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field trips

Visit to Booksource

November 16th, 2016 by helene_fosse | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visit to Booksource
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It was one of the first truly cold mornings of the year – the soul destroying, mind numbing kind of cold that makes you want to slip into a coma just to get away from it. The whole Publishing cohort was standing outside Pathfoot waiting for the bus to show up, all in a severe state of zombie due to lack of sleep. We all had three assignments to finish with two days left until the last deadline. The mood was a bit depressing. It was dark. It wasn’t great.

When the bus showed up, my rarely awakened competitive instinct roared into life as if this was the most important task I ever had to do – get on that bus FIRST. Why? Who can tell. I don’t mess around with warmth and comfort. They’re very precious to me.

Anyway, five minutes later I woke up and we were at Booksource, situated in a small retail park-looking area in Cambuslang, Glasgow. Stepping out of that bus was heartbreaking, but we did, and dragged our feet into the reception where we were warmly welcomed by Jim O’Donnell, operations director, and Louise Morris, customer service director.

As a booksource-2distribution hub for more than 85 publishers, Booksource operate out of their 42,000 sq ft warehouse, which holds around 4 million units across 10,000 titles. Breaking up into two groups, we set out on the Booksource Adventure. As part of group A, I entered the warehouse where we were told it could get OUTRAGEOUSLY cold in winter. -25 degrees Celsius or something ridiculous like that. My brain could not compute. It wasn’t too bad at the moment however (though I was glad I wore thermals that day), so I quite happily followed my group as we delved into the massive room.

It was literally stacked from floor to (dizzyingly high) ceiling with books. We beheld the wet dream of every book-lover with continuous squeals of excitement and did not hold back when Jim said we could even touch the books (and that if anything went wrong, hbooksource-1e would blame it on the employees. I liked Jim a lot). We walked between the high shelves much like the Israelites crossing the Red Sea guided by Moses (Jim).

The bottom two shelves (about hip and eye-hight) were stacked with a wide variety of books. From there on up, there were mostly cardboard boxes on pallets. This was to accommodate picking, and every night the bottom two shelves would be restocked from the boxes so that there were always loose books to hand. There was no easily discernible system (for an outsider to see at least) as to where books were placed. Different titles from the same publishing house were scattered all around; fiction, non-fiction and academic books were happily mixed together; there was no alphabetical (or other) system. Jim explained that one reason for this was that some books, such as Cicerone Press’ travel books, could not be placed together due to the similarity of their covers.

As we came to the end of the warehouse tour, we knew we had to go upstairs and go to a short lecture on Booksource. We were all a little bit disappointed as we really just wanted to stay in the warehouse forever, burrowing into the shelves, making book forts and never ever leave. Ever.

Oh, and apparently CDs are still a thing. Mostly folk music, according to Jim. There were numerous shelves filled with CDs, which we approached with caution, not sure what those pre-historic round discs with the holes in them were.

As we climbed the stairs and entered the conference room however, it was decked out with tea, coffee and biscuits. Our spirits were thoroughly lifted, and although we did not quite forget about the warehouse, we were (I was at least) certainly content being in the warmth with handfuls of biscuits (and perhaps a few in the pocket for the drive to Bell and Bain) and hot beverages.

After settling down, Louise told us about the history and services of Booksource. Not only do they hold and distribute books, they also re-price, re-barcode-sticker (I’m making it a word) and jacket. They also provide POD (Print on Demand) and financial services. They have a website, InfoSource, which works as a reporting tool for publishers can use to keep track of everything from sales to stock to order processing. It is also possible to buy books directly from Booksource at www.mybooksource.com. They stock books, ebooks, CDs and DVDs. What do they not do?

All in all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable trip and we exited the building in high spirits. And back on the bus we went…

Visit to Booksource 2015

October 7th, 2015 by Marian Robb | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visit to Booksource 2015
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On Thursday 1 October the publishing students of Stirling University visited Booksource: a distribution company based in Glasgow. We were welcomed by Louise Morris, the Customer Service Director and Jim O’Donnell, Operations Director and were then separated into two groups. (The MLitt cohort is quite large this year!) One group was taken on a fascinating tour of the warehouse by Jim and the other was given an informative presentation about the company by Louise.

While touring the impressive 44,000 square feet warehouse, Jim told us how Booksource was founded by Publishing Scotland and is still 90% owned by them. The company has approximately eighty client publishers, most of whom are small to medium sized and information about them and what they publish can be found on the Booksource website (http://www.booksource.net/our-clients ). The company provides storage and distribution for their clients and client-customer transactions are processed through their information management system.

As Jim took us down the aisles, with books stacked from floor to ceiling he explained how books are re-stocked early each morning and how a team then picks the books around 9am for the orders that are to be fulfilled that day. He also explained how they choose the most cost effective packaging for the publisher, with smaller orders packed in boxes or larger ones in pallets. The books are kept in the correct environmental conditions which means no heating in the warehouse. Perfect for the books but sometimes very cold for the Booksource team during the Scottish winters!

Jim then showed us the returns sections of the Booksource warehouse and we publishing students were faced with the reality of misjudging the print run or of typo errors missed during the proofreading stage. I think quite a few of us would have liked to save the books from becoming pulped fiction!

