Is a Fungus Among Us?
Some publishers loved it. They immediately saw that by participating in this format (1) their catalogs would not be lost in an overstuffed file drawer and therefore would be far more easily accessible, and (2) this co-op binding and distribution system would save considerable money. Further, they could produce overruns for their sales representatives and as giveaways at the American Booksellers and Library Association conferences, as well as regional gatherings.
While others hated it, feeling that they would lose their individuality, enough said they liked the idea to make it a viable business. What’s more, once established, other publishers would see the wisdom of the product and come on board. For Bowker, it would represent a brand-new profit center with virtually no editorial expense that could be sold as an add-on by existing sales representatives.
I put together a business plan, designed a cover, made a crude mock-up of the product and sent it in to top management. Word came back from the board meeting that everybody loved the idea, but Library Journal—and its sister publication, Publishers Weekly—was undergoing a redesign, so nobody could get to this project for at least six months.
My salary at Bowker—the junior number three guy in a two-man office—was peanuts. When a very good offer for a job with another company came in, I was immediately interested. I went to Bowker’s VP of advertising and asked him where the catalog project stood, since I had just received a job offer.
“We want to go ahead with it,” he said, “but the redesign of the magazines is taking longer than we thought.”
“If I stay at Bowker and help launch this new catalog project, could I count on getting a piece of the action?”
“We don’t do that,” he said. “You have your salary.”