models, new ways to reach readers. It is (I think) going to provide some significant revenue streams down the road.” (quoted in Publishers Weekly 2011)

“And I think you can expect publishers to have much broader relationships—with retailers, digital partners, affinity communities, authors, agents, multimedia resources, and other content providers among them. You can expect us to be “publishing” far more than just printed books and ebooks.” (quoted in Publishers Weekly 2011)

As such, Sourcebooks is moving forward with a format-agnostic mindset and focused on building an authoritative brand reputation within its niches by delivering quality content through the use of multiple media formats and channels to reach its audience. Particularly for Sourcebooks edu, this division plans to make its online tools more easily accessible and deliver content using different formats such as video, webinars, seminars, books, interactive ebooks, and software tools (Sourcebooks.com, “Sourcebooks Adds Financial Aid Resources” 2011). However, Sourcebooks is not the only brand. Its authors are also promoted as brands. Edward Fiske, Harlan Cohen and Gary Gruber are prime examples. The publisher has helped its authors extend their brands from one title to full lines of books. It has not only done so in the Study Aids category, but also in a number of others as well.

Sales data analysis has been integral to Sourcebooks’ business model. Its method of using sales data not only as a “weapon for creativity” to develop a unique editorial vision that encompasses multi-niches and deepens its vertical platforms, but also to aggressively pursue successful sell-in and improve sell-through, is commendable.

 

CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE COLLEGE VERTICAL IN THE CANADIAN MARKET

While these strategies have been successful for Sourcebooks to push sales of The Naked Roommate in the American market, it has yet to be seen if they can likewise help sales in the Canadian market. Raincoast has identified that there is a problem with seriously under-performing sales for The Naked Roommate in Canada, and have plans to push the book aggressively in future seasons based on gap analysis. Time will tell if those plans will be successful.

As previously discussed, the market size for Canadian university- and college-bound students is much smaller than that of the us—about 8.5 percent of the us. Bearing this in mind, perhaps a realistic goal for Raincoast to close the gap could be to push Canadian sales up to 7–8 percent of us sales as that would be a close reflection of the difference in the size of the market in both countries.

Further research or focus groups could also be conducted to canvas the opinions of Canadian parents who are going through the process of sending their children to university or college, and how the students adjust in their first year. That information could better relate to the local audience when used for marketing purposes.

In the future, perhaps Raincoast could consider targeting other university publications that are non-campus-specific, such as the Toronto-based Faze Magazine, which is the largest paid circulation magazine for youth ages 12 to 24 in Canada with the “annual Back-to-School Issue hitting 500,000 copies” (Faze, “The Faze Story”). Campus Life Magazine is another Toronto-based magazine with a circulation of 100,000 that reaches more than forty campuses across Canada (Campus Intercept, “Media”). It is a national student lifestyle magazine, both print and online, “representing the voice of Canadian post-secondary students” (Campus Intercept, “Media”) and a widely distributed campus publication in Canada. Campus Life Magazine is part of the larger brand of Campus Intercept, which is a youth marketing specialist that offers “specially tailored marketing solutions to clients who wish to reach Canada’s student population” (Nicholson 2007). Working with Campus Intercept to promote The Naked Roommate through advertising, media reviews, or interviews could be a good opportunity to increase the book’s sell-through in Canada.

However, the high cost of magazine advertising and collaborating with such marketing companies as Campus Intercept can be beyond what most publishers can afford. As discussed in the beginning of Chapter One, books have a short shelf life, each with its own personality competing with thousands of different books every year, which can require a customized marketing plan for each individual title (L. Shatzkin 1982, 3). This characteristic of books is unlike many other consumer businesses where their lines of products comprise of fewer, more individually distinct items sold at higher price points, making it easier for these businesses to justify a long-term investment of marketing funds towards cultivating lifelong customers. For publishers, it would be more difficult to justify spending on costly marketing initiatives such as advertising which can require multiple impressions to be effective. In this case, Raincoast would have to run a thorough cost-benefit analysis and decide if advertising in niche publications such as Faze Magazine and Campus Life Magazine would be cost-effective in terms of raising sales within a feasible marketing budget.

Some presence at national student trade shows and events might be helpful as well—similar to what Sourcebooks did in its us campaign—such as at the Student Life Expo, which is a large national post-secondary education and lifestyle event in Canada for graduating high school students. As Raincoast does not sell directly to consumers, perhaps collaborating with its retail partners—for example, using co-op support to buy a table—could be a viable option. Nonetheless, Raincoast would once again need to carry out a cost-benefit analysis to factor in the exhibitor’s cost of entry into such trade shows.

A less costly plan would be to engage in online marketing. One major benefit of the digital age is that the impact of Cohen’s active online presence and Sourcebooks edu’s online initiatives know no national bounds and can be helpful for connecting with the Canadian audience as well. It will, however, be limited by the extent to which the content is catered specifically to the American audience as opposed to encompassing a wider market.

 

CONSIDERATIONS FOR OTHER BOOK CATEGORIES AND PUBLISHING SCENARIOS

How could a small publisher without a large budget compete with larger companies like Sourcebooks and Raincoast who have more resources to invest time and money in data analysis? In an article by Peter Grant (2006) in the Literary Review of Canada, he looked at how Chris Anderson’s long-tail theory[13] can be applied to the Canadian book market to benefit Canadian publishers and Canadian-authored books. He reported this statistic:

“Of the new trade [titles] published in Canada in 2004, only 36.5 percent were by Canadian authors. But when it comes to trade titles that were reprinted in 2004, the percentage of Canadian-authored titles rose to 75 percent. That suggests that the Canadian-authored books have shorter initial print runs, a longer shelf life and more frequent reprints, distinguishing features of the long-tail effect.” (Grant 2006)

This statistic means that in the Canadian market, where the majority of books are foreign import titles, Canadian-authored books can have the potential to be pushed for a longer term, beyond the initial weeks of the books’ release. Sell-through data analysis could be used to drive marketing and promotional decisions for reprint editions in the longer term to encourage sell-in.

However, the statistics published in Grant’s article were reported prior to the formation of BookNet Canada and it is unclear where he retrieved that data. The question of whether the number of reprint editions of Canadian-authored trade titles significantly exceeds the number of newly published ones remains to be answered conclusively with relevant current data from BookNet.

Even if the statistics published in Grant’s article were true, the problem for small publishers is in the ability to finance long-term promotions of old titles, as well as cover the cost of subscription to sell-through reporting. To cover the sell-through subscription rate in Canada, BookNet’s Group Buy Plan for up to ten small independent presses could be an option to consider. Promoting old titles will be difficult because resources will need to be devoted to the bulk of new titles that are released each publishing season. One solution might be in exploring a vertical editorial strategy, as discussed earlier in this chapter, which is what Sourcebooks has developed. Trade publishers can work towards becoming multi-niche publishers, focusing on bringing in-depth and rich content to the communities they represent (M. Shatzkin 2008). A vertical editorial strategy allows books within the same category—frontlist or backlist—to be promoted together as a collection. The books will cater to multiple needs on different levels within the same category, which can push the long-tail titles over a longer period of time.

The topic of having a vertical editorial strategy begs the question of where literary fiction fits in the discussion. While categories of genre fiction such as science fiction or romance are easily delineated into individual vertical platforms, literary fiction is more broad scale in subject matter. Nonetheless, the category could potentially stand on its own as a vertical, differentiated from genre fiction. Can sell-through data analysis help with sales in literary fiction, or would it merely homogenize and “dumb down” literary quality as writers like Stephen Henighan fear? Henighan’s (2011) sentiments, as briefly touched on in Chapter One, appear to be an over-simplification of the use of sell-through data. Regarding this issue, Pat Holt, former book editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and now the writer of the online book industry column, Holt Uncensored, responded this way back in 2002:

“BookScan has a lot to tell us when it’s used the right way, but we don’t want to have to be limited by something that records only sales. Publishers are the caretakers of literature, that’s how we get new writing, new ideas. If you publish for trends, it’s just as bad as Hollywood. Majority rules does not have an equivalent in literature.” (quoted in Dreher 2002)

Holt’s point about using sell-through data in the right way is an important one. Sell-through reporting services can help publishers make informed, sustainable publishing decisions so that they can continue to afford to bring unique, alternative and high quality literary voices forward. Sell-through data can be another tool used to foster these voices in an analogy bookselling environment as described in Chapter One, whereby comparisons can be made between a book whose subject matter or author’s style of writing are akin to that of previously published titles with healthy sell-through numbers.

 

 

CONCLUSION

There is no question that there has been a commodification of books and a growing commercialization of the publishing business that is numbers- and profit-driven. The development of digital technologies and new media channels over the past thirty years have caused the business of bookselling to shift towards becoming less about the content and more about the sales expectations of a book. With traditional enthusiasm-based bookselling being taken over by analogy bookselling, sell-through data has been used to serve the solely profit-driven publishers to churn out repeat blockbusters due to the fact that there is a track record of comparable titles to back up those publishing decisions. Within some genres such as literary fiction, new authors may continue to be shunned for their own poor track record revealed by sell-through data. As such, the controversy over sell-through reporting continues to this day, ten years after the launch of Nielsen BookScan.

The persistent disagreements over sell-through reporting among publishing professionals require continued research into best practices in the industry for publishers to adapt to the changing digital environment. This report has striven up to this point to illuminate how data-driven publishing can be an effective model for the business, despite its naysayers. Beyond the immediate benefits of more accurate sales forecasting and better management of print runs and inventory, sales data has the potential to revolutionize all functions of a publishing house, positively affect both sell-in and sell-through decisions, and help publishers thrive.

Contrary to the traditional practice of cultivating mass audiences and finding manuscripts with blockbuster potential, sales data analysis can service publishers in cultivating strong vertical niche markets, creating a public awareness of smaller titles that have been overshadowed by blockbusters, and turning them into bestsellers in the long term. This is precisely what Sourcebooks has managed to achieve with a number of its categories, with its education division being a prime example. Sourcebooks uses sell-through data analysis to study existing content within numerous categories in order to improve it or offer something different. This application of data analysis can be a vital tool in shaping a publisher’s editorial vision and vertically deepening the platforms within the categories that it publishes.

Data has also been an essential tool for shaping Sourcebooks’ marketing and sales strategies. Sourcebooks uses the information it pulls from research and data analysis for effective analogy selling to retailers—“this book will sell better than this other book that did not do so well because of the extra or different content”—as it did with The Naked Roommate. The publisher’s consistent use of data analysis and market research to achieve healthy sell-in, as well as to improve sell-through with targeted multi-channel marketing and promotional campaigns, have led to the growth of Harlan Cohen’s book over four editions into a New York Times bestseller. Such publishers who are willing to think outside the box and experiment with new strategies can use data to their advantage to pinpoint holes in the market, as well as to find and compare similar books—in Sourcebooks’ case, even books that did not sell well—in an effort to push book sales of new authors.

Selling a new author’s book will no doubt still be a difficult process even with the availability of sell-through data. Sourcebooks and Raincoast Books both found this to be difficult in the first year of publishing The Naked Roommate because there were no strong comparable titles. For Raincoast, the task of re-educating its customers on consumer purchasing patterns during the graduation and back-to-school seasons will continue throughout the upcoming publishing seasons. There is great potential for growth in the college category in Canada considering the stark gap that has been identified between us and Canadian sales. The information that Sourcebooks and Raincoast have extracted from data analysis will be integral to the task of closing the gap in Canada by presenting what the potential of the title could be.

The important factor in the success of Harlan Cohen’s first book is in the persistence and commitment of the publisher who stuck to pushing a book year after year based on diligent sell-through data analysis. It will certainly be difficult to achieve the same results as The Naked Roommate for all categories. A careful evaluation of the return on investment on sell-through data subscription and marketing initiatives would have to be made—especially for Canadian publishing companies whose market is substantially smaller that the us—to ensure that the calculated benefits received will be worth the staff’s extra time and finances expensed on sell-through reporting services. For those who can afford the subscription fee, sell-through data is an important and effective tool for their businesses, not just in improving sales but also in encouraging creativity and diverse strategies during the editorial acquisitions process.

 

 


APPENDICES

 

APPENDIX A: US MARKETING, PUBLICITY AND SALES PROMOTION CAMPAIGN

Media Publicity
• Appearance on graduation panels
• Send ARCs and pitches:
++++-National magazines
++++-Large daily newspapers
++++-College/back-to-school issues
++++-Radio stations
++++-Blogs
• National tour (March/April, August/September): High schools, bookstores, college campuses
• Push for presence on mtvU, MTV Networks’ 24-hour college network (reaches 750 campuses and 9 million American college students)

Marketing
• Feature spreads in publisher’s catalogues
++++-Two-page feature spread in Spring 2011 catalogue
++++-One-page feature in the Fall 2011 edition
++++-Big Mouth Mailing
++++-Target 50 Hot Leads from NASPA/FYE Shows
++++-Send DM Piece, Naked Suite of books, letter explaining the books and program, and “10 Naked Tips for First Year Experience”
• Aggressive pre- and post-show marketing at trade shows
++++-Direct Mail
++++-Email
++++-Phone calls to:
++++++++»»National Association of Student Personnel Administration (NASPA)
++++++++»»First-Year Experience programs (FYE)
++++++++»»Association of College and University Housing Officers – International ++++++++(ACUHO–I)
++++++++»»National Orientation Directors Association (NODA)
++++++++»»National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)
• Email blast campaign to parents of college-bound high schoolers (June)
• Comprehensive website for Harlan for all three books
• Social Media:
++++-Twitter/Facebook campaign for Sourcebooks college
++++-Cross promote on teenfire.com
++++-Harlan Cohen’s blog, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Naked Minute videos

Sales Promotions
• Books-A-Million Online Bookstore: Grad and Back-to-School (May 8)
• Barnes & Noble: Grad Table and Online Promotion (April 15)
• Barnes & Noble: ‘Dorm Essentials’ theme table (August 3)
• eBook: Promo with college-bound titles for $1.99 (August)


APPENDIX B: FOURTH EDITION PRESS RELEASE

The Naked Roommate: The Essential Graduation Gift

Bestselling Author Harlan Cohen Helps Prepare College-Bound Students for Life on Campus

College is stressful.

First-year college students’ self-ratings of their emotional health dropped to record low levels in 2010, according to the cirp Freshman Survey, ucla’s annual, nationwide survey of students at four-year colleges and universities. Only 52 percent of students characterized their emotional health as “above average” while 46 percent of female college students reported “above average” emotional health, compared with 59 percent of their male counterparts.

Enter the #1 college guide, The Naked Roommate, by bestselling author Harlan Cohen.

Don’t let the name fool you. The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College (isbn: 9781402253461; april 19, 2011; $14.99 us; College Guide; Trade Paper), now in its fourth edition, is packed with valuable information, tips, advice, and resources for not just surviving, but thriving, in college.

The Naked Roommate is a work in progress, including research that Harlan has compiled over 17 years at 400 college campuses. The tips and stories have been collected via face-to-face and phone interviews, written requests, submissions to Harlan’s websites, student organizations, and social media platforms.

What’s new in the fourth edition of The Naked Roommate?

• More than 10 percent new content
• New student stories
• New tips and advice for students headed home for break
• A bonus chapter for community college students
• Updated statistics and facts
• New recommended websites, Facebook links, and Twitter feeds

Harlan has also expanded his online presence at www.nakedroommate.com. Students can participate in forums, sign up for The NAKED Daily newsletter, or become a “Naked Expert.” Harlan can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Harlan Cohen is the bestselling author of The Naked Roommate (Sourcebooks), The Happiest Kid on Campus: A Parent’s Guide to the Very Best College Experience (for You and Your Child) (Sourcebooks), Dad’s Pregnant Too! (Sourcebooks), and Campus Life Exposed: Advice from the Inside (Peterson’s). His nationally syndicated advice column, Help Me, Harlan!, is distributed worldwide by King Features Syndicate. Harlan has been a featured expert in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Real Simple, and Seventeen. He has been a guest on hundreds of radio and television programs, including nbc’s Today Show. Harlan is also a professional speaker who has visited over 400 college campuses.

(Source: Sourcebooks. Kelsch 2011)


APPENDIX C: SOURCEBOOKS CATALOGUE FEATURES

Spring 2011 Catalogue Feature

Appendix C-1

 

Fall 2011 Catalogue Feature

Appendix C-2

 


APPENDIX D: FOURTH EDITION NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER PRESS RELEASE

The Naked Roommate: Now a New York Times Bestseller!

Top College Guide Moves to the Head of the Class

NAPERVILLE, IL – May 27, 2011 – The Naked Roommate has moved in—to the New York Times Bestseller List!

The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College (isbn: 9781402253461; april 19, 2011; $14.99 us; College Guide; Trade Paper) by Harlan Cohen made its debut on the New York Times Bestsellers List at #15 on the Paperback Advice list, reflecting sales for the week ending May 21, 2011.

“I’m thrilled The Naked Roommate is being embraced by and helping so many college-bound students,” Cohen said. “I hope this new exposure will help even more students discover ‘the nakedness’ and have the very best college experience.”

