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ECPA Wire: Industry Issues

Navigating with Good ‘Intel’: Publishing, e-Books, and Beyond

Thursday, January 12, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Sheri Toomb
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by David Campbell, Senior Account Manager of Publishing Services, Bowker

Wouldn’t it be easier if Staples really did sell the "Easy Button”?  It is a tired analogy but as we struggle to make the best decisions from the information and knowledge we obtain, there are those moments when we just want to smack the red button to hear those blissful words "that was easy.” The speed of change for the past few years in publishing has seemed to outpace the amount of information available and the ability or time we have to process information into successful decisions.  Hitting the target now seems like playing darts while spinning in your office chair. 

Fortunately, Christian publishers have had help navigating the often tumultuous and murky waters of decision making.  ECPA started the first business intelligence program specifically for Christian publishing in 2003—STATS, an on-line service for tracking weekly book sales in Christian retail stores.  It continues today as PubTrack Christian, a partnership with Bowker’s PubTrack business intelligence services.  As the book market has expanded and changed, new data sources and services have been developed to continually provide the best guidance possible.

Obviously, much of the recent change being faced is related to the eBook.  Although we realize that printed books do not have the same fate of the beloved eight-track, charting the course through the digital revolution in publishing is taking a considerable amount of time, effort, and worry.  The most recent service provided by PubTrack is designed to give the insight needed on e-Books through a new sales data sharing service for publishers.  PubTrack Digital provides monthly eBook sales data compiled directly from publishers that participate and share their own sales data.  Although the data lags the marketplace by about a month, it provides an ISBN-level database of actual eBook sales from participating publishers.

Although it’s not the "Easy Button”, now more than ever, there’s more information and research available to the Christian publisher, including:

  • PubTrack Christian Retail Sales Data – Weekly ISBN-level sales information from a sample of Christian retailers.  Access is available online and via standard and custom reports.  The most powerful online toolset with Christian retail data available.

  • PubTrack Christian Publisher Data Sharing – Weekly net "sell-in” and returns information is shared by publishers at a group channel level by ISBN.  Access is limited to the publishers that participate and share their own data.  Participating publishers have the best view of performance across categories and all channels available today.

  • PubTrack Consumer – A consumer research panel providing key statistics directly from the book consumers, such as demographics and book purchase preferences, while providing insight into book buying behaviors, habits, and book shopping occasions.  Data collected monthly from 6,000 book consumers (with special segmentation for Christian book buyers) delivers the essential facts you need to know about reading behavior, book sales in terms of units vs. dollars, and differences between book formats (including e-books and e-reading devices) and genres.  Access is available online and through standard and custom reporting.  The only ongoing consumer research about the book consumer.

All of these solutions are designed to help publishers sell more books by providing accurate and timely information on an easy to use platform.  But it doesn’t stop there.  It is easy to simply collect information (most companies have databases and hard drives full of it).  We can even make it knowledge and impress others with what we retain and regurgitate.  However, integrating it into our workflow to create positive change is difficult.  This is why we collaborate with publishers rather than just providing the data.  We also encourage and teach publishers to collaborate with each other and with their trading partners.  Collaboration in business is now a requirement.  We must learn to find common goals and ways to share our knowledge.  Some of the collaboration will require wise changes in practices and policies that may push beyond our current comfort zones.  However, with good, comprehensive information and a means to share and discuss it with others, we are able to create strong strategies that produce better bottom lines. 

How can we help you reach your goals in 2012?  We really want to know.  Look for future articles spotlighting several of these services along with providing some of the data points you can learn from them to help grow your business in 2012 and beyond. For more information, email

David Campbell serves as Senior Account Manager of Publishing Services at Bowker. In this role he consults with US publishers on implementation and use of a host of Bowker business intelligence and supply chain products including PubTrack, PubEasy, and Pubnet. Prior to joining Bowker, David worked in the corporate merchandising offices of LifeWay Christian Stores. In that role he worked with ECPA and CBA on development and implementation of industry initiatives including research, technology, and supply chain management. David lives in Nashville, TN.

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