A Week at Yale by Laura (Pexton) Ross

Nothing has spurred my creative inclinations for publishing or inspired me more than the Yale Publishing Course I was able to attend in July, thanks to the generosity of the NCBPMA and the Carol C. Butterfield Scholarship. The Course provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from some of the most intelligent, influential, and innovative voices in the publishing industry, including Brian Napack, President of Macmillan, Joseph Galarneau, Senior VP of Operations and CIO at Newsweek, and Cynthia Leive, Editor in Chief of Glamour. Not only did I have the opportunity to learn from them, but many of the presenters and attendees have become my friends and offer boundless resources for collaboration, idea generation, and camaraderie.

The Course included both a harsh look at the reality facing publishers today as well as the possibility of a bright future in the age of new reading technology. While changes will have to be made to improve the reading experience and some business models, new technology has made the possibilities nearly limitless and has also spurred new generations to discover the joys of reading by using techniques and features that appeal to the more tech-savvy youth of today.

While times have changed, interest in reading itself remains and even grows stronger as book availability and instant purchasing are made more accessible through e-readers. This could be the boon the publishing industry can take advantage of, as readers buy three times as many books after they purchase an e-reader, according to Amazon. This provides much hope to my dream of finding new and innovative ways of exposing more individuals, young and old, to the joys of reading, whether on printed pages or an iPad screen.

While the blogs and news outlets are filled with predictions of the ultimate demise of the publishing industry, this Course took an important step to counteract that by bringing everyone together in an atmosphere that fostered conversation, collaboration and innovation. Throughout the week, I was able to discover how other publishers are using the new tools at our disposal to create dynamic, interactive reading experiences. With these new tools in mind, many are also turning their traditional business model on their head. Some individuals suggested that selling chapters individually versus entire books may be both more profitable in the long run and more beneficial to consumers as they are able to find the information they need immediately or see if they are interested in a book before they purchase the whole thing. The availability of books on Smartphones was also seen as a necessity since they may outpace PCs in the next 2-3 years.

As I left Yale, I considered how my role as publicist and communications manager for Peachpit could lend itself to this transitional period in our industry, and I set some key goals for myself in the coming months and years. I will not only attempt to convey the tremendous value of publishers to our consumers, authors, and the general public, but will also work to add to that value by developing additional resources for our authors and new content for our customers. I will continue to be a voracious reader of the latest tech trends and share new developments with my colleagues so we can be among the first to take advantage of them. I will reach out to consumers regularly to discover their interests, both in subject matter and learning formats (being careful not to simply say “reading formats” as new technology means they can be so much more). And finally, I will keep the public informed of everything we are doing to make their learning experience more enjoyable and accessible wherever they are.

We are at the bridge joining the publishing world as it always has been and the publishing world as it could be. The risks, pitfalls, and problems abound, but the possibilities for success are greater in number and reward. The Yale Publishing Course was all I hoped it would be and instilled in me a profound excitement and optimism in the future of publishing and the hope that all future generations will have the opportunity to be affected by the power of reading, regardless of the medium on which it is done.


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