Michael Ross - 2002 Hall of Fame Books Inductee
Having been with World Book for more than 10 years, Michael Ross, executive vice president and publisher, is responsible for the company's worldwide publishing and marketing activities, including all print and electronic product development and international licensing activity. He leads the design and development work of more than 100 editors, designers, researchers and producers, and builds important strategic relationships with such companies as IBM and AOL. Notably, Ross successfully engineered World Book's electronic development business online, including its online bookstore, while maintaining the company's dominance in print.
He began his career in publishing 23 years ago after graduating from the University of Minnesota. Ross is quite active within the industry. He is involved with several associations and is the president of the Association of Educational Publishers. Ross has delivered keynote addresses at several major association meetings, including the Licensing Executive Society, the Hammond Organization, the ABA, Pubtech and Booktech.
Like so many things in life, Ross' career was aided in part by luck. "After doing some teaching, writing and translating (in French), I got lucky and was hired by Time-Life Books to work in their Tokyo office," he recalls. "I got to do a little of everything and fell in love with editing and publishing. Through editing, I eventually went into publishing management."
Of course, the industry has undergone quite a transformation in the last 23 years. Ever the editor, Ross still believes content is king. "You still have to publish quality materials to be successful. That requires excellence in editing and design. But the production process has evolved enormously thanks to advancements in technology, which have completely transformed the way editors, designers and prepress professionals work. Distribution, too, has been hugely impacted, especially in the area of electronic commerce."
Thanks to the computer revolution, "editors and designers have been liberated to focus on creating content instead of laboring to get content into printable condition," says Ross. "CTP has liberated the printer in the same way, and is causing a revolution in the cost structure of printing books."
Despite these advances, Ross feels that one of the biggest challenges the industry faces today is distribution. "There is a problem getting quality product into the market in a way that is fully supportable and provides the best value to the customer," he offers. "To a large degree, technology will help. People can sample more now than they have ever been able to. But the industry must continue to work hard at educating people on the sources to trust."
Ross offers the following advice to fellow production professionals: "Be sure to have at least a meaningful core competence in the areas that are critical to your business and strategic in the long term. Similarly, outsource as much as possible in areas that are variable and not central to what differentiates you in the market."
Looking forward, Ross feels that any progress publishing enjoys will be due to the production of quality products. "We need to encourage creative people to come into the industry and stay in it," he says. "In addition, the partnership between publisher and vendor is a critical one, and these relationships need to be flexible enough to sustain constant fluctuation in the market. If we continue to work on the principles of win-win, there will be no problem because we have an insatiable market."