Don’t let the name fool you. The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College, now in its fourth edition, is packed with valuable information, tips, advice, and resources for not just surviving, but thriving, in college.

The Naked Roommate is a work in progress, including research that Harlan has compiled over 17 years at 400 college campuses. The tips and stories have been collected via face-to-face and phone interviews, written requests, submissions to Harlan’s websites, student organizations, and social media platforms.

Harlan has also expanded his online presence at www.nakedroommate.com. Students can participate in forums, sign up for The NAKED Daily newsletter, or become a “Naked Expert.” Harlan can also be found on Facebook, Twitter (@HarlanCohen and @NakedRoommate), and YouTube.

Harlan Cohen is the bestselling author of The Naked Roommate (Sourcebooks), The Happiest Kid on Campus: A Parent’s Guide to the Very Best College Experience (for You and Your Child) (Sourcebooks), Dad’s Pregnant Too! (Sourcebooks), and Campus Life Exposed: Advice from the Inside (Peterson’s). His nationally syndicated advice column, Help Me, Harlan!, is distributed worldwide by King Features Syndicate. Harlan has been a featured expert in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Real Simple, and Seventeen. He has been a guest on hundreds of radio and television programs, including nbc’s Today Show. Harlan is also a professional speaker who has visited over 400 college campuses.

(Source: Sourcebooks. Kelsch 2011)


APPENDIX E: US MEDIA COVERAGE AND PUBLIC RELATIONS EVENTS CONFIRMED

Print

Family Circle article on teen rejection (August or September issue)
azTeen college issue (August 2011, page 10)
College Times feature
Journal Star grad guide (circulation 70,000)
USA Today: “Kids bound for college; what’s a parent to do?” (August 4)

 

Television

WGN Midday News (June)
The Gayle King Show (August)

 

Radio

• 3 interviews booked

 

Events

• Anderson’s Bookshop (IL – July 7)
• Saint Leo University (FL – August 18)
• Webster University (MO – August 19)
• University of Texas at Dallas (TX – August 20)
• Trine University (IN – August 21)
• Hiram College (OH – August 24)
• University of Montevallo (AL – August 25)
• Embry-Riddle (AZ – August 26)
• Tiffin University (OH – August 28)
• California Lutheran University (CA – August 29)
• University of Kentucky (KY – August 31)
• Southern Connecticut State (CT – September 13)
• Point Park University (PA – September 14)
• Anderson’s Bookshop (IL – September 20)
• University of South Dakota (SD – September 22)
• Northern Arizona University (AZ – September 23)
• Whitman College (WA – October 11)

(Sources: Sourcebooks. “WAM Packet – March 17, 2011”; “WAM Packet – June 16, 2011”; January to March Titles presentation slide)


APPENDIX F: RAINCOAST BOOKS SPRING 2011 GRADUATION PROMOTION

Titlewave Newsletter – May 2011

Appendix F-1

 

Spring 2011 Grad Promotion to Booksellers

Appendix F-2

 


APPENDIX G: CANADIAN PRESS RELEASE

The Naked Roommate: Now a New York Times Bestseller!

Top College Guide Moves to the Head of the Class

Appendix G

Sourcebooks
5.28 x 7.09 • 544 pages
978-1-4022-5346-1
cdn $16.99 • pb

“I’m thrilled The Naked Roommate is being embraced by and helping so many college-bound students,” Cohen said. “I hope this new exposure will help even more students discover ‘the nakedness’ and have the very best college experience.”

 

Don’t let the name fool you. The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College, now in its fourth edition, is packed with valuable information, tips, advice, and resources for not just surviving, but thriving, in college and university.

The Naked Roommate is a work in progress, including research that Harlan has compiled over 17 years at 400 campuses. The tips and stories have been collected via face-to-face and phone interviews, written requests, submissions to Harlan’s websites, student organizations, and social media platforms. It contains hilarious, outrageous and telling stories including:

• Dos, don’ts, and dramas of living with roommates
• 17 kinds of college hookups; online dating; long distance dating
• Why college friends are different; getting involved on campus
• To go or not to go to classes; how to get an A, C, or F
• Managing money, time and stress
• Sex, drugs and the truth

Harlan has also expanded his online presence at www.nakedroommate.com. Students can participate in forums, sign up for The NAKED Daily newsletter, or become a “Naked Expert.” Harlan can also be found on Facebook, Twitter (@HarlanCohen and @NakedRoommate), and YouTube.

Harlan Cohen is the bestselling author of The Naked Roommate (Sourcebooks), The Happiest Kid on Campus: A Parent’s Guide to the Very Best College Experience (for You and Your Child) (Sourcebooks), Dad’s Pregnant Too! (Sourcebooks), and Campus Life Exposed: Advice from the Inside (Peterson’s). His nationally syndicated advice column, Help Me, Harlan!, is distributed worldwide by King Features Syndicate. Harlan has been a featured expert in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Real Simple, and Seventeen. He has been a guest on hundreds of radio and television programs, including nbc’s Today Show. Harlan is also a professional speaker who has visited over 400 college and university campuses in the us and Canada.

Harlan is available for interviews.

 

 

 


APPENDIX H: CANADIAN MEDIA TARGETED FOR PUBLICITY MAILINGS

National Newspapers

• The Globe and Mail
• National Post

 

City/Commuter Newspapers and Magazines

• 24 Hours (Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver)
• The Calgary Herald
• The Edmonton Journal
• The Gazette
• Metro Toronto
• The Ottawa Citizen
• The Province
• Quebec Home and School News
• Times Colonist
• Toronto Free Press
• Toronto Star
• The Toronto Sun
• The Vancouver Sun
• Vancouver Courier
• University Affairs
• The Winnipeg Free Press
• The Windsor Star

 

Weeklies

• Georgia Straight (Vancouver BC)
• Monday Magazine (Victoria BC)
• Montreal Mirror (Montreal QC)
• Montreal Review of Books (Montreal QC)
• NOW Magazine (Toronto ON)
• SEE Magazine (Edmonton AB)
• Vue Weekly (Edmonton AB)

 

University Newspapers

• The Ubyssey (University of British Columbia)
• The Peak (Simon Fraser University)
• The Martlet (University of Victoria)
• The Varsity (University of Toronto)
• The Gazette (University of Western Ontario)
• Queen’s Journal (Queen’s University)
• The Fulcrum (University of Ottawa)
• The Silhouette (McMaster University)
• Imprint (University of Waterloo)
• The Eyeopener (Ryerson University)
• The Charlatan (Carleton University)
• The Ontarion (University of Guelph)
• Excalibur (York University)
• The Cord (Wilfrid Laurier University)
• The Link (Concordia University)
• The McGill Tribune (McGill University)
• The Gateway (University of Alberta)
• The Gauntlet (University of Calgary)
• The Manitoban (University of Manitoba)
• The Sheaf (University of Saskatchewan)

 

National/City Radio Talk Shows

Featuring topics such as lifestyle, higher education, advice, and parenthood

• ckcm-am (Grand Falls-Windsor NL)
• ckua-am (Edmonton AB)
• crfm-fm (North Bay ON)
• ckmo-am – Island Parent Radio (Victoria BC)
• cbla-fm – Ontario Morning, CBC Radio One (London ON)
• vocm-am (St. John’s NL)

 

University Radio Stations

• citr 101.9 fm (University of British Columbia)
• cfml-fm (British Columbia Institute of Technology)
• cjsf 90.1 fm (Simon Fraser University)
• cfuv 101.9 fm (University of Victoria)
• ciut-fm 89.5 fm (University of Toronto)
• ckhc-fm (Humber College)
• chry-fm 105.5 fm (York University)
• chrw-fm 94.9 fm (University of Western Ontario)
• cfrc-fm 101.9 fm (Queen’s University)
• chuo-fm 89.1 fm (University of Ottawa)
• ckcu-fm 93.1 fm (Carleton University)
• cfmu-fm 93.3 fm (McMaster University)
• ckms-fm 100.3 fm (University of Waterloo)
• Radio Laurier (Wilfrid Laurier University)
• cfru-fm 93.3 fm (University of Guelph)
• cjlo 1690 am (Concordia University)
• ckut-fm 90.3 fm (McGill University)
• cjsw-fm 90.9 fm (University of Calgary)
• umfm 101.5 fm The Manitoban (University of Manitoba)
• chmr-fm (Memorial University of Newfoundland)


APPENDIX I: CANADIAN MEDIA COVERAGE AND PUBLIC RELATIONS EVENTS CONFIRMED

Canadian Print

The Ottawa Citizen: “Campus Confidential” (August 19)
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/health/Campus+confidential/5279265/story.html

Leader-Post: “Campus Confidential” (August 20)
http://www.leaderpost.com/life/Campus+confidential/5282122/story.html

The Vancouver Sun: “Campus Conundrums” (August 22)
http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Campus+conundrums/5287822/story.html

The Montreal Gazette: “Campus Conundrums” (August 22)
http://www.montrealgazette.com/story_print.html?id=5286718&sponsor=

Canada.com: “Campus Confidential” (August 23)
http://www.canada.com/Campus+confidential/5298731/story.html

The Windsor Star: “Students’ Dilemmas Don’t Make Columnist Squirm” (August 27)
http://www.windsorstar.com/life/Students+dilemmas+make+columnist+squirm/5317348/story.html

 

Canadian Radio

• CBC Windsor (September 4)
• University of Manitoba 101.5 cjum-fm (September 5)

 

Canadian Events

• University of Windsor (ON – September 4)
• Bishop’s University (QC – September 5)


APPENDIX J: SAMPLE TOPICS AND QUESTIONS FOR AUTHOR INTERVIEW

Guest Segment: Back-To-School Advice for Students (and Parents) from Top College and University Expert Harlan Cohen

Harlan Cohen knows about college life.

He’s the author of the New York Times bestselling college guide, The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College, a nationally syndicated advice columnist for teens and twenty-somethings, and an in-demand college lifestyle speaker who has visited more than 400 college and university campuses.

Harlan is available for a back-to-school interview segment featuring valuable information for college-bound students and their parents.

 

Back-To-School Checklist for College-Bound Students

Expect the Unexpected – Try leaving for college with BIG, but flexible, expectations.
Patience, Patience, Patience – It can take up to two years to find your place on campus.
The Ultimate Roommate Rule – Make rules before you need rules.
Homesickness – It’s normal. Medicate with small doses of home, family and friends.
The Fifth Wall of Technology – Don’t stay in your dorm and live online. You’ll miss out.

 

Back-To-School Checklist for Parents of College-Bound Students

Loosen Your Grip – You don’t have to “let go.” Just change your grip.
The 24-Hour Rule – Unless there’s immediate danger, wait at least 24 hours. Most situations will get fixed without your help.
Learn to Text – Texting is the most unobtrusive way to get a response from your student.
• Moving Day – How to say good-bye and what NOT to do.
The First Few Months – What to expect from your college student (and what to do) in the first few months.

(Source: Sourcebooks. Kelsch 2011)

 

 


NOTES

1 The company was previously called vnu (Verenigde Nederlandse Uitgeverijen), which later became AC Nielsen Company, and now known as The Nielsen Company (Wikipedia, “Verenigde”). RETURN

2 Heather MacLean’s 2009 MPub project report, “The Canadian Book Industry Supply Chain Initiative: The Inception and Implementation of a New Funding Initiative for the Department of Canadian Heritage,” presents comprehensive research into the inception and development of the Supply Chain Initiative and BookNet Canada. RETURN

3 Thompson (2010, 239) reports that prior to 1980, the number of new books published in the us was estimated to be under 50,000. The number reached close to a staggering 200,000 by 1998, and 284,000 in 2007. RETURN

4 The information in this section is taken from Sourcebooks.com (“The Sourcebooks Story”), unless otherwise stated. RETURN

5 The information in this section is taken from the Raincoast Books website (“About Raincoast Books”), unless otherwise stated. RETURN

6 onix (Online Information Exchange) for books is the international xml-based standard for representing and communicating book bibliographic data in electronic form (Editeur, “onix”). RETURN

7 The client publisher extranet site is accessible at http://services.raincoast.com. RETURN

8 See Appendix B for the fourth edition us press release. RETURN

9 See Appendix C for the two catalogue features. RETURN

10 See Appendix D for the New York Times bestseller press release from Sourcebooks. RETURN

11 The first and second editions only had one or two stores reporting sales data to BookNet, compared to the 50-100 that reported when the third edition was in print and over 100 stores reporting for the fourth. Thus, the sell-through data is most likely not reliable for the first two editions. RETURN

12 See Appendix F for Raincoast’s spring 2011 graduation promotion. RETURN

13 The long-tail theory is the idea that outside of the few money-making blockbusters, the aggregate of non-hits and obscure titles made up of thousands of niches—the Long Tail—is a substantial revenue-generating opportunity as well (Anderson 2004). RETURN

 

 


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Anderson, Chris. “The Long Tail.” Wired, October 2004. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html.

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AUCC (Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada). Trends in Higher Education: Volume 1 – Enrolment. Ottawa, on: aucc, 2011. http://www.aucc.ca/wpcontent/uploads/2011/05/trends-2011-vol1-enrolment-e.pdf.

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Blanco, Jodee. The Complete Guide to Book Publicity. 2nd ed. New York: Allworth Press, 2004.

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———. “BNC SalesData.” Accessed September 27, 2011. http://www.booknetcanada.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=434&Itemid=299.

———. “BNC SalesData Group Buy Plan.” Accessed November 8, 2011. http://www.booknetcanada.ca/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=91&Itemid=337.

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———. “Vertical Market.” WebFinance, Inc. Accessed on January 10, 2012. http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/vertical-market.html.

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———. Printed Matters: Book Publishing Policy and Programs, Annual Report 200304. Gatineau, qc: Government of Canada, 2004.

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Henighan, Stephen. “The BookNet Dictatorship.” Geist 78, 2011. http://www.geist.com/articles/booknet-dictatorship.

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Hutton, Tatiana. “BookScan: A Marketing Tool or Literary Homogenizer?” Publishing Research Quarterly 18, no. 1 (May 1, 2002): 46-51.

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Kelsch, Liz (Publicity Manager, Sourcebooks). Email messages to Danielle Johnson, Raincoast Books, June 2011.

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———. “Sourcebooks Moving Beyond Its Source.” Publishers Weekly, October 5, 2007, http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20071008/17178-sourcebooks-moving-beyond-its-source-.html

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NCES (National Center for Education Statistics). “Total fall enrollment in degree-granting institutions, by attendance status, sex of student, and control of institution: Selected years, 1947 through 2009.” Digest of Education Statistics, 2010. Accessed on November 4, 2011. http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d10/tables/dt10_197.asp?referrer=report.

The New York Times Company. “Best Sellers, June 5, 2011.” The New York Times. June 5, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/best-sellers-books/2011-06-05/paperback-advice/list.html.

Nicholson, Kara. “National Campus Marketing Agency Founded by T.O.-Based Agencies.” Media in Canada. December 13, 2007. http://mediaincanada.com/2007/12/13/campusintercept-20071213.

Nielsen Book Services Limited. “Nielsen BookScan.” Nielsen BookScan. Accessed September 27, 2011. http://www.nielsenBookScan.co.uk/controller.php?page=104.

Pearce, Kristie. “U of W Students Start Filling in Residences.” The Windsor Star, September 5, 2011. http://www.windsorstar.com/news/windsor/students+start+filling+residences/5352826/story.html?id=5352826.

Publishers Weekly. “Looking for the 50% Solution.” Publisher News, December 30, 2011. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/50017-looking-for-the-50-solution.html.

Raincoast Book Distribution Ltd. “About Raincoast Books.” Raincoast Books. Accessed September 29, 2011. http://www.raincoast.com/about.

———. Always Connected. May 2010. http://www.raincoast.com/images/uploads/raincoast-brochure-may2010(2).pdf.

———. “Good Luck Grads!” Titlewave Newsletter, Raincoast Books, May 2011. http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=2dc45a5040bb71fdf88e5f667&id=2867daa7d0.

———. “Raincoast Gets Back to Basics.” Blog (blog), Raincoast Books, January 8, 2008. http://www.raincoast.com/blog/details/raincoast-gets-back-to-basics.

Rich, Siobhan (Marketing Manager, Raincoast Books). Email message to author, October 19, 2011.

Rosen, Judith. “College Bound: Guide to Schools Gain in Sales.” Publishers Weekly, May 5, 2003. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20030505/35815-college-bound-.html.

Shatkin, Jess P., and the Staff of the nyu Child Study Center. “Transition to College: Separation and Change for Parents and Students.” New York: nyu Child Study Center, 2010. http://www.aboutourkids.org/articles/transition_college_separation_change_parents_students.

Shatzkin, Leonard. In Cold Type: Overcoming the Book Crisis. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1982.

Shatzkin, Mike. “End of General Trade Publishing Houses (Completely Retold).” Speeches, The Idea Logical Company, Inc. January 22, 2008. http://www.idealog.com/speeches/2008/01/end-of-general-trade-publishing-houses-completely-retold.

