Timo Boezeman on Guiding Dutch Publisher A.W. Bruna into the Digital Future

In Guest Contributors by Guest Contributor

By Ashley Mabbitt

• Timo Boezeman’s career reflects the broader changes in the publishing landscape. A former Web consultant, he is responsible for developing the digital publishing strategy — as well as acquiring non-fiction titles — for A.W. Bruna, Holland’s largest publisher.

• While Europe has lagged somewhat behind the US and Asia in implementing digital publishing, Boezeman believes “with introduction of the iPad, digital publishing has taken flight,” particularly in the Netherlands.

UTRECHT: Under the guidance of Timo Boezeman, A.W. Bruna — the biggest publisher in the Netherlands – has stayed on the leading edge of digital publishing in the Netherlands.

Boezeman has been privy to numerous changes in the Dutch publishing scene over the past decade and his career track reflects the new direction publishers are taking to cope with digitization. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he began his career not as a publisher, but as an independent web designer, a job he did for nearly five years before eventually taking a job as  editor for new media at Bruna.

At Bruna, he initially acquired computer books. This has since expanded significantly to include general business books and titles related to Internet trends, such as social media and new marketing. Today he serves as acquisitions editor of non-fiction and coordinates the company’s digital publishing strategy.

His own focus is similar to that of many non-fiction publishers in that he continues acquiring books by famous authors with proven track records -– such as Jeremy Clarkson and Seth Godin -– to publish in print. But, in addition, he is constantly thinking about how changes in the digital realm can be used to his advantage.

Today, he says, 20% of his time is focused exclusively on digital publishing. This means figuring out how to best publish books as “e-books, enhanced e-books, PDFs (free or paid), apps (iPad, iPhone) as well as other new formats I come across.”

The iPad has officially been available in the Netherlands since the worldwide release on July 23rd, although iBooks has yet to be launched in the country. For now, the Sony e-Reader is the bestselling dedicated e-reading device in the Netherlands and is sold primarily via bol.com, which remains by far the largest online book retailer in the Netherlands.

“With introduction of the iPad, digital publishing has taken flight,” says Boezeman. “There are now new ways of publishing, new business models, etc.”

Particular to his own areas of interest, he says he does not expect that cutting-edge trends in technology or the very latest business management topics, which interest him personally, will necessarily fit the needs of Bruna’s target audience –- general readers -– but acknowledges that iPad in particular enables publishers to “go way beyond what the Kindle offers now.”

In the fields of business and management books Boezeman cites a trend towards “new marketing strategies,” such as those pushed by Godin, who encourages online authenticity and maintaining a dialogue with your customers, and titles on “The New Way of Work” — i.e. updating your business structure to reflect changing lifestyles and business practices.

Digital publishing is not something Boezeman ever had to push his colleagues to believe is important, and A.W. Bruna has been more than willing to embrace digital publishing: a full 90% of Bruna’s new titles are released simultaneously in print and as e-books, and all titles are promoted via Twitter, Facebook and on dedicated websites.

The company is also currently digitizing their backlist titles, starting with their biggest authors and long-standing series. The list price for Bruna e-books is 85% of the print list price -– something Boezeman personally feels is too high. The company’s top selling e-book titles are -– no surprise here –- digital editions of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy.

“Digital publishing is the future and the future is coming faster than many of us think,” said Boezeman. “We need to think of new ways of publishing, new concepts, especially in non-fiction and educational publications, new business models to go with them. Who knows, maybe you will end up publishing more digital than paper books ten years from now.”

As A.W. Bruna’s digital publishing program continues to evolve under Boezeman’s coordination and planning, you can track its progress by reading Boezeman’s blog and following Boezeman on Twitter.

Ashley Mabbitt is the Assistant Director of International Rights at John Wiley & Sons, Inc. She visited the Netherlands earlier this summer.

DISCUSS: What’s the most exciting publishing project in the Netherlands?

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Guest contributors to Publishing Perspectives have diverse backgrounds in publishing, media and technology. They live across the globe and bring unique, first-hand experience to their writing.