The Changing Book Business: An Interview with John Ujda of Better World Books
UPDATE: Due to an editorial mistake, the incorrect author was attributed to this article. The correct author is Adam Viener. Our apologies for the confusion.
Every online retailer company often appears to be in a constant state of flux.
However, I don’t think we have seen any category experiencing more change than the book business. Tablets and eReaders are reinventing the category, so I thought it would be interesting and helpful to get a sense of what’s happening in the industry through the perspective of John Ujda, the Vice President of Marketing at Better World Books (BWB). The following reflects an interview I completed with him recently.
How does BWB differentiate themselves from the online and brick & mortar competition?
Better World Books is Book for Book, which means we donate a book to someone in need for every book purchased on BetterWorldBooks.com. Further, a portion of every sale goes towards funding literacy programs around the world.
And we reuse or recycle millions of used books, saving waste from entering landfills.
Better World Books is where people shop who want to vote with their dollars for a Better World, not to mention our great prices and free shipping.
How has performance marketing played a role in BWBâ€™s current success and future strategy?
Performance marketing has been key to our success as it offers a cost-effective, highly measurable way to acquire new customers, usually right at the point of purchase intent. Weâ€™ve used a variety of performance marketing tactics including paid search, affiliate referrals, email marketing, and targeted display advertising. Performance marketing will continue to be an important part of our mix in the future, and weâ€™ll supplement it with other channels designed to create broader awareness and to build our brand.
How does BWB see the world of textbooks changing based on the recent announcements by Apple regarding their iBooks/electronic textbooks and eLearning initiatives?
The textbook market has changed dramatically in recent years with the advent of rentals and a more competitive resale market. Electronic Media have so far had a minimal impact on the market as adoption has been slow due to consumer preference (students want to highlight and take notes and this is harder to do in electronic textbooks) and a lack of standards adoption among formats and hardware platforms. However, there is not question that as a younger generation of even more wired students arrive at universities, and as standards issues are sorted out, electronic textbooks will completely revolutionize the textbook sales landscape.
How does BWB plan to adjust their business to take the most advantage of their vision of the changing world of eduction?
BWB will seek its niche in the world of electronic textbooks and learning and enter it only if we can create a sustainable competitive advantage. We have diversified beyond textbooks for years, and they constitute a minority of our revenue, so if we cannot sustain competitive advantage in textbooks, we may focus our energies elsewhere. One thing we know for sure, change creates opportunity, and weâ€™ll be looking for our opportunity to take advantage of business opportunities that present themselves.