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I just got through listening to Ralph Lazarro, VP of Baker & Taylor speaking at Book Expo America in NYC today. What’s interesting about Lazarro’s talk is the enormous explosion of ereaders in the market place and the rocketing sales of digital books. According to Lazarro the sales of digital content has grown recently from 61 million to 1.9 billion in sales. Of course this is great for publishing in general but it is no surprise that Baker and Taylor has jumped into the fray as a digital content servicing organization operating like a “B to C” company as Lazarro stated to keep up with the times. What does that mean? Well for B&T it means providing infostructure for their clients like Dell, HP, Intel, LG and Toshshiba so that they can be a one-stop shop using B&T as their service provider. Through B&T new device and mobile channels as well as online a company like Dell can sell you a computer or a device and provide you with content as well. In fact they will give you some content when you buy their product. Not a bad integration of sales and marketing. And all the while B&T is doing the backend and servicing their accounts. As the backend provider B&T is using something called a Blio ereading full color, full experience ereader. Essentially what has happened is the value of shelf space, that was once so valued by publishers is now less critical. Books are basically becoming invisible hiding in the internet cloud somewhere. What needs to be done to let people know what’s out there by using more and selective marketing. Guess what?….Baker&Taylor has that covered as well. This is one very savvy company and possibly the model for all companies trying to invade and exploit the digital world.
Baker&Taylor is creating customized marketing campaigns for their partners; e-mail campaigns that are mining customers for all their personal data all branded under the client’s name. Basically they are helping companies like Dell and Toshiba to be book sellers and taking their cuts as well.

Now I don’t mean to be cynical here so I apologize if I sound so. In fact I am simply in awe of the synergy B&T has been able to create while standing in the background helping their customers become more diverse and vertically integrated. Ok so how does that affect you, an illustrator, designer, or art director? My mind tells me there are more places to approach for work, places that are new to buying content. We have to shift with the market. We have to follow trends. While old avenues of work close new ones open up. Stay online, engage and always look at what’s going on. Holding onto what worked a year or two ago can be futile with the pace of what’s going on. And look at styles and trends and what’s selling. Don’t settle keep developing.

More to come from BEA tomorrow.