———. “Here’s a Real Vertical: PoetrySpeaks.com.” The Shatzkin Files (blog), The Idea Logical Company, Inc. November 4, 2009. http://www.idealog.com/blog/heres-a-real-vertical-poetryspeaks-com.

———. “With New Opportunities Come New Challenges.” The Shatzkin Files (blog), The Idea Logical Company, Inc. March 9, 2010. http://www.idealog.com/blog/with-new-opportunities-come-new-challenges.

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———. “Harlan Cohen and Christie Garton Kick Off College Insiders Series at Anderson’s (July 7).” Publicity, 2011. http://www.sourcebooks.com/publicity/1746-harlan-cohen-and-christie-garton-kick-off-college-insiders-series-at-andersons-july-7.html.

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———. “Sourcebooks Adds Financial Aid Resources to Rapidly Expanding Education Portfolio.” Sourcebooks Next (blog), December 5, 2011. http://www.sourcebooks.com/next-news/1892-sourcebooks-adds-financial-aid-resources-to-rapidly-expanding-education-portfolio.html.

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Life After Print: Revising the Digital Editorial Strategy in Magazine Publishing

 

By Kristen Nicole Hilderman

ABSTRACT: This report examines the tension between print and digital magazine publishing, the divisiveness around SEO, and the future of BCBusiness magazine’s digital editorial strategy. Beyond simply extolling the virtues of SEO, this report discusses its absolute necessity in the digital editorial workflow, how it can be adapted, and the best practices for digital editors. As the magazine publishing industry moves into a new digital era, magazines have to consider how to align the goals and practices of print and digital editors while developing new online strategies that combine print content, multimedia, SEO, and social media. BCBusiness is on the vanguard of this magazine publishing movement that will see more dynamic editors working as multi-platform, multidiscipline, word- and Web-strategists. All figures and statistics are accurate as of April 2011.

 

 


Acknowledgements

Thanks to my industry supervisor, Shannon Emmerson, and to John Bucher for their support, mentorship, and for letting me stick around after my internship.

Thanks to my senior supervisor, John Maxwell, and the brilliant staff in the Master of Publishing Program. I appreciate all of your encouragement, your dedication to your students, and above all, for helping me see what an exciting time this is to be entering the publishing industry.

And finally, thanks to my wonderful husband, Luc. I couldn’t have done this without your motivation on those early Saturday mornings, your encouraging words, and all of your support as I inched further toward my degree.

 

 


CONTENTS

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

INTRODUCTION
++++The digital publishing arc of BCBusiness magazine

PART ONE | A Burgeoning BCBusiness Digital Editorial Strategy
++++Early digital workflow
++++Case study: BCBusiness Online articles in 2007
++++The importance of SEO in digital

PART TWO | The Inner Workings of Search Engine Optimization
++++SEO explained
++++Social media as SEO
++++SEO in the analytics spotlight

PART THREE | The BCBusiness Digital Editorial Strategy
++++Parsing the BCBusiness Google Analytics
++++Adapting social media
++++New SEO strategies at Canada Wide Media
++++Content collections

PART FOUR | The Future of Digital Editorial Practices
++++Bridging the gap between print and digital
++++From type to Twitter: An optimal workflow

CONCLUSION

NOTES

BIBLIOGRAPHY
++++Works cited

 


INTRODUCTION

The digital publishing arc of BCBusiness magazine

In an increasingly digital world, magazine publishing strategies without Web components are rare animals. The publishing­­ industry has evolved rapidly, changing with the technologies on which it relies to reach its readers. As digital technologies advance, so do its users, and so must the content providers. After spending three months interning at Canada Wide Media, Western Canada’s largest magazine publisher, and studying the evolution of its online publishing strategy, I saw firsthand the speed with which publishers and editors must react to the evolving demands of readers and the market.

This report addresses the seismic shifts in the magazine publishing landscape, how they have given way to new digital strategies and an emphasis on magazines’ online components, and what these changes look like at a Canadian magazine publisher. During my internship at Canada Wide I analyzed online articles from 2007 onwards to ascertain past digital editorial practices and how they figured in the overall workflow of a print article being put online. Beyond analyzing the way things were, this report thoroughly discusses current strategies and their merits in online publishing, and puts forth new ideas for the future of online publishing. Upon being hired as a full-time staff member following my internship, I extended my research to Canada Wide’s current editorial strategies, and looked at how new methods and ideas can be incorporated to improve the digital editorial workflow and the overall success of online magazines. By going inside the current digital editorial practices at BCBusiness magazine, Canada Wide’s print and online business title, and analyzing its past methods, I can trace the evolution of online magazine publishing strategies at Canada Wide Media.

As online magazine-publishing models proliferate, more companies are exploring the opportunities of digital publishing rather than dwelling on the shortcomings of print. Magazines are being published in myriad forms —Magazines Canada calls them “360 degree marketing providers”[1]—and online editions are building credibility with both readers and advertisers. As audiences warm to the idea of consuming robust content online —books, magazines, newspaper articles—more publications are moving their digital products beyond static replications of their print editions and embracing new strategies.

Early online models seemed to be shaped around the idea that “if you build it, they will come;” any online presence was better than none, and digital strategies lacked elegance, using the Web simply as a print-content repository. The prevailing idea was that, if your content was worthy, readers would find it, consume it, share it, and return for more. But with 255 million websites in existence as of December 2010,[2] it has never been clearer that good content alone will not fuel your site’s vitality and success.

The content is king mantra still buzzes in the background of digital publishing strategies, but the sheer vastness and increasing complexities of the Internet demand a more sophisticated approach. Publishing excellent content is the editor’s steadfast goal, but ensuring that it is findable is paramount in her strategy. If you build it, the reader must be able to Google it.

Readers do not interact with a digital publication in the same way as with a print publication, nor do they find it the same way. Adopting a separate editorial strategy for Web content (both print-to-Web and Web-only) involves understanding how readers consume content online and understanding how they find it.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the Web practice of enhancing an article or website’s visibility online and increasing its findability in search engine results. In the past few years, SEO has become an increasingly fundamental part of online magazine publishing strategies, and thorough knowledge and understanding of SEO techniques are a necessity in the digital editor’s toolbox. By employing SEO methods, the digital editor improves an article’s online visibility, which results in more traffic arriving to the magazine’s website; it is like placing your print magazine at the front of the newsstand in hopes of attracting more readers. Although some aspects of SEO are at odds with the conventions of print editorial—such as headline writing—they have their rightful place in magazine publishing.

By incorporating SEO methods into the digital editorial strategy, editors can ensure that their content is well indexed by search engines and that it drives traffic to the magazine’s site. Although SEO skeptics are still rampant, it is hard to ignore the facts; through Google analytics, it is easy to discern the articles that have been optimized[3] from those that were copied from the print magazine with no further changes. This report looks at the SEO and analytics of successful and unsuccessful BCBusiness articles to clarify the gap between a properly optimized article and one that has not undergone any Web-specific editorial treatment. Analytics reveal how many people see an article, how they arrived there, and many other valuable details that can be incorporated into the digital editorial strategy. A magazine article that is published online without Web-specific editorial treatment or optimization is the proverbial needle in the Internet haystack, a blip on the Google analytics radar. By thoroughly analyzing search optimization methods, this report will determine the best practices for digital editors, look at new techniques, emphasize SEO’s necessity in online magazine publishing, and look at how it can be specifically applied to back issues of Canada Wide’s magazines and to its current digital editorial strategy.

 

The digital publishing arc of BCBusiness magazine

In 2005, Canada Wide Media launched a Web component for its flagship publication, BCBusiness magazine. The website offered fragments of five articles per month and pushed readers to subscribe to the print magazine. In 2007, BCBusiness launched its full website, BCBusinessOnline.ca. Over the past five years, BCBusiness Online has followed a similar arc to the one mentioned above. The fledgling website published entire print magazine issues by moving content online, but with minimal photos and limited consideration for the articles’ digital environment, primarily due to a small staff stretched thinly over the demanding website launch and curation. The original intention was to bring BCBusiness a Web presence as quickly as possible, populating the site with print content as a mirror to the magazine. The digital staff wanted to serve both readers, in finding content online, and advertisers, in reaching a new online audience. “The purpose of the website was to promote the magazine to advertisers and potential subscribers”[4] with less focus on the reader experience. The website was a means to an end; the goal was to have a Web presence. In conjunction with the website launch, BCBusiness Online developed a blog component, but still left the magazine content with limited digital editorial treatment. It focused, rather, on curating the new Web-only component, a collection of blogs. BCBusiness Online’s Web component concerned itself with fresh, engaging content—which is not a bad strategy, but an incomplete one.

In the years following the launch of the site the magazine has significantly adjusted its approach to include search engine optimization as a critical part of its digital editorial strategy.[5] With editors dedicated to SEO as a stage in each blog post and article’s workflow, the magazine has increased its visibility online and overall visitor traffic to the site. BCBusiness Online began using Google analytics in 2008, and since then the site has seen a 22.7% increase in unique visitors from 2008 to 2009, and a 49.2% increase in unique visitors from 2009 to 2010. This is no doubt the result of BCBusiness Online’s adoption of SEO, social media practices, and continued publication of high-quality content. Excellent content is a priority, but broadcasting it through social media and making it searchable through SEO has made the site significantly more successful, as can be seen by analyzing the visitor sources and keywords in BCBusiness Online’s Google analytics.

BCBusiness Online’s early practices of shoveling print content online has resulted in droves of valuable back-issue articles that have sunk to the bottom of the site and are not easily findable by search. By revisiting these articles with a revised digital editorial strategy, BCBusiness Online can create a valuable archive of content that will drive traffic, create a long tail of organic search-engine visitors, and hopefully convert those visitors to loyal readers.

We know that magazines need SEO, but it is time to revisit those strategies and evaluate which methods have real clout and which can be put aside. Rather than use the shotgun approach, editors must devote more quality time to only the important aspects of SEO than hedging one’s bets by completing every step half-heartedly. Too much time is wasted on methods that have been proven useless, like writing long lists of keywords on the backend of articles. Abandoning ineffective methods to devote more time to others (i.e. rewriting headlines and cultivating strong social media channels) can fortify the overall SEO of an article. This revision of the digital editorial strategy must also involve print editors—SEO should extend beyond the purview of just the digital editor. As magazines’ Web components build dominance, editors must work together as members of the same brand rather than separate print and digital entities.

 

 

PART ONE | A Burgeoning BCBusiness Digital Editorial Strategy

Early digital workflow; Case study: BCBusiness Online articles in 2007; The importance of SEO in digital

The evolution of BCBusiness Online provides a model in the Canadian publishing industry by which we can trace changes in online editorial strategies. Analyzing articles from even just four years ago reveals a substantially different approach to online magazine publishing and a very basic definition of “Web presence.” In its earliest incarnation—and like many of its peers—BCBusiness magazine approached search engine optimization as more of an overall site-structure strategy with less attention paid to the optimization of individual articles. But as publishers began to grasp a more sophisticated idea of what being online meant for a magazine, digital editors began to emerge and, with them, digital editorial strategies. Search engine optimization grew in relevance as publishers began to consider business models for digital publishing, and as digital editors recognized its reader-attracting power. The sales staff wanted more traffic for the sake of advertisers, and editorial staff wanted more readers. BCBusiness had humble Web beginnings, but carved out its spot online and used the power of search engine optimization to help find its online audience.

BCBusiness Online has developed over time within the Digital Media Department at Canada Wide Media under director of digital media Shannon Emmerson. Since June 2007, the department has grown from a full-time staff of two to a full-time staff of 13. This includes three full-time digital editors, each dedicated to their own digital title—BCBusiness Online, Granville Online, and BCLiving, respectively. The department also has two full-time digital editorial assistants who devote editorial time to these titles, as well as TVWeek Online, Youthink.ca, GardenWise Online, RealGolf.ca, and Wellness Matters. The remainder of the department is comprised of a vice-president of marketing and digital media, a director of business development, an online-product marketing manager, two Web developers, an interactive designer, and a digital media operations manager.

A full-time digital editor and full-time digital editorial assistant run BCBusiness Online, with occasional blog contributions from the BCBusiness print editors. Together, the digital editors manage eight blogs with various contributors, create sales-driven Web-only content (articles whose topics originate from salespeople and are juxtaposed with relevant advertisements), publish each print issue of BCBusiness online, and create web-only multimedia features including slideshows, podcasts, videos, content collections,[6] and weekly eNewsletters.

Recent structural changes at Canada Wide have shifted the digital editors out of the Digital Media Department and under the larger umbrella of the Editorial Department. This internal shift at the company affords the opportunity to make a stronger connection between the print and digital strategies of BCBusiness and BCBusiness Online. Consolidating print and digital editors will make it easier to integrate the digital editorial strategy into the overall editorial strategy of the BCBusiness brand.

 

Early digital workflow

In June 2007, BCBusiness magazine made its foray into digital publishing with BCBusiness Online. This was a crucial transition for BCBusiness during a period where many publishers feared the Web would cannibalize print sales.

In its earliest incarnation, the website revolved primarily around print content, and was without a proper digital editor for its first eight months. John Bucher, the first BCBusiness digital editor, arrived in February 2008. Under Bucher’s direction, the website was primarily dedicated to Web-only content that would complement the magazine. The digital editor continued publishing every article from each print issue as more bloggers joined and the Web-only content began to flourish. Like many other publications in the nascent digital magazine market, BCBusiness Online was carving out its niche and experimenting with the tension between print and digital. This was in a pre-iPad, pre-Kindle era,[7] where the notion of consuming books and magazines online was an ongoing debate for readers and a relatively new challenge for publishers.

BCBusiness uses—as it used then—a customizable Drupal content management system that creates new articles through a blank “article” template form with required (i.e. title, author, body text) and optional (i.e. meta title, meta description) fields. Once filled in, the article forms can be saved and left unpublished or saved and published at the editor’s discretion by simply selecting or deselecting the “publish” button. The titles, authors, and body text from magazine articles were copied and pasted from their original Adobe InDesign production files into the backend of the website as unpublished articles (not accessible online except by editors), receiving no further editorial treatment beyond the print-magazine workflow. After upload, all print content was published at the digital editor’s discretion.

Before BCBusiness Online developed a strategy around the timing of online content with the timing of print content, it experimented, in an effort to maintain subscriptions and newsstand sales. The first publishing strategy was to sync the website publication with the magazine to be a true digital companion, offering full article access in time with the newsstand date. Further experiments included trickling articles out online throughout the course of the month, and pre-releasing print content “teasers” in the weekly eNewsletters to build momentum. But it was not until BCBusiness Online joined Twitter in February 2009 that the site could effectively generate buzz around print articles prior to the newsstand date without undermining the magazine. By tweeting about topics and people featured in upcoming articles without actually linking to them, readers are left to consider what angle the article might take, and must stay tuned to the BCBusiness Twitter feed (or continue visiting the BCBusiness homepage) until the article goes live online. The digital editor measured his success in this endeavour by retweets and the quality of direct response to his teaser tweets.

At the time BCBusiness joined Twitter, the digital editor was slowly leaking print articles online after the publication of the print magazine. He now gauges the anticipated popularity of print stories and revises his publishing strategy on a month-to-month basis; he publishes articles early, on the newsstand date, and past the newsstand date, all the while tweeting about what’s live on the website and what’s to come. The current role of BCBusiness Online falls under both the idea of the companion and the complement—everything in the magazine is offered online, but with additional commentary and treatment that only the Web can offer. The website plays the companion by publishing online everything in the print magazine, but it also complements print stories by taking advantage of multimedia—and sometimes further coverage in writing—to round out the articles. For example, a February 2011 article on nuclear fusion and Burnaby-based company General Fusion had a Web-only complementary article that featured an interview with the CEO of General Fusion and a lesson on how his company’s particular brand of nuclear fusion works; a January 2011 article on BC architects had a Web-only slideshow of structures designed by the architecture firms mentioned in the print article.

Eight BCBusiness Online bloggers (a number that is currently in flux) and various other contributors provide timely commentary, business advice, and local business insight that reinforce the brand as a trusted authority in BC’s business community.

The table below illustrates BCBusiness’s size as a print magazine and as a website. Comparing the 2009 and 2010 stats of BCBusiness indicates significant growth online and in the magazine’s social media channels.

 

BCBusiness Circa 2009 BCBusiness Circa 2010
Total Site Unique Visitors (fiscal year 2009): >230,000 Total Site Unique Visitors (fiscal year 2010): >315,000
Magazine circulation: 26,000 (monthly) Magazine circulation: 26,000 (monthly)
Average article and blog uploads per month: 75 Average article and blog uploads per month: 60
Online archives: July 2007 and later Online archives: Full issues for July 2007 and later; random print articles from 2005
Twitter followers: >4400 Twitter followers: >9700
Facebook fans: >160 Facebook fans: >561
eNewsletter frequency: weekly[8] eNewsletter frequency: weekly

In comparison to sister site and magazine GardenWise, whose current circulation is 35,000 and current average uploads per month is approximately 30 articles per month plus regular blogs and events, BCBusiness has grown its total unique visitors substantially more. From 2009 to 2010 BCBusiness has increased it unique visitors by nearly 100,000 visitors per month. GardenWise decreased from >250,000 unique visitors in 2009 to >235,000 unique visitors in 2010. Although the two brands are under the same umbrella at Canada Wide Media, BCBusiness underwent more radical changes to its digital editorial strategy in recent years, has a full-time online editor and assistant editor, and has more fully incorporated SEO into its workflow of print and Web-only content.

