At a time when many large commercial publishers appear reluctant to take on management books, one new outfit sees that very topic area as ripe for expansion. The one-year-old Wharton School Publishing now has 16 titles, ranging from Score! A Better Way to Do Business, Moving From Conflict to Collaboration by Thomas Stallkamp, former DaimlerChrysler (DCX ) vice-chairman, to The Chinese Century: The Rising Chinese Economy and Its Impact on the Global Economy, the Balance of Power, and Your Job by Ohio State University business professor Oded Shenkar. The imprint is a joint effort of Pearson Education, a unit of Pearson PLC (PSO ), and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Recently, BusinessWeek Associate Editor Hardy Green interviewed Wharton School Publishing co-editors Jerry Wind and Tim Moore about their new publishing endeavor. Following are edited excerpts:
Q: It seems that many trade publishers of business books have cut back on their management titles. HarperBusiness, for example, seems much more focused nowadays on business narratives. Why are you expanding in this area?
Wind:We perceived a need among senior executives in business and government. In the age of the Internet, there's no single strong publisher in the domain of thought leadership. We came up with the idea of a line of books that would carry the Wharton seal of approval. Twenty-four of the most senior faculty at Wharton constitute a review board that approves all of our titles. Each of our books must meet each of three criteria: They must be conceptually sound, empirically based, and implementable -- you can do something with them.
Q: But is the market for management books shrinking?
Moore:It's fair to say that there has been a decline in the number of business books sold through retailers. And there are fewer corporate management-training programs. But the commercial publishers who have left this space are trying to hit home runs all the time. We understand that this kind of publishing is singles, doubles, triples, and only the occasional home run.
Also, we're aiming at a worldwide market. Our venture is an alliance of a great business school and a commercial publishing company that has global reach. We'll be selling our books in multiple languages and in all corners of the world. We have partners in Brazil, China, Japan, and Korea that will bring every one of our books to market.
Q: How is what you're doing different from the program at Harvard Business School Press, which is the preeminent business school press?
Wind:Harvard has an impressive list, but not all of its books meet our three criteria. We would love to have some of its books, but others might not be right for us.
Moore: We also have our own distribution through Pearson. Our competitors sell their books through intermediaries. That means we control our own destiny.
[Editor's note: Distributor CDS handles Harvard Business School Press titles in the U.S., and The McGraw-Hill Companies (MHP ), -- which publishes BusinessWeek -- does Harvard's international distribution. Harvard publishes approximately 30 new hardcover books per year, along with about 20 other titles that are parts of ongoing series.]
Q: I believe you're emphasizing nonprint media as well, right?
Wind:Yes, we're more focused on multiple media -- audiobooks, e-documents, CD-ROMs, and videos. For instance, one book, University of Michigan professor C.K. Prahalad's The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits, also contains a CD with video case studies.
Q: It seems worth stressing that not all of your authors teach at Wharton, correct?
Moore:Not at all. We have a broad mix of authors, including business professors, including some from Harvard; businesspeople like Jon Huntsman, the founder of Huntsman Corp.; and some journalists.
Q: Any further thoughts?
Wind:We don't shy away from competing with commercial publishers and offering competitive advances. But we're looking to have an impact on the quality of management. We're trying to focus on how people use the books, not just on commercial success.