Jeremy Brinton in the Publisher's Chair

Jeremy Brinton in the Publisher's Chair

Jeremy is Head of Sales with specific focus on Academic, Education, and Professional sectors at Glassboxx.  He also serves as a member of ALPSP Training Committee and is a trustee of The Book Trade Charity (BTBS). His knowledge of the professional, academic, and trade publishing sectors, both in the UK and overseas, has given Jeremy a deep understanding of the publishing industry.

Thank you for joining Supadu today! What is your role at Glassboxx?

Thank you for having me! I am Head of Sales at Glassboxx and joined on 1st June this year, but I’ve been in the industry for 29 years. Understanding each business case is essential. My responsibilities include current client account management and signing up new clients across the education, academic and professional publishing sectors.

Where were you before Glassboxx? What’s your journey into publishing been?

The answer is circuitous! I have held various publishing roles, starting with commissionsing at Lloyds of London Press, now part of Taylor and Francis Informa. After 6 years, I joined an institutional publisher, Thomas Telford Publishing (now ICE Publishing), honing my commissioning and publisher skills. After 11 years in the UK, I joined Dubai headquartered magazine and book trade publisher, Motivate Media Group in 2004. I wear several hats in industry facing roles. I am a Trustee of The Book Trade Charity (BTBS) and a member of the Training Committee of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) of which Glassboxx is a member.

How did you find working in Dubai compared to the UK? 

It was rewarding. Working in an entrepreneurial, multi-cultural business environment, there is no substitute for being “on the ground”. Working collaboratively as part of the pioneering team, literary and literacy legacy projects unfolded such as the Arab region’s award-winning, ground-breaking literary festival, Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (established 2009).  I was able to build sales teams, publish co-editions, and expand rights and licensing and product range. Opportunity knocked, and I joined long-established bookseller, Magrudy Enterprises LLC (Magrudys) in 2007 as CEO. I led its strategic expansion across the GCC comprising book retail, education training, school uniform manufacturing, and its eCommerce and loyalty scheme operation. We even had our own regular radio show - cultivating loyal listeners and customers!

How has publishing changed in your 30 years in the industry? 

It’s changed enormously - particularly the transformative journey from print to digital formats. Publisher platforms have developed, increasingly eCommerce enabled, as vital infrastructure to drive customer engagement, brand awareness and new revenue streams. I recognise and applaud greater cross-industry collaboration and the important role trade associations play. The book publishing industry has largely embraced digital change, and the agenda for diversity, equity and inclusion, accessibility and sustainability. One constant for every publisher is customer engagement and the optimal end user experience; providing value-add services, tools and workflows to facilitate customer access, search and discovery seamlessly, whatever the content and format. UK publishing export market is healthy despite the ongoing challenges in the supply chain, affected by Brexit, the pandemic, and now current economic headwinds and the cost of living crisis.

Before I ask how Glassboxx has adapted to the new environment, what does Glassboxx actually do to help publishers?

Glassboxx is a game changer.  Launched in 2020, Glassboxx is a service that enables authors, publishers and retailers to sell and deliver audiobooks and eBooks directly to readers with seamless Digital Rights Management (DRM). This content is delivered via apps that are available across five platforms; iOS, Android, MacOS, Windows and browser, and can be publisher branded. As well as providing an efficient fulfilment solution for digital content, Glassboxx acts as a toolkit, with sales insights, consumption analytics and marketing features such as vouchers and subscriptions available for institutional, corporate, and individual clients. Glassboxx works with a huge range of publishers globally and most recently won the IPG Award for Services to Independent Publishers.

I am speaking to an ever-increasing number of publishers and resellers about Glassboxx to deliver direct sales, advance review/digital inspection copies and seamless gratis provision, whilst ensuring content security and the ultimate user experience.

We serve every size and type of publisher and have a good balance across trade and the scholarly sector.

So do you think DRM is more important now than ever? How has Glassboxx adapted to the rise in digital publishing? 

Yes, as a solution that works seamlessly for publishers and readers. This is really fundamental. Digital Rights Management (DRM) prevents proprietary content from being shared with people who haven’t purchased them. DRM has largely been associated with Adobe who have had something of a monopoly over eBooks. It applies only to eBooks and not audiobooks which is an incredibly fast growing market. More recently it has become clear that Adobe have stopped updating their software and are no longer providing support to developers, or end users who are now left with books they can barely download. This not only leaves readers at a disadvantage, but risks turning them away completely, with customer services and even tech forums left unable to supply solutions to problems that can now only increase. 

