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It’s funny how some ideas begin. It was more than 20 years ago when my friend Christopher Warnock, went to the University of Utah’s library to research how to build a recumbent bicycle. It was challenging back then. Information was scattered on the first, third and fourth floors -- and some books were missing altogether. Then, he had to flip through multiple books to find the information he needed and photocopy the relevant pages.
Some years later when I was an attorney in Silicon Valley during the internet start-up boom, we discussed his library experience and what was possible with PDF. We recognized that there was a real opportunity to make information more discoverable, accessible and usable. We believed that the world would be a better place if more people had greater access to the authoritative information in books and do their research online.
In 1999, Christopher and I launched ebrary, one of the world’s first ebook companies. It wasn’t easy convincing publishers that ebooks could provide a viable revenue stream or convincing libraries that ebooks would be used alongside print. We made many mistakes along the way. For instance, we launched with a photocopier model that required patrons to pay for copying and printing. We quickly learned that most students weren’t willing to part with their beer money to do their research. However, we worked closely with publishers and librarians to develop models that met the needs of both parties and eventually introduced the industry’s first ebook subscription product – Academic Complete.
In 2011 we found a home in ProQuest, a company that embraced ebrary’s entrepreneurial spirit and brought maturity and scale to the business, enabling us to deliver a more robust book buying and research experience. Since then we have been able to do great things with the help of many talented people. In acquiring EBL and Coutts, we combined our technologies and expertise to provide the most comprehensive book experience to libraries, publishers and researchers. We launched a brand new integrated platform, ProQuest Ebook Central, which combines all our acquisition models including Demand-driven Acquisition, Subscription, Short-term Loan and our unique Access-to-Own model. This leading platform offers libraries the most flexible ways to acquire ebooks and provides publishers with multiple revenue streams. We also made significant infrastructure and user functionality improvements to the OASIS platform to streamline the print and digital book acquisition workflows.
The consistent thread through it all has been the exceptional people that have dedicated themselves to create market-leading products and services. We have and will always work closely with our customers and partners, listening to their needs so that we can add value. The ever-changing needs of our customers confirms that there is still so much more to be done.
It’s clear to me that the challenges ahead will increasingly be solved with technology and it makes a lot of sense for me to pass the reins of ProQuest Books to a leader with both deep technical expertise and strong business acumen. I am pleased that my colleague Rich Belanger will succeed me as he has worked closely with the team over the last few years as ProQuest’s Chief Information Officer. Rich is smart and innovative, with great business savvy. I am excited for Rich and the Books team and I’m confident they will delight our customers and researchers with the next market leading solutions.
As for me, I’m not going far... I’ll remain with ProQuest as an advisor, helping through the transition and ensuring ProQuest Books delivers great products to our customers and extends its leadership position.The past 20 years have been a tremendous ride. Thank you to the many customers, publishers, partners and colleagues who helped make it so fulfilling.