 

Case study: BCBusiness Online articles in 2007

Early digital editorial strategies involved little to no SEO, in part due to unfamiliarity, but also due to fear of comprising the editorial integrity of print articles. But it was hard for publishers to ignore the logic of search engine optimization. Google analytics show that when an article is optimized, it will receive more organic visitors than an article that has not been optimized. Turning up one’s nose at SEO is turning down loads of potential readers. Senior SEO analyst for Hearst Publications, Dan Roberts, was an early proponent for SEO and the man responsible for working it into the publishing company’s online strategy. “There are a lot of people who had to make a paradigm shift [from print editorial] . . . The ones that ignore [SEO] do so at their own peril and their results speak for themselves,”[9] said Roberts.

Print articles do not translate to the Web in many ways—especially visually. A page of magazine article has text that flows around pull quotes, has images and captions, and breaks longer pieces into subsections, even if only with drop caps rather than subheads. These longer articles online appear as blocks of text with few points of entry for the reader; without subtitles to distinguish breaks or shifts in the story, images to create visual interest, or page breaks, online articles can appear daunting and unattractive to readers. And most importantly, print titles are vague and do not contain keywords, making the articles less searchable online. If an article about boating in the Pacific Ocean is called “High Tides,” with no further metadata, and a reader is searching online for information about boating in the Pacific, this article will be buried beneath articles whose titles and metadata are trying to capture that audience. Eventually everything online is indexed, but it is not necessarily easy to find.

Rachelle Money reports that since including SEO in Hearst’s digital editorial strategy, the company saw a 150 per cent increase in overall traffic.[10] This jump in traffic and shift in editorial strategy represents the majority of online magazines and magazine companions; some worried that SEO would compromise the integrity of the original article, and some were just skeptical. In 2007 when BCBusiness was first experimenting with online strategies and digital publishing, it had moderate knowledge of search engine optimization that was geared mostly toward website infrastructure rather than smaller-scale article infrastructure. By analyzing old BCBusiness content, it is evident that the chief priority was getting content online with few editorial changes. Had these articles been under the guiding hand of a digital editor, they could have been rigorously optimized, capturing a larger online audience, ranking higher in Google search results when there was less competition, and enjoying a long tail of traffic over the years. Each visitor in the long tail of traffic represents an opportunity to win over a new reader. Reviewing an article from BCBusiness Online in 2007 demonstrates the lost opportunities of digital editorial strategies without SEO.

On September 1, 2007 (three days prior to the September print issue’s newsstand date), BCBusiness Online published the print feature story “Here Comes the Pride.” (URL: http://www.BCBusiness Online.ca/bcb/top-stories/2007/09/01/here-comes-pride.) The article has a slug-based URL, which means it is automatically created by the online publishing platform, drawing its name from the category under which the article is classified in the Drupal article form (top story), the date on which it is published online (September 1, 2007), and the title of the article, which in this case is the original magazine headline (Here Comes the Pride). Because the title of this article was taken directly from the print magazine with no further changes, the URL contains no useful keywords for a reader who is trying to Google the article. Ordinarily when optimizing a print article’s headline, the digital editor uses the Google Adwords Keyword Tool to research popular words and phrases that pertain to the article. In this case, the digital editor might have found that “gay marriage” was a popular keyword and subsequently used it in the headline. This would create a keyword-based title, reflecting the terms that readers would use in search engines to find this content.

The meta title is an SEO element that appears at the top of the reader’s browser and describes the content of the page; it reads the same as the print story headline, but with BCBusiness appended after a pipeline (Here Comes the Pride | BCBusiness). BCBusiness is automatically added to the end of every meta title, which is good for overall brand SEO but does not help individual articles. The article deck is not visible in the body of the text and is only used in a promotional spot of the article form that appears wherever the article is featured on the website. Including a deck contained in H2 tags is another opportunity to include pertinent keywords and larger searchable phrases that may be too awkward for a title. The body of the article does not feature any further optimized metadata such as H3 tags, article links, or image meta tags.

Reviewing the Google analytics for this article reveals that zero visitors arrived from keywords germane to the article’s content. Without optimizing the article around keywords, it cannot be easily found—if at all—through a Google search. Unless a reader has the exact print title, “Here Comes the Pride,” he would have no other means of finding the article online. In order to capture visitors through Google searches, the digital editor must research keywords and phrases that relate to the article and that she thinks readers would use in order to find this type of story. The Google Adwords Keyword Tool shows the editor which keywords are popular, by how many Google searches they receive each month, and how likely it is to rank highly for the keyword by displaying the level of “competition” surrounding the word. The more popular something is, the harder it will be to win that term. But ranking on the first page of a Google search result for a popular keyword can result in consistent traffic. In Google Adwords Keyword Tool, the following relevant search terms return favourable results:

“gay marriage” – 550,000 searches per month, low competition
“same sex marriage” – 201,000 searches per month, low competition
“gay and lesbian marriage” – 165,000 searches per month, low competition
“legalize same sex marriage” – 18,100 searches per month, low competition

In publishing and journalism, editors and writers refer to an article like “Here Comes the Pride” as “evergreen”—its content does not go out of date and is perennially useful. But without SEO, once the article is shifted down by newer content, it is buried deep within the site with no means of finding it. In the next section we look at a 2008 article called “Red Light, Green Light” that received the full SEO treatment and subsequently ranks highly in Google search results. Since BCBusiness Online began using Google Analytics in 2008, “Here Comes the Pride” has received a paltry 226 unique visits—a fraction of the 9,603 visits that the optimized “Red Light, Green Light” received in just 2010 alone. And of those 226 visitors, not one arrived using a relevant keyword. With such extraordinarily popular search terms at its heart, such low competition for those terms, and an online life of over three years, the article should have tens of thousands of views.

 

The importance of SEO in digital

By comparing “Here Comes the Pride” to another (optimized) article based around a popular search term, it is easy to see the difference in terms of visitor traffic and longevity. Although the article “Red Light, Green Light: Sex in Vancouver” was published on October 9, 2008, it continues to draw steady traffic. The article covers a salacious, controversial, and highly searched topic (much like same sex marriage but with radically fewer searches per month in the Google Adwords keyword tool), but by optimizing the article well, it ranks highly in Google search results and constantly draws traffic. In January 2011 alone, the article brought in 1,394 unique visitors just from organic Google searches (not including visitors from other search engines). Over its lifetime, “Red Light, Green Light” has brought in the following numbers of unique visitors from the corresponding keywords: 1,205 arrived via keywords “Vancouver prostitution”; 941 arrived via keywords “Vancouver prostitutes”; and 931 arrived via keywords “prostitution in Vancouver.” Winning such a popular keyword early on in the online publishing game is a feat for BCBusiness and a testament to the power of SEO. Both “Here Comes the Pride” and “Red Light, Green Light” contain controversial and very highly searched topics and keywords, but only one continues to capture thousands of readers. According to the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, the aforementioned “Red Light, Green Light” search terms bring in the following number of searches per month through Google:

“Vancouver prostitution” – 1,300 searches/month in Google, low competition
“Vancouver prostitutes” – 12,400 searches/month in Google, low competition
“Prostitution in Vancouver” – 1,300 searches/month in Google, low competition

These are the top three keywords by which visitors arrived at the article, and each has a significantly lower search value in Google than the keywords for the non-optimized article “Here Comes the Pride.” The term “gay marriage” may not be as risqué as “Vancouver prostitution,” but it has the potential to garner more organic Google search traffic.

“Red Light, Green Light” was published online on October 9, 2008 under the revised headline “Red Light, Green Light: The Sex Industry in Vancouver.” This article headline combines the original article title (on the left side of the colon) with keywords. Keeping the original title is sometimes desired so that print readers can easily find the article online. The meta title, “Red Light Green Light: The Sex Industry in Vancouver | Vancouver Prostitution| BCBusiness,” includes secondary keywords and phrases that were not used in the title.

In the body of the article, the deck repeats the article’s keywords, and the keywords are repeated again in subheads surrounded by H3 tags. Subheads are a frequently missed opportunity to include keywords and phrases; they serve the double duty of breaking up dense text, offering more points of entry for readers, and adding further SEO keywords to the article. H3 tags can also be used in sidebar titles for shorter articles that do not require subheads. Four outbound links—three to BCBusiness Online and one to National Public Radio—are embedded in the article. The links are created with strong anchor text that denotes the content readers will find on the linked page. Links with properly anchored, keyword-dense text reflect well on an article when they connect to a credible outside source (such as National Public Radio). Including relevant links to outside sources boosts the article’s status in Google and is a standard of best practices in web publishing.

Unlike “Here Comes the Pride,” “Red Light, Green Light” is broken into shorter pages as a user-friendly way to present longer stories to online readers. Images throughout the article are tagged with metadata consistent with the article’s main keywords and phrases.

Without the above SEO treatment, “Red Light, Green Light: Sex in Vancouver” would have been buried under years of BCBusiness Online content and poorly indexed by Google. Although some editors have feared that adjusting a print article for digital publication will destroy its integrity by jamming it full of keywords, SEO merely amends the article to its medium without compromising the quality of the original writing.

Analyzing past BCBusiness articles reflects the early standards of online magazine publishing at Canada Wide Media and in the rest of the country; not every publication had a website and those that did were still developing their digital practices. Early digital workflows focused on how content would get online, but not necessarily how readers would find and consume it online. Rudimentary digital editorial strategies were the norm—out of every publication at Canada Wide Media, BCBusiness had, and still has, the most developed online strategy and the most active editorial application of that strategy. Although other publications at Canada Wide Media have comprehensive digital strategies, they have fewer resources and therefore receive less editorial attention than BCBusiness Online. Since its launch in 2007, BCBusiness has taken articles like “Here Comes the Pride” and revised their metadata to capture organic visitors and further expose the magazine’s brand. Parsing the metadata and editorial treatment of “Here Comes the Pride” and “Red Light, Green Light” emphasizes the importance and effectiveness of implementing a digital editorial strategy. Getting online was important, but now getting found online is key.

 

 

PART TWO | The Inner Workings of Search Engine Optimization

SEO explained; Social media as SEO; SEO in the analytics spotlight

Using search engine optimization in publishing is a fundamental part of finding your readers and giving them what they want. Revising print articles with a view for increasing their findability online is the cornerstone of SEO. Part two discusses the fundamentals of optimizing an article, how the various elements of SEO function, and how this affects an article’s analytics and traffic. Although social media is not strictly considered an element of SEO, it helps boost traffic and brand presence in a way that complements optimized articles. Social media article promotion is always the last step of a digital editor’s workflow, but it is crucial. Promoting content on sites like Facebook and Twitter gives articles a boost and helps generate inbound links before the article is indexed and begins to draw traffic from Google searches. Where optimizing an article is key to the long-term success of an article, social media act as the short-term portion of the editor’s overall goal to drive traffic and place an article highly in Google search results pages.

As seen in Part One, the difference between an optimized and non-optimized article can be thousands of lost visitors. Proper and thorough SEO ensures that Google indexes a magazine’s content and that quality visitors—the right people—will find it. Google co-founder Larry Page once said the perfect search engine “understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want.”[11] By using best SEO practices and getting well indexed by Google, good magazine content can be exactly what someone is looking for.

Although SEO is now a more integral part of online magazines’ publishing strategies, skeptics remain. Not everyone is convinced of search engine optimization’s effectiveness; many print editors fear that SEO interferes with an article’s editorial integrity; some skeptics believe that subtle SEO tweaks do not amount to anything; and others, rightly so, are weary of “black hat” SEO artists and methods.

The fear that SEO will degrade the level of writing in magazine articles is a fear based on unfounded suspicions of the tenets of Web writing. Web writing stresses keyword density and focused content that “lets people grab and go,”[12] but all online content does not have to fall in line under these standards—especially robust magazine articles. When weaving SEO practices into a digital editorial strategy, it is important to remember that “your ultimate consumers are your users, not search engines.”[13] Although the goal is to be indexed by Google and ranked highly, editors have to keep the readers top of mind.

Changing content by thinning it out and stuffing the body text with keywords may help its search ranking, but the quality suffers for it, and so does the brand. Sophisticated online readers, digital natives, and an increasing part of magazines’ broader audiences understand that magazines are fighting for their attention. Finding readers online is a battle. Readers are learning more about SEO and, on the farther end of the SEO spectrum, content farms, whose sole purpose is to optimize often poorly written content around popular search terms. Readers are becoming weary of websites like eHow.com and publications using unethical or misleading practices to capture their attention. A headline and description on a Google search results page that promises to talk about the Canadian political leaders’ debate, but is jammed with keywords and does not cover the crux of the issue results in quick reader turnover. Once the reader is duped into visiting an article that does not deliver on its promise or does so poorly and ineffectively, that brand is now associated with that experience. Many readers have accused Suite 101 and other such sites of being nothing more than content farms. “Quality can be a big issue,” says Jason Glover, a former Suite 101 writer, of the website’s methods. “It can be argued that the primary concern of the sites is to sell advertising and make money, so good SEO is more important than well-written and researched articles.”[14] Optimizing content in a misleading way or posting well-optimized but low-quality content may spike numbers, but it is not part of a long-term plan to win readers’ trust and build a strong brand reputation.

After all, the goal is to attract visitors and convert them to loyal readers, not just to secure the top position in Google searches. Writing for the web in magazine articles is realized through subheads, sidebars, and pagination—methods that improve the online reading experience and boost search visibility without compromising the quality. Content will always be King of any editorial strategy.

Small changes to optimize an article are no trifling thing. Rewriting a print article’s vague title may seem like a paltry adjustment, but according to Google, “when combined with other optimizations, [these changes] could have a noticeable impact on your site’s user experience and performance in organic search results.”[15] Breaking down SEO into its respective parts is useful for understanding how to wield its power properly and learning which parts should be prioritized. But overall, SEO should be understood as a whole, with each step acting as a fundamental part of the SEO machine. If one part fails—a title without keywords—the entire machine slows down. And if enough parts fail—poor title, no deck, not researching the keywords—the entire machine is rendered useless and your article sinks into oblivion.

For every few SEO enthusiasts there seems to be an SEO skeptic who subscribes to the notion of “black hat” methods and “spamdexing.”[16] Black hat artists exploit SEO practices by jamming misleading keywords into articles and metadata, paying other websites to post hundreds to thousand of inbound links to their content, redirecting articles to different pages, and subsequently “degrad[ing] both the relevance of search results and the quality of user-experience.”[17] If Google discovers that your website is using black hat SEO techniques, they will blacklist you, excluding you from all Google search engine results pages. Although bad SEO practices are widespread, reputable publishers and editors do not have time to waste on questionable methods that could blacklist their site or bad practices that damage their brand’s credibility. An important part of a magazine’s online presence is building their community, brand, and reputation—and one instance of bad practices can damage a brand much quicker than a history of good practices can build it up.

Avoiding black hat methods also helps to dictate an editor’s priorities when optimizing an article, such as skipping the meta-keywords field on the backend of an article. Keyword stuffing was a common black hat method in earlier SEO days, and is part of the reason Google no longer uses the meta-keywords field in its indexing algorithm.[18]

 

SEO explained

Analyzing and understanding each moving part of a machine is the best way to make sense of its function, and the easiest way to know what needs fixing when it is not performing as it should. Parsing search engine optimization lets us see which elements require more attention and where an editor should dedicate the majority of her time. The impetus behind optimizing online articles is not to inflate the magazine’s overall traffic, but to target keywords that will draw in quality visitors who can be converted into loyal readers.

Because navigating the Web is done largely through search engines, ranking highly on search engine results pages is a crucial goal for Web editors. When Google indexes an article for its results pages, it pays weighted attention to different variables on the article page, such as the headline, the image tags, or the URL. By understanding the part each element plays in search rankings, editors can focus their approach when optimizing content. For example, though it is temping to retain original magazine headlines, as seen below in the SEO breakdown, the H1 and title tags are two of the most important SEO elements.

 

URL

URLs should be keyword-rich and easy to understand. Complex URLs can be a problem for both humans and Google crawlers if they’re too long or include confusing number and symbol sequences.[19] Keeping the tail end of a URL brief is important, using up to five keywords and connecting them with dashes rather than underscores (Google recognizes dashes as spaces between each word). The more words included in the URL, the less each will be weighted in terms of SEO clout.[20] Long and complicated URLs are more likely to be copied incorrectly or posted as broken links by readers, which results in missed inbound link opportunities. Since editors have no control over the anchor text used in the inbound links to their site, having keyword-rich URLs help. Using keywords in the URL provides Google crawlers with more information on what they will find at the link, and this boosts the effectiveness when being ranked.

