APSBG: When bricks and clicks converge

<p>There was a largely positive mood at the 37th annual Academic, Professional &amp; Specialist Booksellers Group (APSBG) conference last week, as academic retailers and publishers focused on viewing digital age challenges as opportunities for growth.</p>
<p>A thread throughout the conference, held from 5th&ndash;7th March in Grantham, Lincolnshire, was how publisher/bookseller collaboration could see the successful merger of physical and online bookselling, or &quot;bricks and clicks&quot;, as Blackwell c.e.o. Vince Gunn put it.</p>
<p>High on the agenda was the continued rise of e-books. Matt Naumann, public relations director for library supply at Blackwell, told delegates how the library business is moving increasingly to digital. Naumann said that &quot;print still pays the bill&quot;, but added: &quot;Perceptions are &shy;changing. For students, if it isn't online it doesn't exist.&quot;</p>
<p>With vendors competing for shrinking library money, Blackwell is basing its strategy on its core competencies of &quot;making content easier to find and acquire&quot;.</p>
<p>On the digital side, this is complex, with a modern sales force needed to sell e-books into libraries, a print-on-demand solution required along with e-books, and post-purchase marketing essential to ensure e-books continue to be accessed by users. This, for Naumann, is crucial: &quot;Vendors will be rewarded for their service, not the commodities they move about,&quot; he said.</p>
<p>Academic publisher Continuum, which publishes about 500 new titles a year and has a 6,000 strong backlist, has been a relatively late entrant into e-books. C.e.o. Oliver Gadsby admitted Continuum had been &quot;missing a lot of opportunities&quot;. He added: &quot;We need to fast-forward as a company and the industry needs to fast-forward.&quot;</p>
<p>For Gadsby, both Continuum and the sector as a whole need to be more driven by &quot;end-user needs&quot;, with a flexible, open and non-exclusive approach. Being a late entrant into the e-book sector may not be a bad thing, he said: &quot;We are determined to latch onto everything that is good in the present business models.&quot;</p>
<p>In a wide-ranging plenary session, Maarten Asscher, m.d. of Amsterdam-based Athenaeum Booksellers, argued that the internet was a specialist bookseller's best friend, where they are able to use &quot;personality&quot;, recommendations and branding to drive sales. He added: &quot;This is in contrast to booksellers like Amazon, who sell everything to everybody; 99% of their recommendations are just spam, really.&quot;</p>
<p>Asscher also welcomed the continued importance of print on demand. He said: &quot;I would very much like to have a good Espresso Book Machine in store. But I would not fire staff to make room for it.&quot;</p>
<p>At the APSBG a.g.m. at the end of the conference, David Prescott, Blackwell head of retail operations, was voted in as chairman of the group, succeeding John Smith's book product manager Lynne O'Neill who stepped down. Scott Coning, Waterstone's buying manager for education, was voted in as APSBG vice-chairman.</p>