Louise gave us some more background to the company during the presentation and explained how important their service is to both publishers and their customers. Most small publishers do not have the resources to be dealing with their own distribution and equally, booksellers would have to order from lots of different publishers which wouldn’t be cost effective for anyone. Booksource means that the publisher-customer transactions can be controlled in one place, allowing publishers to concentrate fully on the publishing process.

She told us about the range of publications they deal with: fiction, outdoor, Scottish themed, children’s books and cookery to name just a few. Booksource also stores and distributes CDs and DVDs for independent music companies and provides an eBook service to publishers. So not just print publications!

Louise also explained how Booksource is continually adapting to the changes in the publishing industry and giving publishers the services they require. They will soon be launching a new online shop (www.mybooksource.com ) where each publisher will have their own dedicated page. It will be a great asset to small publishers who perhaps don’t have the time or resources to maintain their own online shop.

It was a really interesting and enjoyable afternoon seeing this aspect of the book publishing world, and Louise and Jim’s time spent with us was much appreciated, especially as they had to do the tour and presentation twice! We learned a lot and can really see how the services that Booksource provides play a pivotal role in the publishing process. Many thanks to the Booksource team for inviting us all to visit.

Booksource: Not the sexy side of publishing, but the most important

October 10th, 2014 by Heather Margaret McDaid | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Booksource: Not the sexy side of publishing, but the most important
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Heather McDaid reports on a class trip to book distributor Booksource:

One of the first things you’re told when you arrive at Booksource by Davinder Bedi, managing director, is that the distribution end of the publishing chain may not be the sexy end of the scale, where you craft the content and look of a product, but it is the most important. You could have the most amazing product in the world, but it’s worth nothing if it can’t reach the consumer.

WP_20140924_008It almost comes out of a book lover’s dream to wander in a building that houses 3.42 million books, but they’re mere units when you view it from a business perspective. This has almost halved in the last few years from 7.6 million; it isn’t a drop in business but indicative of industry changes. Publishers don’t house as much stock now Print On Demand exists, meaning that books can still fly of the shelves sales-wise, but not be sitting around waiting in a warehouse. It limits the risk of overprinting to quite so extreme proportions.

Booksource is different in a way because it doesn’t shy away from self-publishers or independent publishers; in fact, it seems to thrive from them. If they can sell, then they have a place. It’s a key part of their formation, as they’ve grown from 8 publishers to just under 70 using their services – which go far beyond merely sending out books. As one story featuring a football legend proved – you could go out and sell your books yourself, but you need a company like Booksource to both shift their books in bulk and get them into major stores like Waterstones, with their responsibilities constantly evolving to offer the best service possible.

An informative day that gave a broad insight into a side of publishing we’d yet to see. Working in line with Publishing Scotland, Booksource’s ethos is ‘profit with perspective’, which seems a relatively different idea, but ultimately their aim is to simply help publishers do business. So, all in all, an interesting afternoon well spent!

MLitt Publishing Studies students visit BookSource distributors in Glasgow

October 9th, 2013 by Clemence Moulaert | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on MLitt Publishing Studies students visit BookSource distributors in Glasgow
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You walk into a bookshop (if you still do that sort of thing), you pick up a book that looks interesting; with a bounce in your step, you take it to the till, you buy it; you take it home and disappear into it for a few hours. A delightful experience — but do you ever wonder about the journey that book has taken to get to you?

Before it gets to the bookshop it goes through a distributor, a step most readers will not be familiar with. The postgraduate students on the current MLitt Publishing Studies programme recently visited BookSource in Glasgow to learn more about the distribution process, to visit the warehouse and find out how this book distributor is coping in our troubled industry.

BookSource, one of the UK’s foremost book distributors for independent publishers, has existed since 1995 and thrived since then — up until the digital revolution and Amazon, that is.  These last two factors mean that the distribution step is no longer as important as it used to be, and in the future might even be obsolete.

The staff at BookSource are well aware of the dangers facing their business. Managing information is key to their survival: they must be on top of the latest innovations at all times and re-imagine their business strategy in order to remain a fierce competitor on the market. Tapping into the digital book distribution market is a big part of their new business plan. Nevertheless, they are aware of the limitations: ‘I think it will be a sad, sad day when we start making children’s e-books,’ says Davinder Bedi, director, managing director at BookSource.

 

Davinder believes that Scottish Independence is another threat looming on the horizon. With borders possibly closing off a huge market for BookSource, their business may not survive at all. Publishers like being physically close their books—if Scotland becomes a country on its own, who is to say that British publishers will want to do business outside of their country? Davinder is pessimistic: he doesn’t think the Scottish market is big enough to survive on its own.

Where will BookSource stand in five years’ time — will it even stand at all? Will the warehouse close down or will it be unrecognisable, totally adapted to a wholly changed industry? One thing is for sure: BookSource is determined to try and re-invent themselves before throwing in the towel. The publishing industry must take example from BookSource: we must be perceptive, inventive, and most of all ruthless visionaries to thrive in the digital age.