BCBusiness Online’s slug-based URLs are keyword-rich because they are automatically created from the site’s taxonomy and an optimized headline. However, shortening or amending the tail end of the link can optimize them further.

For example, the headline “Human Rights in Employment: Do You Need a Tune Up?” creates the URL: “human-rights-employment-do-you-need-tune.” Replacing the last four words of the URL (which do nothing in terms of optimizing) with another keyword creates a stronger and simpler URL: “human-rights-employment-law.” Before articles are published, an automatic URL is created for BCBusiness Online articles, but editors should always change the tail end when it does not already include keywords. Any changes made after the article has been published, however, can result in the same page being indexed twice, thus splitting the SEO clout between the old broken-linked page and the newly optimized title’s page. Also, any inbound links to the article will now be broken links, therefore all URL optimization should be completed prior to publishing.

 

Title <title>

SEO software provider and online SEO resource site SEOmoz calls the title tag (also known as the meta title) the “single most important on-page SEO element (behind overall content),”[21] appearing in two key spots. The title tag appears at the top of the user’s Web browser and at the top of article descriptions on search engine results pages. It is typically the same as the headline (H1), with additional keywords attached to the end. Placing the most relevant keywords at the opening of the title tag is important for search results, as Google only displays a maximum of 70 characters of the entire title tag. To write an optimized meta title, include the article headline and one to two more keyword phrases. Each part of the title tag should be separated using vertical pipelines: “How to Work with Family | Family Businesses | BCBusiness.”

Title tags on BCBusiness Online are automatically appended with “| BCBusiness.” Well-known or respected brands included in title tags can affect a higher click-through rate in search engine results.[22] Including the magazine in the title tag is also an overall good brand strategy to promote the magazine’s presence on the Web.

 

Article headline <H1>

The H1 tag is the main title, or headline, that appears at the top of an article and should always include the top keyword or phrase. “Placing the keyword early in the header tag will increase its prominence”[23] and will be more indicative of the content than a typical print magazine title. Some online magazines retain the print title in the headline or meta title so that it is still searchable. Reviewing Google analytics indicates that such an insignificant number of visitors arrive by searching the print title, that this practice does nothing more than minimize a headline’s SEO effectiveness.

Although BCBusiness Online sometimes changes entire headlines when optimizing content, it retains the print headline in the online table of contents. Editors who are concerned about confusing readers who are searching for articles online by their print headline can use the original headlines in their archives or tables of contents. BCBusiness Online keeps an archive of every print issue that has been published on the website (with articles listed under their original print titles). Archives are a straightforward point of reference for readers trying to find an article via the issue and original title. Print headlines can stay in the same in the rare case that they include the proper keywords, but should otherwise be replaced.

 

Deck <H2>

A deck is an introductory phrase or paragraph at the beginning of the article that gives the reader the main topic and a taste of what is to come. In online magazine publishing, the deck is contained between H2 tags. The H2 tag is one tier below the headline tag H1 and together they are used as a kind of in-article taxonomy. Below the H2 tag are the H3 tags (the next tier down), which indicate subheads within the body of the article. Print article decks are sometimes suitable to be taken as-is and used within the H2 tags. For the most part, however, they should be partially rewritten to include the top keywords and phrases that have already been used in the headline and meta title.

BCBusiness print articles are easily modified to include keywords and phrases, and rarely require an entire rewrite.

 

Subheads <H3>

Subheads are as much for the search engines as they are for the readers, and are a very important function in Web writing. Because Web content does not have the same layout options as print articles, online text can sometimes appear dense and overwhelming. Using keyword-rich subheads breaks up long articles and gives the reader a better idea of the content at-a-glance. When using heading tags, it is crucial to employ them as part of your SEO strategy, and not just for aesthetics; it is bad practice to use an H3 tag where bolded or italicized text would suffice.[24]

Longer print articles, lists, and how-to articles always take H3 tags on BCBusiness Online. The digital editors create subheads as needed and where useful to improve the reading experience and to capture more keywords in the article’s metadata—in this case, in H3 tags. On occasion, BCBusiness Online uses H3 tags to draw attention to text in slideshows. Using a larger font would style the text in the same manner as H3 tags without using SEO for aesthetics rather than for optimizing.

 

Meta description

Sometimes ignored, the meta description is one of the most important factors on the backend of an article. The meta description is chiefly for readers, and shows up on search results pages directly below the meta title. The meta description has the double duty of informing readers and enticing them to click into the content. Although editors should focus on keywords, they should approach the meta description as a sales pitch to potential readers. It must be a brief summary, include keywords, and reflect the quality of writing in the article.

BCBusiness Online writes two to three sentences for meta descriptions, and sometimes copy and pastes the deck, depending on its length. The deck can sometimes be suitable, but in most cases the meta description needs to be a more detailed summary of the article and be economical with its words. Google displays up to 154 characters of the meta description on its search results pages.[25] Descriptions exceeding this size will be truncated, and the meaning could be lost.

 

Article links

Links within the text should be added to articles where applicable. Editors should especially focus on opportunities to link to their own content. The most important element of links is the anchor text—it should be concise and related to the content on the linked page. Links should be structured around keywords or phrases rather than single words like “article,” or irrelevant phrases like “click here.”

Keyword-rich anchor text is for both the search engines and the users. Using proper anchor text gives Google a better idea of what they will find on the linked page. It is also a clearer call out for readers and easier to spot within the text.

BCBusiness Online has a reciprocal link relationship with its sister sites Granville Online and BCLiving, and links to their pages with strong anchor text whenever possible. With more editorial time for print-to-web articles, digital editors could create more links, whether to their own site or to an external source.

 

Pagination

Breaking a long article into numbered pages aids readability and navigation. The only time breaking one page into multiple pages will negatively affect SEO is when the pages get into the double digits and higher. When a larger consumer site, like a retailer, takes its online merchandise pages and breaks them into multiple pages for ease of navigation, the higher-numbered pages are not indexed well by Google. These subsidiary pages are improperly indexed and can bury content and limit their potential to be indexed by Google.[26] Because print articles do not have the same excessive length as say, a listing of hundreds of shoes on Zappos.com, magazines do not face this same issue.

BCBusiness Online Google analytics indicate that visitors enter articles on the proper main article page when arriving via search, and not subsequent pages that have been broken off with pagination. The majority of visitors arriving at a page that is numbered two or higher have done so via the article’s main page.

 

Image meta tags <alt>

Optimizing images is a twofold form of SEO that should never be overlooked. It involves naming the file when saving, and creating an alt tag. Keeping the image file name short and keyword-rich improves its visibility in search engines. On the backend or in the html, digital editors can name images (in the same way as the file naming) with an alt tag. The alt tags are used by search engines (such as Google Image Search), revealed when readers mouse over the image, and used by screen reading technology.[27]

BCBusiness Online has naming conventions for image sizes, and names image files with relevant keywords pertaining to the article content. All embedded images are given alt tags.

 

Inbound links

Inbound links are cited as one of the most important factors for a website’s ranking in search engines—both in terms of volume of links and quality of anchor text.[28] Inbound links are the key to increasing a site’s PageRank in Google. PageRank is Google’s calculation of a website’s importance and relative authority to all other sites on the Internet. Google gives sites a PageRank from one (lowest) to eight (highest), and uses these numbers to determine which pages have more influence online and which websites’ articles are most likely to show up in the top of search engine results. Every link pointing to an article is like a vote in its favour, and the more votes it receives, the more influential Google perceives it to be.

Although extremely important, this part of a digital editor’s SEO strategy is harder to influence and cannot be executed as simply as the above methods. Publishing high-quality content is the best strategy to attract inbound links. But even if other sites are linking to your article, you cannot control whether or not they are using proper anchor text. Community-building through social media often results in valuable and consistent inbound links.

 

Social media as SEO

If the goal of SEO is to drive traffic through search, the goal of social media is to drive traffic through the online community; social media in magazine publishing is like SEO for the people rather than for the search engines. Broadcasting to the community to draw in visitors and build the magazine’s brand equates to the practice of boosting PageRank and driving traffic through search. And much like in SEO, the reader remains top of mind.

Having a social media presence is not an element of SEO, per se, but it is inextricably linked to the digital editor’s workflow. Although social media does not fall within the traditional parameters of SEO—which involve directly manipulating an article or its html code for search engine visibility—it is a joint exercise in branding and self-promotion that brings visitors to the site. Social media is most closely related to generating back links, another borderline-SEO concept. In this case, however, the editor has more direct control over the process of acquiring visitors—specifically, through the frequency of messages being broadcasted through social media channels and the number of connections with peers.

Social media should be regarded as secondary to SEO, but still a crucial part of the editor’s workflow. Links created on social media are ephemeral, whereas good SEO will nest an article in Google search results pages creating a permanent long tail of traffic. Organic Google searches outweigh the number of visitors arriving from all social media channels combined, but the branding power and impact of directly connecting with readers on sites like Twitter is invaluable.

The final stage of an article’s life should be when it is promoted via social media, whether it is Twitter, Facebook, etc. Promoting content through social media helps generate inbound links and spreads the brand throughout the magazine’s community.

It should be noted that Twitter surrounds its tweeted links (any link included in any tweet by any Twitter user) with a “no follow” tag that tells search engines to ignore the links.[29] This is so that Twitter users cannot send out a high volume of hyperlinked spam tweets to affect search engine results. However, linking to your content on Twitter gives followers the opportunity to retweet your links to their followers, subsequently increasing visitors to your website. Many Twitter users will also take links from tweets and include them on their website or blog, indirectly creating valuable inbound links to your content (and this boosting PageRank).

Connections made on social media sites influence readers beyond the act of simply clicking on article links. MediaShift, a PBS blog, credits social media with introducing a “new era of pass-along”[30] in magazine publishing. Passing content (links) to your readers is like personally putting a magazine in their hands. And through the ease and speed of social media, it is that much easier for them to pass that article on to a friend.

Social media also provides a venue outside of a magazine’s website for readers to connect and discuss content and related topics. Some social media venues take as little encouragement as posting a link or discussion question to engage readers with each other on the magazine’s behalf.

BCBusiness promotes itself as a single brand (representing both the print and digital teams) on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Twitter and Facebook are obvious—almost compulsory—choices for social networks in which to participate, and LinkedIn is on BCBusiness’s radar because of its association with the business world and business professionals. Based on global traffic, Facebook and Twitter are the two most widely used social media platforms in the world[31]; they are also the most popular choices in the publishing industry. Facebook and Twitter presences have become as standard as having a website.

 

Facebook

Facebook is the social media channel that was there from the start. The ways in which magazines interact with their readers through Facebook have evolved over the years and have since settled on fan pages. Making connections with readers via Facebook (getting them to “like” your fan page) lists your brand on their personal profile and spreads your name throughout the Facebook community. It is another channel through which a magazine can build its brand and bolster its reputation through the support of the community.

On Facebook fan pages there is an implicit self-promotional agreement—the majority of content pertains to the magazine and not to material like one would find on Twitter. Although the level of discourse around articles does not match LinkedIn—both in its volume and its quality—the number of visitors who arrive from Facebook are great enough to warrant the upkeep of fan pages. In 2010, Facebook drove 12,174 visitors to BCBusiness Online and was the number seven overall traffic source.

BCBusiness posts feature articles and noteworthy blogs on a semi-weekly basis. Although Facebook fans know a magazine is there to promote itself and share content, flooding one’s fan page with content can clog fans’ news feeds with your articles and cause them to “unlike” your fan page. Like all social media endeavours, there is a fine line between self-promoting and self-obsessing, and timely updates and unrelenting content pushing.

 

Twitter

Any magazine with a website or any semblance of a digital strategy also has a Twitter account. The immediacy of Twitter lets readers communicate directly with the brand in real time. A linked tweet holds just as much clout as a verbal recommendation. Twitter is especially useful when leaking print content online before its newsstand date. Alerting your Twitter followers with a short teaser and a link directs them to the site and creates anticipation around the forthcoming print content. However, using tweets sparingly to promote content sets the tone and lets your readers know that not just anything will be broadcasted.

BCBusiness’s digital editor controls the Twitter account with a mix of tweets, some with links and some without. He creates a balance between link-sharing, opining, and cracking jokes, which results in a useful feed of resourceful material, but with a clear voice and personality. Shoveling your website content onto Twitter like coals into a fire misses the point of tweeting. And linking only to your own articles creates a one-dimensional twitter feed with less credibility. Linking to outside sources, staying relevant, and indulging in self-promotion when it is appropriate is how BCBusiness manages its Twitter feed. It uses the same successful formula as The Walrus magazine: “Witty, upbeat, and personal. […] Engaging with the community, not broadcasting.”[32]

Linking to articles via Twitter is also a proven method of increasing website traffic, and draws in more visitors to BCBusiness Online than any of the other social media platforms. Promoting an article with a tweet is like dropping a rock in the community pond—one tweet can cause a ripple effect and reach readers that are not even BCBusiness followers.

 

LinkedIn

Starting a group under your magazine brand on LinkedIn is an effective method of connecting with readers and starting discussions around your content. As a LinkedIn user, every connection you make, whether to a person or an organization, is tied to your professional reputation. Members of the BCBusiness LinkedIn group page are more invested in discussions than their counterparts on the BCBusiness Facebook page; where Facebook has a more casual brand interaction with “likes” and often one-sentence comments, LinkedIn has more ambitious users who are dedicated to professional networking and fostering robust discussions. According to a recent survey on Mashable, more than half of LinkedIn users belonging to groups participate in discussions.[33] Connections and associations are more carefully forged and curated in this online community, and. When Mashable polled a group of 500 LinkedIn members from entry-level workers to top-level executives, it found that the majority of users, no matter the stage of their career, identified networking in their top three uses.[34] It is strictly for professional purposes and group discussions generally revolve around topics germane to the brand.

Because the nature of LinkedIn as a social network is more serious and career-oriented than Facebook or Twitter, discussions and comments are generally more constructive and well developed. In the same Mashable survey mentioned above, users called LinkedIn “more professional than Facebook.”[35] Where 10 readers might simply “like” an article link on your Facebook fan page, two or three members of a LinkedIn group would engage in higher-level discourse around that same article. This makes LinkedIn a good resource for developing high-quality readers who know the brand more intimately, spend more time interacting with the content, and are more likely to share links.

Members can start their own discussions that are not directly related to magazine content, but they are still communicating and gathering in a forum under the magazine’s brand. As an editor, visiting sporadically to stoke the fire of discussion and provide article links drives readers to the site and keeps them engaged.

 

eNewsletters

Although not a traditional form of social media, eNewsletters are another important tool in the editor’s arsenal. eNewsletters are best used for calling attention to new and popular content or, like with Twitter, generating buzz around an upcoming print issue by leaking articles prior to the newsstand date. Subscribers to eNewsletters are similar in their behaviour to LinkedIn group members—they are high-quality visitors who spend more time on the site.

 

SEO in the analytics spotlight

It is not enough to use optimized content in online magazine publishing—editors must also have intimate knowledge of how it is impacting website traffic. Using Google Analytics to evaluate how content is performing, how visitors are reaching articles, and which topics are popular is a key part of the editor’s digital strategy. Analytics should help trace trends and inform the editor’s treatment of different types of content, especially once that content has reached the social media stage of its workflow. Identifying the top traffic sources tells an editor where her time is well spent.

Google Analytics provides insight and numbers on a macro scale—like how much traffic a website gets each year, or which day of the week receives the most hits —down to the finite details of which keyword is drawing in the most visitors on a particular article. Editors can adjust their timeline window in Google Analytics by selecting any date range from years at a time to a single day’s worth of visits. For example, after the annual BCBusiness Top 100 Luncheon, the digital editor can measure the spike in website traffic for that one day and determine where the traffic came from. By looking closely at any article’s statistics, editors can see exactly how many hits an article receives and when, where those visitors are coming from, how long the visitors are staying, who is linking to the article, which keywords visitors are using to find the article, and how long visitors are staying on the page. Google Analytics provides these same details on a site-wide level.

Identifying popular keywords in analytics can create new opportunities to optimize content and pages around topics that readers are already interested in finding. Each month the names of BC business leaders figure prominently in the top 10 keywords used to arrive at BCBusiness Online. Because BCBusiness has existing profiles on these people, the digital editor can optimize the articles around the business leaders’ names (if he has not already), and promote them in social media with the goal of driving traffic and inbound links. Google Analytics is useful in this way, as it helps an editor find and fortify his strengths.

Identifying top sources and the articles they lead to can allow editors to target those source audiences with appropriate content. Singling out specific articles that have been optimized and promoted through all of the magazine’s social media channels can shed light on how readers are interacting with the content and how they’re finding it.

By analyzing the short article “Personal Branding Lesson from Jim Pattison” compared to the feature print article “Taxi Drivers: Vancouver’s Road Warriors,” we can get a better understanding of how social media audiences interact with the content. Each article was optimized, promoted through social media, and included in a weekly eNewsletter.

