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May 03, 2001
Case Study

Books24x7 Sells 200,000 Subscriptions to a Database of Business Books Online

SUMMARY: Business book, journal and research publishers will want to check out the notes at the end of this Case Study to learn how they can connect with Books24x7. And everyone who's ever tried to sell a content feed or database into the corporate marketplace - will be interested in this Company's sales tactics. Read on...

Is it possible to make real money by selling electronic copies of business books? Books24x7 created an easy-to-search database by aggregating content from hundreds of the top technical and business books. Then, they just had to figure out how to get people to buy subscriptions to it. Pamela Boiros, Director of Publisher Relations, told us how the Company survived, while competitors went under.


Rather than trying to be all things to all businesspeople, Books24x7's management team decided to limit their scope to a single topic -- IT-related books -- and to a single type of customer -- very, very large American companies.Next, they carefully positioned their first product, ITPro, in a manner that would appeal to this market. Boiros explains, "We are a corporate productivity tool. We're selling to corporate training managers. They have these huge elearning initiatives. Traditional trainers are struggling with the explosion of offerings in this space -- the offerings all sound alike to them. We are not courseware; we are not software; we are referenceware. You get access to 950 books on the site, you can bookmark them, you can share bookmarks with colleagues, you can use the site in tandem with a course, or use the site to freshen up after a course." With this strategy in mind, Books24x7 hired a strong tech team so they could offer integration services as part of the package. Boiros says, "If you're going to play with the global 2000, they expect that you'll adhere to their technical requirements. You really need to be a technology company. Customers are looking for a platform that also includes their own documentation and other content feeds -- so when a user enters a search, it would search all the resources they have access to." The ITPro subscription service launched September '99 with 200 titles for $199 annual fee per user. It's since grown to 950 titles for $299 per user. These prices slide down to a lower rate per user when you sign up thousands at a time -- exactly the kind of account Books24x7 goes for. Boiros says, "Our sweet spot is a company with at least 1,000 seats."Product demos are critical in this marketplace. Boiros says, "Once we walk people through a demo you can see the lights go on." At first, potential customers could access a free 30-day trial at Books24x7 Web site. Worried about the potential for abuse, the Company cut this back to a seven day trial using randomly generated masking technology so visitors see the content, but they can't read everything. (For example, every few paragraphs will be blanked out.) When prospects sign up at the site for a sample trial, their company names are routed to the sales team who immediately allow the most highly qualified candidates a full-text trial. Boiros explains, "We want the serious prospect to have full access, but not just somebody who walks in off the street." Aside from converting leads generated by the site, the sales team cold calls training managers at appropriate companies, and exhibits at top training trade shows.


So far Books24x7 has sold 200,000 subscriptions to 800 companies. The Company also generates some ancillary revenues from single, individual subscription sales on its site, and from commissions on hard copy sales. (Each book on the site is linked to a hard copy bookseller -- either Fatbrain or Amazon.)The Company's success with ITPro led it to launch a second product, Office Essentials, in April 2000. This features about 50 reference books on desktop applications for non-tech users (such as "Word for Dummies".) Its third product, BusinessPro, featuring general business skills books launched April 3rd 2001.

PUBLISHER PARTNER NOTES: Boiros decides which books to contract by frequently reviewing her Company's Web logs to find out what types of information users are searching for. Currently she's interested in adding to her collection in three areas:
1. General business books on topics like management skills.
2. IT and computer-user journals and newsletter content(Books24x7 already carries content from Element K.)
3. Professional research reports.She definitely does not want calls from freelance writers and authors. She's also not interested in what she calls "teaser content" such as sample chapters that are designed to market products.

Publishers can contact her at: or call 781.440.9355.
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