Books navigate new waters

Online, and pushing the new service

Pons, which English dictionary users will know more as Collins, has finally taken the plunge and not only gone online, they’re openly advertising the fact.

This will have been a tough decision for a company that sees itself as a seller of books. In strategic terms it represents a small but potentially far-reaching step into product development (bottom left box if you know your Ansoff matrix).

Encyclopaedia Britannica (EB) has been forced by the tide of online events and the tsunami of wikipedia to do the same.

A good decade after the inevitabilty of the internet was accepted by technology experts, it strikes me both Pons and EB were a bit slow on the uptake.
EB did its best to stem the tide. For years their sales staff stood in airports trying to convince you that you really needed 20 volumes of carefully researched knowledge on your mantlepiece. To no avail.

Free trials available online

But going with the flow meant solving some major problems for a company used to thinking in print, the most obvious of which is how to generate sales in the day and age of free, real-time information.

They’ve both picked a ploy, made a lot easier by the strengths of their brands, but my o my, they were slow.

Let’s see, now they’ve realised you sometimes can’t stem the tide of change, how well their original cash cows survive. Or will their books be swept away, like a sand castle on the beach? Their customers will decide…

Alex Woodruff

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