 

“Personal Branding Lesson from Jim Pattison”

Date Published: November 2, 2010

Total visitors: 1490

Average visit length: 2:57

eNewsletter: 306 visitors, average 1:06 on site, 68% bounce rate

Twitter: 164 visitors, average of 1:46 on site, 83% bounce rate

Facebook: 168 visitors, average of 2:52 on site, 86% bounce rate

Google: 101 visitors, average of 3:48 on site, 78% bounce rate

“Taxi Drivers: Vancouver’s Road Warriors”

Date published: November 3, 2010

Total visitors: 775

Average visit length: 5:19

eNewsletter: 143 visitors, average of 3:25 on site, 68% bounce rate

Twitter: 7 visitors, average of 4:06 on site, 75% bounce rate

Facebook: 24 visitors, average of 1:04 on site, 75% bounce rate

Google: 304 visitors, average of 2:50 on site, 81% bounce rate

The top eNewsletter spots are guaranteed to receive an influx of traffic; articles in the top two positions of BCBusiness eNewsletters each receive an average of 500 direct eNewsletter visitors. No matter the length, eNewsletter visitors tend to interact with the content in the same fashion. Both articles in this case had a 68% bounce rate, with each article holding readers for a period time relevant to the article’s length.

Although it is difficult to discern the reasons a link receives a click-through on Twitter, the above analytics tells us that shorter articles and quick hits of content (lessons, how-to articles, blogs, lists, etc.) are more popular than long-form journalism. “Taxi Drivers” only received 7 visitors via Twitter after being promoted through BCBusiness’s Twitter feed, while “Personal Branding” received 164 visitors. The personal branding article had the added glamour of “Jim Pattison” in its title, but even BCBusiness’s wildly popular feature article on local sports hero Trevor Linden only received 56 visitors via Twitter after being promoted through BCBusiness’s Twitter feed. Compared to the other social media channels at an editor’s disposal, Twitter seems more effective for sharing short pieces that can be scanned, understood, and shared quickly, rather than for sharing feature stories and long-form journalism.

Reviewing the analytics is very revealing of the behaviours and preferences of the readers who participate in each social media channel. By understanding the audience for whom they’re optimizing content, editors can adapt their approach depending on which channel they are using. Not every article should be pushed through all of a magazine’s social media channels. But if an editor takes stock of what works well in each channel, she can use these tools to give each audience the content that speaks the most to them.

Understanding the fundamentals of SEO and putting them into place gives the digital editor a tool for long-term growth, while social media act as catalysts for that growth. The strategies and tools discussed in Part Two help editors drive traffic and spread their brand, but they also give editors a better understanding of whom they’re trying to reach and what that audience comes to them for.

Identifying a brand’s strengths plays a key role in properly optimizing content and targeting the right audience. Editors have the power to tailor their SEO and social media treatment of each article depending on the patterns they see in analytics. Part Three takes a closer look at the BCBusiness Online Google Analytics that inform the digital editors’ online strategy.

 

 

PART THREE | The BCBusiness Digital Editorial Strategy

Parsing the BCBusiness Google Analytics; Adapting social media; New SEO strategies at Canada Wide Media; Content collections

Once the digital editor has established a workflow and online presence, she can begin to experiment and test the waters with optimizing articles, refining strategies, and adapting social media to her needs. One of the great advantages of digital magazine content is its infinite flexibility; articles can be hyperlinked, repurposed, combined with related content, broken into pieces, and myriad other tactics to increase their visibility, promote the brand, and take advantage of the digital medium. Although optimizing and promoting content seems straightforward, there are boundless opportunities for creativity.

The digital editorial strategy at BCBusiness has come full circle from its earliest workflow; from print-focused, to Web-only content focused, and now back to strengthening its relationship with print. Once inextricably tied to the print magazine, BCBusiness Online was a repository with no digital editorial strategy for magazine articles. Shortly after its launch, the BCBusiness digital editor began developing Web-only content and grew the site as an independent entity from the print magazine. Finally, after nearly six years of significant growth and development, BCBusiness Online is returning to its close ties to the print magazine as a dynamic member of the overall brand. Although the current online workflow involves minimal print-editor contributions, the overall online strategy is connected to the BCBusiness brand as a whole rather than just BCBusiness Online.

Digital editors approach articles with a mind for both readers and search engines, and put all online content through a rigorous, SEO-heavy workflow. They have also branched out from strictly editorial tasks and embraced the external tools that go hand-in-hand with SEO, such as Google Analytics and the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. The digital editors at BCBusiness are representative of an overall paradigm shift in editorial work. Consulting analytics is a part of the editor’s regular duties, and although the reader is still the number one priority, the editor has a fussy new audience member to contend with—Google.

Recognizing the value and importance of SEO has led to various emerging and experimental digital strategies at BCBusiness, many of which blur the lines between marketing and editorial. Although many initiatives are brought forth by marketing, they are developed and executed by editors. Search engine optimization seems to be the common ground where many digital jobs converge. Optimizing an article or a website landing page falls under the editor’s purview, but driving traffic and increasing brand awareness is also a great concern of the digital marketing staff. For example, the BCBusiness digital editors and marketing staff worked cooperatively on the keyword research and naming of the new landing pages and categories for the third iteration of BCBusiness Online. Online publishing has drastically changed the role of the editor into a multi-platform, multi-discipline, word- and Web-strategist. The next step is to pull print editors into the melee of digital publishing and unite the editorial efforts under one brand. In the case of BCBusiness, the company is working toward having a print editor to manage the print magazine, a digital editor to manage the website, and a brand manager to oversee the entire BCBusiness operation. Currently, the print and digital editors work on the same content, but they do not communicate, brainstorm and plan as one team.

 

Parsing the BCBusiness Google Analytics

Understanding Google analytics can help editors prioritize and plan for future content and social media promotion, and hopefully convert more visitors into loyal readers. Parsing a website’s analytics can indicate who the most valuable visitors are, which audiences prefer certain content, and which keywords are the most popular. Editors can separate high-quality visitors from low-quality visitors by reviewing how long they stay on the site and how many pages they visit. As seen in BCBusiness website traffic statistics below, direct visitors are of the highest quality and spend an average of 4:59 minutes on the site and view an average of 2.32 pages. BCBusiness’s overall average time on site is 2:42 minutes and the overall average page views is 2.31 pages. Higher average time on site is more important than number of page views, as it implies that the reader has found what they were looking for, and “if visitors spend a long time visiting your site, they may be interacting extensively with it.”[36] High page views can indicate that a reader is simply jumping from article to article.

In 2010, BCBusiness Online received 461,140 visits. The main traffic sources (excluding the 89,031 direct visitors—readers who visit the site of their own volition by typing the BCBusiness web address into the URL search bar) from these visits were:

Google: 190,084 visits (41% of all site visits in 2010)

eNewsletter: 46,651

Digg: 18,346

Twitter: 12,378

StumbleUpon: 12,341

Facebook: 12,174

Yahoo!: 7,122

Bing: 5,892

LinkedIn: 1,548

Direct visitors are by far the most valuable visitors a website can have; the goal is convert all other visitors into direct, return visitors who become familiar with and trust the brand. These readers either know what they’re looking for, trust the site to know they can find what they need, or have a genuine interest in the brand. Converting visitors into eNewsletter subscribers is also one of the digital editors’ top goals.

 

Organic Google search visitors

On average, Organic Google visitors spend 2:00 minutes on the site and visit 2.33 pages. Google visitors tend to heavily search business names and businesspeople. Of the top Google search terms for BCBusiness Online in 2010, the majority were B.C. business figures and luminaries. These results imply that editors would see more success by optimizing content (where appropriate) based on people and business names over business concepts (like management tips, etc.) Profiles and feature stories involving top local companies should be optimized with careful attention to names, especially in image tags. Google image search is a good arena to pick up visitors searching businesspeople.

 

eNewsletter visitors

The BCBusiness eNewsletter includes five stories with hyperlinked images, hyperlinked headlines, and teasers; four articles with hyperlinked headlines only; one hyperlinked reader comment of the week; one hyperlinked poll question; and four hyperlinked events listings. In comparison to its sister sites’ eNewsletters (BCLiving, Granville, TVWeek, Youthink, GardenWise), BCBusiness has the simplest eNewsletter layout with the least number of articles. It is believed that including too many articles dilutes the value of each one and lessens the effect of a carefully curated editorial collection.

Subscribers to the BCBusiness eNewsletter spend an average of 3:15 minutes on the site and view an average of 2.74 pages. These visitors are loyal readers and have a vested interest in BCBusiness content. Because the eNewsletter arrives once a week, some readers use it as their chance to visit the site rather than checking in on their own. Using the eNewsletter as a weekly highlight of the best content—whether feature story or blog—is an effective way to promote content and draw readers to the site. The BCBusiness eNewsletter also has its own set of analytics through the eNewsletter carrier, MagMail. The higher the content is placed in the eNewsletter, the more readers it will attract. BCBusiness eNewsletter subscribers also tend to favour content with local luminaries such as former pro athlete Trevor Linden and real estate professional Bob Rennie. Including magazine content prior to the newsstand date is a good promotional tool for the upcoming issue and it gets a high click-through rate in the eNewsletter. Because of eNewsletter readers’ loyalty and high click-through rates, digital editors can also experiment with the kind of content that they promote.

 

Digg

Digg is a type of social networking news site that allows its users to democratically rank online articles by “digging” (voting for) them using a button similar to the Facebook “like” button. The more people “digg” an article, the higher it rises on the Dig homepage and its respective category page (business, entertainment, lifestyle, etc.). Visitors arriving from Digg spend an average of 1:09 minutes on the site and visit an average of 1.22 pages. These are some of the lower-quality visitors that arrive at the site, but as it will be thoroughly discussed later, Digg visitors are only the byproduct of a new marketing/editorial initiative to increase PageRank. Visitors from Digg arrive at light-hearted, Web-only content that goes viral via social media channels. These visitors are not generally a part of BCBusiness magazine’s target audience, and the rest of the site’s content is not what they would be interested in reading.

 

Twitter

Of all the social media channels, the BCBusiness digital editor puts the most time and creative energy into Twitter. Twitter followers visit an average of 2.09 pages and spend an average of 2:14 minutes on the site. However, the number of visits from Twitter seems disproportionate to the number of followers BCBusiness has following its stream. This phenomenon is related to the nature of a tweet. Unlike a Facebook wall post or an eNewsletter, tweets are the most ephemeral of all the social media promotions, and can be completely missed by the brand’s audience. Though BCBusiness may have over 10,000 followers, not everyone on that list will see every tweet as it passes by. This makes maintaining the Twitter feed exceptionally challenging—the editor must manage the precarious balance between over-tweeting and sparse updates. A report by ExactTarget reveals that among the top 10 reasons people unfollow a brand on Twitter, the top three pertain to repetitive and too-frequent tweets.[37] So while the editor must be cognizant of spamming BCBusiness followers, he must also post often enough to make the medium an effective channel for funneling traffic to the website.

Twitter followers respond the most to shorter pieces (blog posts), rather than longer articles (print feature stories). By comparing a cross section of short pieces to a sample of long pieces and evaluating the time spent on each article by visitors who arrive via Twitter, it is clear that shorter pieces are favoured. According to Google Analytics, Twitter visitors rarely spend more than two minutes on a page for feature stories; for blog posts, Twitter visitors spend an average of nearly three minutes on the page. This comparison reveals the tendency for Twitter followers to read shorter pieces and discard longer feature stories. However, buzz-worthy features stories with local luminaries (i.e. Trevor Linden, Mat Wilcox, Bob Rennie, Terry Hui) blow up on Twitter, but are the exception to the rule. These types of top stories are sure things, and grow in popularity no matter which channels they’re promoted through.

 

StumbleUpon

Visitors arriving from StumbleUpon fall into the same category as those arriving from Digg. They are the byproduct of a marketing/editorial initiative to increase PageRank, and are only visiting content that has gone viral and flooded social media channels. These visitors are low quality, staying for an average of 0:25 seconds and visiting an average of 1.2 pages. The BCBusiness digital editors do not put any effort into promoting content through StumbleUpon (or Digg); all visitors arrive at the efforts of an external company hired by BCBusiness to promote its articles.

 

Facebook

Facebook brings in a surprising number of visitors considering the minimal editorial time that goes into its promotion and maintenance. Visitors who arrive via Facebook spend an average of 1:44 minutes on the site and visit an average of 1.80 pages. Although Twitter has thousands more followers than Facebook has fans, Facebook brings in nearly as many readers in a year as Twitter. Facebook is an untapped resource for visitors that could exceed Twitter’s visitor numbers with very little time required. Currently, the BCBusiness digital editors spend a fraction of their time on Facebook, yet still draw in high traffic numbers. With a more developed strategy and more time spent toward Facebook promotion, Facebook visitors could surpass the number of Twitter visitors. Posting magazine content can be done as few times as three times each week. “Facebook users are more likely to stop engaging with a brand because that brand sends out too much information too frequently,”[38] which makes updating the page less laborious than maintaining a Twitter feed. Facebook visitors show no overwhelming preference over feature stories or shorter blog posts. Traffic arriving from Facebook is consistent, and since the digital editors began posting weekly, it has increased.

 

Yahoo! and Bing

Combined, Yahoo! and Bing do not come close to bringing in the number of organic visitors that Google does. This is popular knowledge among search engine optimization experts, and for that reason, many people do not pay as much attention to deciphering search algorithms other than Google’s. Bing brings in significantly higher quality visitors than Yahoo!. Bing visitors spend an average of 2:01 minutes on site and visit an average of 2.49 pages; Yahoo! visitors spend an average of 1:26 minutes on site and visit an average of 1.98 pages. This disparity in quality could be attributed to Bing’s superior search algorithm that provides more accurate results; according to search algorithm experts, Bing’s results are more accurate than even Google’s search results.[39]

 

LinkedIn

Although LinkedIn does not generate a high number of visitors, it is valued for its intangible qualities. LinkedIn is a venue in which readers can interact under the BCBusiness brand and extensively discuss magazine and Web-only content, as well as current issues and news. By looking at the discussions in the BCBusiness magazine LinkedIn group page, we see that the topics predominantly relate to professional improvement and business tips, politics, and social media. The readers who spend time on the BCBusiness magazine LinkedIn group page are high-quality visitors when they arrive at the site; LinkedIn visitors spend an average of 4:03 minutes on site and visit an average of 2.47 pages. LinkedIn does not require the same amount of creative energy as running Twitter, or even Facebook; posting articles related to the above topics spark discussion and generate site traffic.

In terms of overall priorities, digital editors should spend the most time making their articles web-ready and well optimized for Google, using business people’s names as the main keyword when applicable. Google is the overwhelming leader in web traffic and has the high-quality visitors to back up its utility. Digital editors should have a targeted strategy when promoting content through social media, avoiding the shotgun approach at all costs. It is about understanding the readers and accommodating their preferences—they get what they’re looking for, and in return the site gets more, higher-quality visitors.

 

Adapting social media

There is no debate about whether social media or SEO is more valuable to BCBusiness’s visitor traffic numbers. Google visitors outweigh all social media channels combined, and organic search accounts for the long tail of traffic that arrives at old web-only content and BCBusiness back issues. However, the effects of social media also have an intangible quality that cannot be measured against numbers or PageRank. Community building and audience communication via social media is growing in importance, and a magazine that lacks the ability to interact with its readers is missing out on valuable branding opportunities. The Internet is ripe with stories of businesses communicating with their customers, and the subsequent impact that that creates on the community. As discussed in Part Two, social media is a kind of SEO because of the way it builds links to content, but it should be seen as more of a complement to SEO.

Digital editors need to find new ways to wield platforms like Twitter and Facebook. To encourage readers to interact with the magazine on social media, BCBusiness needs to create social-media-only content. Rather than use social media as content promotion, editors need to use social media for content creation—developing new material that can only be consumed on its respective platform. Spamming the same messages and content across the brand’s various platforms decreases the value of each one–there is no incentive for the reader to visit the Facebook page if it is merely a mirror of the Tumblr or the Twitter feed.

This idea follows BCBusiness’s arc of magazine publishing from print-only, to print plus an online repository, to print plus dynamic web content, to its current state combining print, dynamic online content, and using various social media platforms. Social-media-only content is the next phase after Web-only content that will drive readers to interact with the brand in another venue.

The BCBusiness digital editor already has a unique style of content creation on Twitter, one in particular being the “first tweet haiku.” Most mornings his first tweet is a haiku; sometimes serious, sometimes funny, sometimes topical, but no matter the subject, the haiku tweets are always popular among followers. It is a clever way to engage with readers within the 140-character limit while letting them know that there’s more than a robot sending pre-scheduled tweets. It also provides the reader with unique content that he cannot find on any of the brand’s other platforms. Any magazine can promote on Twitter, but it is the voice, original content, and style that make the real impact. Maclean’s magazine is a good example of an ineffective magazine Twitter account; it only links to its own content, and the majority of tweets are cut off mid-sentence, indicating that they’re taken from the article’s deck or description, and not written specifically for the Twitter audience.[40] This creates distance between the reader and the brand, and does not offer content that cannot be found elsewhere. Lots of companies treat their Twitter account like an RSS feed and miss the step of adding value with a real voice.

