Sourcebooks embraces innovation, Raccah tells CWIP

Dominique Raccah, publisher and CEO of Sourcebooks, Inc., a Naperville-based publisher, joined Chicago Women in Publishing (CWIP) members at our May 2 networking breakfast in Naperville.

The conversation evolved into a thought-provoking, mind-expanding discussion of where book publishing (now more accurately recognized as information publishing) is headed in the electronic age.

Dominique founded Sourcebooks from her bedroom in 1987 with $17,000 cashed in from her 401(k). Today she remains excited about the industry’s potential as she continues to grow her company with investments in innovative projects.

For instance, she is exploring how current print titles can be translated into online databases with varying types of access and share-ability at multiple price points. She also continues to expand the company into diverse, profitable genres. (For instance, the romance market picks up in a recession, she reports.)

The CWIP group talked a lot about Twitter, which Dominique uses to communicate with publishing thought leaders around the world. (Twitter enables participants to link with others online and send them text messages by computer or cell phone of up to 140 characters. The messages are called tweets.) Her connections range from executives at major book-retailing chains to “the Portuguese librarian.” She currently serves as president of the Book Industry Study Group where she leads the organization in exploring new concepts. (She spoke to the Group the following week on “Business Unusual: Rethinking the Publishing Enterprise in Response to Changing Times.”)

During breakfast, Dominique spoke about a recent conference where large segments of the audience were tweeting among themselves while a speaker addressed the group. This e-conversation in effect coalesced disagreement over the speaker’s message before the floor opened to questions and comments, with the speaker oblivious to what was going on. The story raises an interesting question: should a speaker monitor tweets during her address and weave this discussion into the remarks? It also suggests an unasked question: Is it reasonable to expect a speaker to deliver an effective presentation while simultaneously responding to audience objections?

Dominique brought treats—samples of her company’s recent publications—for us to select among and take home. I’m now enjoying Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat, edited by Nikki Giovanni, which combines older works from the likes of W.E.B. DuBois and Langston Hughes with more recent inclusions from Tupac, Queen Latifah and others. Tracks on the accompanying CD (many recorded by the actual poets) supplement the book. It’s a terrific book for the classroom teacher or for anyone who wants to engage a child in poetry. For that matter, it’s great fun for adults. (I’ve got the CD in my computer and take poetry breaks at my desk.)

The CWIP Naperville group is slated to meet again on June 6 before breaking for the summer. Come join us!


6 responses to “Sourcebooks embraces innovation, Raccah tells CWIP

  1. I just had to respond to the observation about tweeting during a presentation at which all the twitterers were present.

    1) I think it’s rude “to talk” during a speech with the added danger, in this case, of conculsions being drawn before the speaker was even finished.

    2) What happened to Questions and Answers? Or taking questions during the presentation? Many experienced speakers will take and even encourage comments DURING their presentation. Others prefer to take them at the end. Either way, verbal discussion benefits everyone. Everyone gets to hear the comment or clarification, and the speaker gets to respond in real time and with an opportunity for follow-up. It’s a learning occasion that everyone shares in. If “participants” just “twitter” amongst themselves, why even have a live event? Just put the speech on electronic media and let everyone handle discussion electronically.

    The purpose of live events is to allow people to talk to each other face-to-face in real time. I hate to see this benefits of this dynamic destroyed by twittering!

  2. Michele, My first thought was a bit of sympathy for the speaker. It’s one thing to experience opposition during open discussion, but to find that a group of people already concur on the dissension is a new experience. It says to me that now more than ever, speakers have to manage discussion assertively or they will totally lose control.

  3. Participants who are “tweeting” during a presentation are not paying full attention and processing what the speaker is saying. This type of behavior is like “passing notes” in class. Technology just accelerates and enables this rude behavior.

  4. Ann, at the next CWIP-Naperville meeting on Saturday, June 6, I will report on Dominique Raccah’s presentation from our May meeting. This is the kind of thing I’d love for us to discuss. I hope you can attend because we value your input.


  5. Diana – This is great! I hope you don’t mind that I included your link in our reminder. Also, I’d love to see that Hip Hop book. 🙂

  6. