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Knowledgespeak Exclusive - An interview with Jeff Patterson, CEO, Safari Books Online - 16 Jul 2008

Q

To begin with, please tell us what is the idea behind Safari Books Online?

A

In July 2001, two of the world's most prominent technology publishers, O'Reilly Media, Inc. and The Pearson Technology Group, joined forces to create Safari Books Online. The premise was simple: compile the best technology books from the leading authors and publishers into an online database where IT, programming, and design professionals could quickly and easily search for reliable, definitive answers to mission-critical questions. The result has been an on-demand digital library that provides one integrated source for over 6500 expert reference and learning materials from leading publishers. The materials include collections of expert technology, digitial curricula for certification, creative and design, and business and management resources. The titles come from publishers like O’Reilly and Pearson – whose content is exclusively available on Safari – as well as Microsoft Press, Cisco Press, Peachpit Press, Addison Wesley, and Lynda.com.


Q

Safari recently announced enhancements to its services. How are these upgrades expected to help the company meet the needs of enterprise and individual subscribers?

A

Our recent enhancements – and there are more to come in the near future – are focused around making the library more useful for both users and administrators. We are now COUNTER compliant, which means users in the library market have much easier access to a wide range of usage reporting that is critical to their business. We have also improved our search functionality, making it easier for both business and consumer users to find the materials they need quickly and easily.


Q

Briefly tell us about your interactive publishing service, Rough Cuts. How does it work?

A

Rough Cuts is a service that allows users to read and comment on books prior to their publication, when they are still in manuscript form. The rough manuscripts are posted on Safari Books Online. Users can read them and then send feedback to the author, who responds. It creates an interactive ability to influence the actual content, while at the same time allowing the user to get information before the book is published and available at retailers.


Q

Safari recently rolled out the Safari Select service in association with Proquest. Briefly talk about this new service. How does this service help public libraries to meet the wide range of demand for technical information?

A

Safari Select is a new product designed to help libraries meet the public’s increased demand for up-to-date information on the latest popular technologies. With Safari Select, library patrons will enjoy on-demand access to more than 400 best sellers on computing, Internet, digital photography, home entertainment and other related subjects. The offering will be updated quarterly, and will provide librarians all the same usage reporting as our other services.


Q

Earlier this year, you signed a deal to become Packt Publishing's first online channel distribution partner. Can you tell us how is this partnership expected to meet the evolving needs of today's advanced technical employees?

A

Packt Publishing is a terrific niche publisher geared toward producing very high quality content in specialized subject areas that larger publishers can’t afford to cover given their business models. So with the addition of Packt, we’re making important acquisitions in our subject-matter coverage in Open Source, web development, .NET and Java.


Q

High cost of textbooks is a growing cause of concern in the textbook market today. How can Safari products/services help combat this issue? What according to you is the future of ‘The Textbook’?

A

In the publishing industry, textbooks are considered a distinctly different genre, which is why our owners, Pearson and O’Reilly, have separate initiatives that specifically address the textbook category. That said, we do provide access to our collection of professional books to nearly 700 academic libraries around the world.


Q

What do you see as Safari's biggest competition - other e-book publishers or free content on the Web?

A

We intend to build on our position as the pre-eminent subscription-based, on-demand digital library in the high-tech and business categories. Our key differentiator from single-copy ebook sellers is that we provide subscribers with the ability to find the information they need by searching across a very large collection of books, videos and articles from one central location using one user-friendly interface. And, as the exclusive subscription channel for O’Reilly and Pearson, plus the other quality publishers in our library, we provide a fast, efficient way to find the vetted, expert content that information technology professionals prefer as they seek answers to thorny problems while at work. With Safari, they don’t have to waste time sifting through search results that may or may not yield information they can trust. “Free” content can often cost you plenty if it takes you five times as long to find what you’re looking for, and it turns out to be poor quality.


Q

Comment on your company’s performance for the fiscal 2007, highlighting key challenges that were successfully tackled. Any plans for expanding the Safari offering into other new disciplines.

A

We don’t disclose financial results, but I can tell you that in 2007 Safari Books Online continued to produce strong growth in all three subscriber segments – individuals, corporations and libraries – and we expect to grow even faster in the years to come. I can also say that we are in discussions with other publishers about how Safari Books Online offers them tremendous potential for revenue growth on our platform.


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