Magazines commonly use their Facebook page to promote articles in the same way as on Twitter. Even though a brand might promote different content on the different platforms, the idea is the same. By adding Facebook-only content, editors give their readers a reason to visit the page and return often. As proven with the BCBusiness Facebook page in March 2011, creating behind-the-scenes photo albums of cover photo shoots are popular with readers. After posting a short gallery of how the photographer and BCBusiness art director created the conceptual March 2011 magazine cover, there was an immediate reaction of “likes” and comments, and an increase in the overall “likes” for the fan page. Multimedia content, such as photo albums and embedded videos, fits well within the casual culture of Facebook. Two sections of the BCBusiness print magazine—“Primer” and “After Hours”—have section-opening, full-page photographs by accomplished BCBusiness contributing artists, but the images are never used online. Collecting all of the images in albums is another way of engaging with Facebook fans using BCBusiness content that cannot be found elsewhere. The BCBusiness digital editors are experimenting with various new Facebook-only content, including an “editing the editor” post, wherein the digital editors create poetry from the monthly Editor’s Note.

Although it is generally more acceptable to only self-promote on Facebook pages (as they are “fan pages”), including newsy links every now and then that do not pertain to your own brand can be a good way to spark conversation.

In the dynamic publishing landscape, editors also need to consider how they can work across multiple platforms. Something that can be recreated in or adapted to other publishing platforms has more value and potential to engage multiple audiences. The BCBusiness digital editor has considered matching up his haiku tweets with photos from the BCBusiness Daily Photo blog to create a coffee table book. Occupying more spaces than just print or just a website makes the brand dynamic and more likely to reach a wider audience. The key when creating social media content is to offer something unique on each platform that the reader cannot get anywhere else.

Using Tumblr to create unique content will be discussed in more detail in Part Four when exploring the cross-platform migration of print editors.

 

New SEO strategies at Canada Wide Media

Recognizing the vast importance of Google in digital publishing is the first step toward reaping its benefits. Optimizing content is the best way to attract search engine visitors, but this practice can be bolstered by a new digital strategy: increasing PageRank. Boosting PageRank is a more advanced digital editorial strategy that moves beyond just optimizing content, and can actually bolster those efforts in the long run. As discussed in Part Two, inbound links are the key to increasing a website’s PageRank. PageRank plays an integral role in deciding which content is listed on the first page of Google search results. If two different websites feature the exact same article, optimized the exact same way, Google defers to each site’s PageRank to determine whose article will list higher in results pages. Inbound links and PageRank determine whether an article “should […] be result number one, or appear buried on page 22 of the search results for a given query.”[41] Popular and reputable websites like The New York Times (nytimes.com) have a high PageRank, and thus their content will rank well in search engine results pages. The New York Times website has a PageRank of nine out of a potential 10; BCBusiness has a PageRank of five.

Links are akin to one website vouching for the other. The more inbound links your site has, the likelier it is that your site’s PageRank will increase. Links, no matter where they’re from, benefit SEO efforts, but when they’re plentiful and come from a higher ranked website, they’re a stronger force for increasing PageRank.

In order to increase BCBusiness’s PageRank, the digital marketing staff and digital editors teamed with an external SEO consulting company called NVI to create a strategy for new BCBusiness content. Together they created a new digital editorial product (NVI social push article) with the express purpose of increasing PageRank. The articles are better known as “link bait,” and fall under the SEO strategy of link building. The idea of link bait is to create content that is “designed specifically to gain attention or encourage others to link to the website.”[42] These articles do not fall under the black hat link baiting methods, which incorporate keyword stuffing, redirecting visitors to sites different from what they clicked on, and creating inbound links from link farms. (Links farms are groups of sites that link to each other and are devoted solely to linking out to increase SEO clout, with no real editorial or information value.)[43]

Editors come up with broad, sweeping topics that work well in the form of “best of,” “worst of,” and other such lists. They generally lie on the perimeter of the brand’s mandate, and serve as brain candy content—irreverent, witty, and short. The standards of writing and editing remain high, as they would for any other BCBusiness content, but the topics are generally trivial. Although the articles do not align with the print BCBusiness mandate, they are a good fit for BCBusiness Online, which features a broader range of content types and has a lighter tone than the print magazine.

The digital editors work with NVI to prepare the articles using traditional web-writing strategies—short paragraphs, clear subheads, and good use of images. Once these articles are published, the hope is that readers will eagerly pass them on and link to them from various websites, blogs, and social media channels. But rather than wait for chance of the articles going viral, NVI sends them out to its robust list of social media contacts, mostly in Digg, StumbleUpon, and Reddit; they “push” the article. Although the first line of contacts promoting the articles is working for NVI, the hundreds of links that follow are from social media users with no connection to the company, but who genuinely have interest in the article and want to share it with their online community.

Once the articles have been “pushed” by NVI through its network of contacts, the articles go viral, resulting in tens of tweets, hundreds of links, and thousands of visitors. Although traffic to the website immediately spikes, this is not the impetus behind the NVI social push strategy. StumbleUpon and Digg both have a PageRank of eight, and with the number of links now coming from these sites and the various other who have seen the articles and linked to them from elsewhere, BCBusiness’s PageRank should increase over time.

The overwhelming number of links generated through these social networks ends up winning BCBusiness that article’s keyword on Google search results pages. However, the keyword is rarely a highly searched term in the first place. For example, an NVI social push initiated in January 2011 is the number one search result in Google for “dumbest fads,” but that search term does not even register in the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. By basing these NVI social push articles around relevant keywords from BCBusiness’s Google analytics, or even highly searched terms that fit within the brand, the site could win significant words and phrases on Google search results pages.

BCBusiness sister site BCLiving accomplished this with its NVI social push article “7 Spectacular and Dangerous Mountain Passes.” In the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, “mountain passes” has 49,500 searches per month, and BCLiving appears on the first page of this term’s Google search results. The article found balance between optimizing for a highly searched keyword and creating an article with link-bait potential. This strategy adds another layer to the original strategy and makes each NVI social push article more valuable to the site.

Currently, the Google analytics for the BCBusiness NVI social push articles are irregular, with Google not even falling in the top eight traffic sources. The main traffic sources are Digg, StumbleUpon, and Reddit—all of which provide low-quality visitors. Although the main purpose is to increase PageRank, approaching these articles with a different SEO strategy could give them double the impact for the site—inbound links and a high number of organic search visitors. Google gives every article the opportunity of a long tail of organic visitors, while social media promotion often spikes traffic for the short term and dwindles soon afterward. Basing the NVI social push articles around relevant keywords would require more research prior to writing the article (both for the digital editors coming up with the topic and the writer shaping the article), but being on the first page of Google search results is a highly coveted position. The more important keywords BCBusiness can win, the more it will be seen as the authority on these topics.

Since starting the NVI social push articles in September 2010, the BCBusiness PageRank has not increased. It is yet to be determined whether this link bait strategy is truly effective. The overall tactic of creating light, interesting articles and attracting thousands of visitors—albeit, low-quality visitors—and hundreds of links is effective, but the digital editors need to devise other strategies around these social pushes than just waiting and hoping for the PageRank to increase. Multiple inbound links may not increase PageRank over time, but it will dramatically increase the SEO value of the single articles; because we know that part of the social push strategy works, it is important to take advantage of it to meet other ends.

Choosing relevant keywords is the first step toward increasing the value of the social push articles, but editors can also revise past content that has mass appeal and longevity. Resource and “how to” articles have the same quick-read nature as the social push articles, but with more substance and practical business value. The BCBusiness monthly “Need to Know” column is the perfect resource from which the digital editors can start this project. The goal is to win highly searched terms by using similar methods to the NVI social push articles. However, rather than push these articles through sites like Digg and StumbleUpon, which are chiefly interested in hu­­mour, these articles would be more successful on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Because these resource articles align with the content expectations and interests of BCBusiness readers, the influx of visitors from the “push” would be more valuable than the traffic spikes filtering into the short and irreverent NVI social push articles. Visitors would be more likely to return, spend more time on the site, and visit other articles after reading the “how to” articles.

Success in “pushing” these resource articles would have more immediate and measurable results; the digital editors would know the strategy worked when their articles begin appearing on the first page of Google search queries. This method was partially tested (without the help of NVI and its vast social network contacts) with a BCBusiness back issue article called “Value Proposition.” The article was renamed “How to Improve Your Corporate Culture,” optimized, and promoted through BCBusiness’s social media channels. Even without the hundreds of valuable contacts from NVI and links that those contacts generate, this article rose to the first page of Google results pages and continues to have a consistent flow of traffic. With the added resources of NVI, these articles could dominate search results queries and boost BCBusiness’s reputation as an authority on business topics.

The ultimate value of these new techniques is twofold—an increase in traffic to the site, and branching out to a new audience. The higher BCBusiness Online’s site traffic is, the more leverage the sales and marketing staff have for selling ads and sponsorships. The digital marketing department initiated the original NVI social push article strategy in order to spike site traffic numbers and improve PageRank. As an editor, the real concern is not the numbers, but who the people are behind those numbers and how they can be brought back to the site again. The editor wants to drive traffic, but the end goal is always reader engagement and building loyalty to the magazine and site. Adapting the original NVI strategy to target more relevant keywords and a more business-minded audience is more in line with this goal. This audience is not the typical BCBusiness audience, but a higher-quality group than the visitors arriving to content like the “Dumbest Fads” article through Digg and StumbleUpon.

The BCBusiness print reader buys the magazine for its long-form journalism and in-depth discussion of the BC business landscape. When the digital editors spend time creating content that can be consumed quicker and has a lighter tone, they tap into a different kind of BCBusiness reader group. With this method, the content is still driving numbers but the editor is focusing on a specific audience.

 

Content collections

At BCBusiness, content collection pages are referred to as SPACs—special ad content packages. SPACs are generally sponsored by one advertiser, and combine a targeted sales initiative with SEO. A SPAC is a landing page that aggregates articles under one topic with adjacent advertisements that are germane to that topic. For example, the clothing chain Wear Else sponsored the 2009 BCBusiness Style Guide SPAC, which included articles about business fashion in Vancouver. SPACS are not, however, strictly limited to sponsored content—the SPAC format is a good way to bring value to readers by collecting popular content in one easy-to-find location. The “how to” social push articles discussed in Part Three fit into the SPAC strategy as a collection of business resources. A SPAC is composed of a headline, a short keyword-dense write-up, and rows of articles, each with a linked image, linked title, and short promotional teaser of no more than roughly 85 characters. Building SPACs increases the number of links pointing to those articles and generates more clear opportunities for internal linking on BCBusiness.

By nature, SPACs are a reactionary type of editorial content. They are strictly based on popular keywords that are thought of as guaranteed winners. Rather than anticipating what the readers will be searching, SPACs use highly searched terms from BCBusiness’s Google analytics, popular topics, and hot current events. Alternatively, SPACs can be built on sales-driven topics, around which the digital editors must commission new articles and collect past articles that are still relevant. Using existing content can result in a more highly optimized SPAC, since these articles generally already have inbound links and have been indexed by Google.

As politics in British Columbia heated up in November 2010, the BCBusiness digital editors created a SPAC as a go-to reference for readers looking for current coverage and relevant past political commentary. Within the B.C. politics topic, they focused on HST in B.C., as they found that it was a top search term in BCBusiness Google analytics. Adding to the past content and incoming blogs, the digital editor put out an offer to all of the BC Liberal and BC NDP leadership candidates to add an article to the SPAC on why they should be leader. This series brought a proactive element to the SPAC strategy and resulted in more traffic, more opportunities to link between BCBusiness SPAC articles, and increased the credibility of the collection as a whole.

Aggregating similar content in one spot gives editors the chance to have an overview of many articles in one stop, which makes it easy to find connections and build up internal links. As discussed in Part Two, link building is an important part of SEO and increasing a website’s PageRank. The SEO aspect of SPACs complements the NVI social push strategy, as it focuses on evergreen articles and building a long tail of traffic. As PageRank increases, so will the Google search results for SPAC pages.

In addition to their sales and SEO elements, SPACs are also beneficial for reader navigation—not only for the website, but for mobile applications as well. BCBusiness has two mobile applications, one for the iPhone and one for the BlackBerry. Using a SPAC as an app category is a simple way of directing readers to popular and useful content, since searching the site on an app is not possible. The apps have four sections: “Latest,” which is a reverse-chronological list of all content; “Blogs,” which is all of the blogs in reverse-chronological order; “People,” which consists of profiles and event slideshows; and “Business Intel,” which aggregates all of the “how to” articles from the site. In the case of mobile applications, editors and other staff planning the platforms need to consider what kind of content readers will be consuming. Using SPACs (in addition to “Blogs,” “People,” and “Business Intel”) as a way for readers to navigate is more logical than listing all content (“Latest”) as one big mixed-bag of content. The only new content listed in latest that will not show up under the other categories is lengthy articles that do not translate well to app reading on small devices. Smart phone apps are a different experience than websites and should be treated as such by offering less content with more direction and purpose.

The sales team sold a SPAC for the BCBusiness April 2011 issue based around the topic MBAs. This SPAC was based on a sales initiative, and combines older content, new print content, and new complementary web-only content. This SPAC displays the opportunity for print and digital editors to develop a collection of content for both print and digital, working together under one brand.

The digital editorial workflow at BCBusiness has evolved to include sophisticated approaches to presenting and promoting content online, and with tools like Google analytics, the editors have a better understanding of who their readers are, where they’re coming from, and what they’re looking for. This understanding of the magazine’s online audience is key when developing new strategies that build off SEO and social media. Part Four will look at the methods discussed in Part Three, and what a complete workflow looks like when incorporating these strategies in an article going from print to online.

 

 

PART FOUR | The Future of Digital Editorial Practices

Bridging the gap between print and digital; From type to Twitter: An optimal workflow

As print and digital become more entwined and dependent on one another to create a strong and well-rounded brand, print and digital editors are finding that they need to open the lines of communication more often. It is not enough for print editors to hand off the completed magazine—they need to be involved in its digital life and the brand’s online presence.

In the past year there has been a fundamental change to the world of media and the ways in which its readers consume content. These changes are reflected in recent research by the Pew Center, who said more people consumed their news online than ever before. For the first time ever, more people got their news from the Web than from newspapers and magazines.[44] Just as magazines flocked toward website creation, then social media, they are now reimagining their publications for smart phones and tablet computers to account for this seismic industry shift. Popularized by Apple, apps are now just another way for readers to consume articles and entire issues. Gone are the days of online content as a digital afterthought—online creation is in the forefront of magazine strategies as print sees few innovations. As the magazine publishing industry affixes its gaze on the future of digital publishing, we see more and more “digital editors” on magazine mastheads. Advertising is being increasingly sold in packages that include both print and digital exposure as the two entities grow ever closer. Publishers are mastering new digital technologies and methods—like social media and SEO—and they can manipulate those tools and use them beyond their original intended uses. This stage in publishing is opening new doors for editors to rethink content creation and delivery.

As digital becomes a more important form for BCBusiness magazine, the gap between online and print needs to gradually shrink. Integrating print and digital editors can improve workflow, but it also strengthens the brand when the two teams are working toward the same goals.

 

Bridging the gap between print and digital

Integrating print and digital practices is an important step for magazine publishers in order to strengthen their brand. In the attempt to create more agile workflows and dynamic editors, Canada Wide Media publications with both print and digital editors will be slowly merging from separate departments to one larger department of editors. As the first gesture toward print and digital collaboration, all of the BCBusiness editors (print and digital) were moved into the same physical space in the office, and the digital editors now attend the print editorial meetings. The next step will be to combine budgets and begin cross-platform contributions. Rather than have a publisher who oversees just the print magazine, each publication will have a “brand manager” who looks after the best interest of the brand as a whole. This vision represents the trend in the magazine publishing industry of editors broadening their roles and companies fortifying their digital efforts. Within this joining of departments, BCBusiness editors will be encouraged to pursue work outside their nominal tasks, and digital editors will also put time toward the creation of the print issues. Some tasks will be formed to improve workflow, while others will simply give editors the opportunity to work across multiple publishing platforms.

Getting print editors involved in search engine optimization is the first step in helping them understand the goals of online publishing. As discussed earlier, SEO can be mistaken for a process that compromises the editorial integrity of the writing. Having print editors research keywords and work them into subheads and decks of print articles is an effective method of improving workflow while performing one of the more creatively satisfying SEO tasks. The print editors work closest with the articles before they are passed on to the digital editors and have intimate knowledge of the subjects and topics, thus it would be easy for them to identify the most pertinent keywords and names in each story. One of the most time-consuming optimization tasks is splitting the articles into sections and writing subheads. Transferring this task alone to print editors would save significant time for digital editors. When digital editors publish print content online, they often have to read the entire article to get a better understanding of its main ideas, and the best keywords to research; only from there can they write optimized titles, decks, and subheads. Print editors could even provide a list of keywords with each article for the digital editors prior to optimizing the articles for the Web. Not only would this save time in the article’s workflow from print to Web, but it would also begin the integration of print editors into the online lives of the articles. Print editors can also make suggestions for internal links, whether they are to articles in the same issue, a past issue, or to Web-only content. Using the black and white proofs (“black and whites”) as a message board between the print and digital editors is an effective way of communicating these ideas. Once the black and whites have been proofed, print editors can mark up them up with notes for the digital editors, such as pointing out names, companies, and terms that can be linked to other BCBusiness content online. Because the print editors work more intimately with the text than the digital editors, they have more time to consider how the content relates to past articles.

