Publishing is a quiet business. We labor to create books and databases that people will use in libraries and at their desks at home or in a dorm room. We have lots of contact with our editors and authors, but not (yet) as much as we would like with the people who buy and use our works. Conferences like the one we’ve just attending in San Antonio, Texas, the American Library Association’s Midwinter meeting, is a wonderful chance to get feedback, hear questions, and take the pulse of the reference publishing and library community.
We heard that the transition from print to electronic publishing continues and quickens. No one seems to think they’ve seen the right model for the long haul, but the introduction of various options, at different price points, seems to provide some comfort–for now. Publishers still aren’t grappling with the issue of quality the way we ought to, or discussing how free and collaborative content might happily coexist with the kind of integrated and vetted content we pride ourselves on. Reference publishers aren’t yet talking about the real weakness of some print reference content–weakness that is becoming more obvious because of the rising standard of free online content. And we haven’t begun to talk about advertising supported content at all, even though the various Google publsihing programs are, and will be, financed through online advertising.
In addition to awards from both Booklist and Choice magazines, announced at ALA, we were thrilled by praise from librarians who stopped to chat. We were told to keep up the good work as independent publishers, and to continue our innovative marketing with the Berkshire Savant newsletter and our e-newsletters, too. Rachel does all the technical and design work on our newsletters–Berkshire Publishing News, Berkshire Bytes, World History To Go, and others–and was overjoyed to be told that they were very attractive and much better than materials from other publishers because they have content. We don’t have the big marketing budget of other reference publishers, but we do have lots of terrific content and a passion for knowledge–and that’s what we try to convey in everything we send out.