When we set about creating a better DRM solution with Glassboxx, we knew it needed to be seamless to use (no more setting up Adobe accounts and logging into multiple areas to download a single book), applicable to audio (a fast growing market which needs the protection) and unbreakable (otherwise what’s the point!). We opted for Readium’s Licence Content Protection (LCP) created by EDR Lab. It integrates smoothly into the sales process, enabling readers to make just one click from sale to delivery of content. This user experience provides a new standard for publishers long accustomed to Adobe and, more importantly, a new standard for readers. Not only that we have various commercial models that now make it affordable for bulk and institutional sales. 

Yet, what we often encounter when discussing Glassboxx is a reluctance to move on from existing models - models which barely work, if at all, but are at least familiar. Although The Firsty Group may be well established, Glassboxx isn’t familiar, and that’s a good thing. It’s not the same as Adobe, and we don’t want to be - that’s not why we set out to create something different. We are the alternative, the alternative to a tired and broken DRM, the alternative to platforms that have been long since abandoned by their developers and the alternative to unsustainable and ultimately unsuccessful models. Why stay with what’s familiar when you can shift to the alternative? 

You mentioned that audiobooks have had a market surge, are they more popular with your clients than eBooks? 

Most of the digital content comprises eBook in ePub2 and ePub3 formats. There are many publishers working on converting PDFs to ePub with the increased features and functionality that offers readers. We are also handling multimedia or enhanced eBooks where video and audio is embedded to create an immersive and engaging reader experience which is exciting. Enhanced eBooks play to the language learning gallery. 

Fast-forward five years, do you think bookshops will still be thriving or will digital continue to grow and eventually take over?

I am totally in favour of an industry that’s joined up and supports each other. We need that for our ecosystem to survive. In short, yes, bookshops will survive. Three words that come to mind are resilience, agility and flexibility. Bookshops are ‘place-setters’ in our high streets (to borrow a phrase from the Booksellers Association (BA)). In the UK, 54 new independent bookshops opened last year and the number of independents in the BA membership grew to more than 1000. 

Book sales reached a 10 year high last year but Brexit and Covid have hit us hard and inflationary pressures over the price of paper, shipping and even the cost of living could dent consumer confidence. As long as books are around they will enrich our culture, our bond with literature and literacy. Booksellers, whether physical or digital, will alway be something I champion.

How is Glassboxx looking to change over the next few years? Do you have any new products coming out? 

Firsty Group started building e-Commerce sites for publishers 20 years ago and that’s informed Glassboxx and our roadmap. Glassboxx has emerged from Firsty Group as a market-leading secure yet flexible digital fulfilment solution for publishers, authors, resellers and end users. Data and analytics are vital for publishers’ strategic development and Glassboxx will continue to develop reports that include title access, performance and consumption analytics, while offering five-platform DRM security globally, and free joined-up promotion and marketing support. Our Branded Reader App (white label) guarantees a “walled garden” of discoverable and searchable content. This is proving very popular as is our advance review copy function which we are developing and adapting for the scholarly sector.  

Glassboxx offers a business-to-business institutional bulk sales solution from which a confirmed number of students, librarians or employees can access and surface a selected digital library both offline and online. Institutions can opt for a renewable subscription, a rental period or perpetual access. This is all in play at the moment. 

To finish off, do you have a favourite book which you can recommend to our audience? 

Your question about the longevity of bookshops triggered this recommendation. A recent favourite and London centric perhaps, has to be Bill Samuel’s An Accidental Bookseller - A Personal Memoir of Foyles, which I really enjoyed. I can’t better the description; “From fond childhood memories of his eccentric and brilliant grandfather William Foyle, 'the Barnum of Bookselling' and his aunt, the beautiful, charming, witty, self centred  and at times utterly ruthless Christina Foyle, to the 21st century rejuvenation of a dying family business, An Accidental Bookseller will appeal to all who have their own memories of Foyles.” 

Thanks for joining us Jeremy!

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