With the time freed up from print editorial contributions to the digital editorial workflow, digital editors will have more opportunities to develop concepts for the print magazine. Digital editors can create content for the print magazine from digital-first material, like following up on popular blog posts with more in-depth coverage. Most recently, the digital editors developed a caption contest on the BCBusiness Facebook page using illustrations from Kelly Sutherland, a contributing artist who illustrates the monthly “Complaints Department” column in the magazine. The winner of the caption contest had his caption run in the print magazine alongside Kelly’s illustration. Although this first digital-to-print content is small, it is a gesture in the right direction.

As discussed in Part Three, adapting social media to create unique content is an important endeavour for brand building and expanding a magazine’s Web presence; this is a prime opportunity for print editors to get involved online and explore the different ways that BCBusiness content can be used in digital spaces. Giving the print editors ownership over a social media channel—in this case, Tumblr—helps to diversify BCBusiness’s social-media-only content. By nature, Tumblr is more of a blogging platform than a promotional tool like Twitter of Facebook; print editors do not need to follow the everyday activity of BCBusiness Online as the digital editors do when linking to timely articles through Facebook and Twitter. Editors can use Tumblr to comment on BCBusiness blogs and magazine content as a kind of meta interaction—BCBusiness blogs about BCBusiness blogs, so to speak. Tumblr is more of a blank canvas on which the print editors can make their mark and further develop BCBusiness’s online identity.

 

From type to Twitter: An optimal workflow

In the current magazine publishing industry, putting print content online is only a fraction of a magazine’s digital editorial strategy. There are multiple considerations outside the print magazine, including Web-only content, social-media-only content, and SEO, to name a few. However, if an article is approached with a dynamic strategy that involves both print and digital editors, and looks at more than just having a Web presence, it can make its way through an entirely new and dynamic digital workflow.

Looking at the BCBusiness April 2011 issue—and in particular, a print article called “How to Ace Your MBA Application”—we can trace the workflow from start to finish in a hypothetical, best-case scenario using the methods already discussed.

While the article is being edited, the print editor researches appropriate keywords (using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool), which can later be used by the digital editors. The print editor records the top three keywords or phrases on a sticky note, which he will later add to the article’s page in the black and whites of the April 2011 issue. Once the print editors proof the black and whites, the pages are passed on to the assistant digital editor as her cue to resize, upload, and name the image files with keyword-rich phrases. Having sticky notes with pre-selected keywords significantly speeds up the image uploading process for the assistant digital editor, as she does not have to read each article and research keywords prior to saving the images with optimized titles. On the black and whites, the print editor also indicates phrases in the article that can be linked to past BCBusiness content or external Web pages. Having both the print and digital editors look for internal and external linking opportunities increases the overall imbedded links of the articles, and therefore the overall optimization. Because the digital editors often do not have time to read every word of every article, the print editors find opportunities that would be otherwise overlooked. Even simply highlighting a single name in an article can alert the digital editor to a link opportunity. Having the print editors focus on links helps them understand the importance of the interconnectivity of content when it goes online.

Depending on the size and nature of the article, the print editor adds optimized subheads. Rather than using a vague phrase, like “Making it count,” the print editor gives the MBA article the subhead, “3 MBA application tips.” The headline of the article is not necessarily optimized, but he adds a suggested optimized title to the black and whites for the digital editors to consider.

When the assistant digital editor receives the black and whites, she resizes the images and renames them using the keywords from the print editors. She reviews the April 2011 content and devises an online strategy for the more complex sections, like the Top 20 Innovators in B.C. and the MBA-related articles. She identifies two opportunities for SPACs (one sales-driven and one editorial-driven), and sketches a strategy that will maximize SEO and make it easy for readers to jump back and forth between related articles.

When the production staff upload the XML on the backend of BCBusiness, the images have been resized and optimized and are ready to be uploaded to the articles. With the marked-up black and whites by her side, the assistant digital editor begins optimizing the articles. Based on the keywords from the print editors, she leaves the headline, “How to Ace Your MBA Application,” with one very minor change: “How to Ace the MBA Application.” She writes an optimized meta title that includes the print editor’s suggestion of “MBA admission” as a top keyword phrase. She adds a subtitle (“The 2011 BCBusiness MBA Guide”) that links back to the MBA SPAC. Other changes include rewriting the deck to include “MBA application,” writing an optimized URL, adding H3 tags to the subheads, and creating internal links. The print editor highlighted the phrase “MBA programs” on the black and whites, and after doing a quick search on BCBusiness, the assistant digital editor finds a 2010 article that outlines nine MBA programs in B.C., to which she creates an internal link. The 2010 article is still a relevant resource to readers, and the assistant digital editor decides to further optimize it and add it to the 2011 MBA SPAC.

In anticipation of the MBA content in the April 2011 issue, the assistant digital editor creates a Facebook contest—Facebook fans are invited to comment with their best University application tip, and the winner wins a collection of business books. The digital editor promotes the contest from Twitter, linking to the Facebook wall, and from the BCBusiness eNewsletter. The assistant digital editor adds the photo from the “Primer” section to the 2011 Primer Photos Facebook album, and the photo from the “After Hours” section to the 2011 After Hours Photos Facebook album at the end of March. She reposts both albums to the Facebook wall, but waits until the issue hits the newsstands (April 4) to change the profile picture to the April 2011 cover. After the April issue hits newsstands, the digital editors create a piece of humour poetry from the April Editor’s Note and post it to the BCBusiness Facebook wall.

The digital editor reviews all of the uploaded and optimized content from the April 2011 issue and begins publishing them online on April 1, with all of the content live on April 4. The digital editor promotes various articles from the Twitter account, and puts the best feature story at the top of the next eNewsletter. He focuses on promoting the MBA content on LinkedIn, starting a discussion around the best MBA programs and how to prepare and get accepted, linking to the “How to Ace the MBA Application” article and the MBA SPAC.

The print editors add posts to the Tumblr site, including photos of bizarre inventions, and link to the Top 20 Innovators in B.C. SPAC.

In this digital editorial strategy, one article saw optimization from both print editors and digital editors, and went through every social media platform BCBusiness has at its disposal.

There are endless opportunities for cross-pollination of ideas and tasks between print and digital editors, and even art directors, for that matter. While the first physical gesture has been made at BCBusiness (moving the digital editors into an office with print editors), there is much collaboration yet to be explored. Under the brand manager structure, more editorial projects can be developed with a view for both print and digital. Beyond the workflow discussed above, an integrated print-digital team can brainstorm projects that are deliberately planned for both mediums, not just created for print and adapted to digital.

 

 

CONCLUSION

The above SEO and online publishing research and subsequent modifications to the digital editorial strategy in magazine publishing reflect the shifting tides of the industry. Digital publishing has reached a new phase, in which a magazine’s Web presence needs more than just good content to survive. Few, if any, digital publishing models operate without SEO and Web-specific editing. Digital editors must be cognizant of publishing high-quality content for their audience of online readers, but they must also consider their second audience, Google. The search engine giant is like the digital mail carrier that brings your online magazine to readers worldwide. Publishing an article online without SEO is like dropping your magazine in the mail without postage; someone might see it, but it will soon disappear, never to resurface. Publishing an article without SEO falls under an antiquated online model that relies on the naïve notion that quality alone will prevail. The cruel reality is that in our saturated digital magazine industry, the odds of high-quality getting noticed without SEO or social media are slim to none.

However, there is still a long road ahead for digital editors to fully convince SEO detractors of its indispensable role and value in online publishing. As digital and traditional editorial roles grow closer, as the roles are at Canada Wide Media, print editors will see, first hand, the virtue in optimizing headlines and further altering articles for the Web. After recent firings at AOL and the Huffington Post after the former bought the latter, the now-former Cinematical editor-in-chief Erik Davis identified SEO as creating distance between the reader and the content. “When you concentrate on SEO, you lose your passion, and readers see that,” said Davis.[45] But citing SEO as a hindrance is a cynical view of digital publishing and shows a lack of creativity to use it in more ways than keyword stuffing your content. Search engine optimization is a proven method and integral part of the digital editorial strategy, but agile publishers are thinking beyond just optimizing their content. As discussed in Parts Three and Four, editors need to consider different ways to wield SEO, and new methods of reaching their readers. Online content should receive the same editorial rigour as in print, but without special consideration for its digital environment, even the strongest article can wilt.

Thinking of social media as an extension of SEO and as another opportunity to create unique content is a step toward a more robust digital strategy. In the same way that digital editors need to develop new strategies around optimizing content, they need to reimagine the ways in which they use social media. Simply being present on Facebook and Twitter is not enough to satisfy an audience; editors need to find ways to adapt social media to serve more purposes than just promoting content.

With the introduction of each new technology and the rapid decline of print media, companies scramble to further develop their online strategies. Looking at print and digital as disparate entities creates a fracture in a magazine’s brand and ignores the opportunity to build ideas across multiple platforms. Canada Wide Media—BCBusiness magazine in particular—is proactive in its approach to navigating online publishing models. In anticipation of an industry where digital will eventually surpass print in terms of reader consumption, BCBusiness is taking steps to increase collaboration between its print and digital editors. Print and digital editors working together under one brand creates a stronger team, a cohesive strategy, and is representative of the publishing industry’s direction.

 

 


NOTES

1 Magazines Canada, “2010 Consumer Magazine Fact Book,” Magazines Canada, http://www.magazinescanada.ca/uploads/File/Ad%20Services/FactBook/2010-Consumer-Magazine-Fact-Book—Eng-Final.pdf. RETURN

2 Royal Pingdom, “Internet 2010 in Numbers,” Royal Pingdom, January 12, 2011, http://royal.pingdom.com/2011/01/12/internet-2010-in-numbers/. RETURN

3 To optimize an article is to rigorously apply search engine optimization with the goal of increasing the article’s online visibility. RETURN

4 Paola Quintanar , A New Digital Strategy at Canada Wide Media: Case Study of the Relaunch of BCBusiness Online (Vancouver: Simon Fraser University, 2009). RETURN

5 For an in-depth look at SEO on the Canada Wide magazines’ websites, see Adam Gaumont, SEO for Magazines: Optimizing Content for Digital Publication (Vancouver: Simon Fraser University, 2009). RETURN

6 Content collections are optimized landing pages where digital editors aggregate relevant articles from BCBusiness Online. RETURN

7 Amazon released the first Kindle e-reader on November 19, 2007. RETURN

8 Adam Gaumont, SEO for Magazines: Optimizing Content for Digital Publication (Vancouver: Simon Fraser University, 2009), 14. RETURN

9 Rachelle Money, “Hearst Magazine Increased Web Traffic By 150% with SEO and Wordtracker,” Cyber Journalist, February 19, 2009, http://www.cyberjournalist.net/hearst-magazine-increased-web-traffic-by-150-with-seo-and-wordtracker/. RETURN

10 Money. RETURN

11 Google, “Technology Overview,” Google, http://www.google.com/intl/en/corporate/tech.html (accessed January 23, 2011). RETURN

12 Janice (Ginny) Redish, Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works (San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 2007), 4. RETURN

13 Google Webmaster Central Blog, “Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide,” Google Webmaster Central Blog, November 12, 2008, http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/11/googles-seo-starter-guide.html. RETURN

14 Jason Glover. “One Month Working on the Suite 101 Content Farm.” Touch the Stars, July 9, 2010, http://youcantouchthestars.net/entertainment/one-month-working-on-the-suite101-content-farm/. RETURN

15 Google Webmaster Central Blog, “Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide,” Google Webmaster Central Blog, November 12, 2008, http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/11/googles-seo-starter-guide.html. RETURN

16 Wikipedia, “Spamdexing,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spamdexing (accessed January 23, 2011). RETURN

17 Ibid. RETURN

18 Google Webmaster Central Blog, “Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking,” Google Webmaster Central Blog, September 21, 2009, http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/09/google-does-not-use-keywords-meta-tag.html. RETURN

19 Google Webmaster Central Blog, “Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide,” Google Webmaster Central Blog, November 12, 2008, http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/11/googles-seo-starter-guide.html. RETURN

20 Ann Smarty, “SEO Best Practices for URL Structure,” Search Engine Journal, July 3, 2008, http://www.searchenginejournal.com/seo-best-practices-for-url-structure/7216/. RETURN

21 SEOmoz, “Title Tag,” SEOmoz, http://www.seomoz.org/learn-seo/title-tag (accessed January 26, 2011). RETURN

22 Ibid. RETURN

23 John Britsios, “6 Ultimate ON-Page Search Engine Optimization Tips,” Search Engine Journal, August 26, 2010, http://www.searchenginejournal.com/6-ultimate-on-page-search-engine%C2%A0optimization%C2%A0tips/23546/. RETURN

24 Google Webmaster Central Blog, “Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide,” Google Webmaster Central Blog, November 12, 2008, http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/11/googles-seo-starter-guide.html. RETURN

25 John Britsios, “6 Ultimate ON-Page Search Engine Optimization Tips,” Search Engine Journal, August 26, 2010, http://www.searchenginejournal.com/6-ultimate-on-page-search-engine%C2%A0optimization%C2%A0tips/23546/. RETURN

26 SEO Boy, “What is Pagination and How Does it Affect SEO?” SEO Boy, March 2, 2009, http://www.seoboy.com/what-is-pagination-and-how-does-it-affect-seo/. RETURN

27 Google Webmaster Central Blog, “Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide,” Google Webmaster Central Blog, November 12, 2008, http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/11/googles-seo-starter-guide.html. RETURN

28 SEOmoz, “Search Engine Ranking Factors 2009,” SEOmoz, August 2009, http://www.seomoz.org/article/search-ranking-factors. RETURN

29 Mihaela Lica, “Twitter’s Little Known SEO Value,” SitePoint, January 15, 2009, http://blogs.sitepoint.com/2009/01/15/twitter-seo/. RETURN

30 Susan Currie Sivek, “How Magazines Use Social Media to Boost Pass-Along, Build Voice,” PBS, March 16, 2010, http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2010/03/how-magazines-use-social-media-to-boost-pass-along-build-voice075.html. RETURN

31 EBiz MBA, “15 Most Popular Social Networking Websites | June 2011,” Ebiz MBA, June 2011, http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/social-networking-websites (accessed June 18, 2011). RETURN

32 Phillip Smith, “Twitter Done Right By @walrusmagazine,” Community Bandwidth, February 24, 2009, http://www.communitybandwidth.ca/phillipadsmith/twitter-done-right-by-walrusmagazine. RETURN

33 Charlie White. “How Are People Really Using LinkedIn?” Mashable, July 9, 2011, http://mashable.com/2011/07/09/linkedin-infographic/. RETURN

34 Ibid. RETURN

35 Ibid. RETURN

36 Google Analytics, “Visitor Reports Overview,” Google, http://www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=60127 (accessed January 4, 2011). RETURN

37 Lauren Dugan, “If You Want to Keep Your Followers, Don’t Repeat Yourself,” Media Bistro, February 11, 2011, http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/if-you-want-to-keep-your-followers-dont-repeat-yourself_b3257. RETURN

38 Dugan. RETURN

39 Dot Com Report, “Bing, More Accurate than Google in Search Results.” Dot Com Report, http://dotcomreport.com/recent-news/bing-more-accurate-than-google-in-search-results/ (accessed July 15, 2011). RETURN

40 Taken from the @MacleansMag Twitter feed on March 4, 2011: “BLOGS: The most expensive game on earth: When it comes to extracting money from local governments, the NHL has i… http://bit.ly/dJSZQu.” RETURN

41 Rebecca Lieb, The Truth About Search Engine Optimization, (New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., 2009), Electronic Access: Safari Books Online, http://proquest.safaribooksonline.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/9780768687873 (accessed January 2011), 80. RETURN

42 Wikipedia, “Link Bait,” Wikepedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/link_bait (accessed February 16, 2011). RETURN

43 Wikipedia, “Link Farm,” Wikepedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Link_farm (accessed June 15, 2011). RETURN

44 Pew Research Center Publications, “State of the News Media 2011,” Pew Research, March 14, 2011, http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1924/state-of-the-news-media-2011. RETURN

45 Anne Thompson, “AOL’s Huffington Overhauls Online Brands,” Indie Wire, April 6, 2011, http://blogs.indiewire.com/thompsononhollywood/2011/04/06/aol_vs._cinematical_another_film_brand_bites_the_dust/. RETURN

 

 


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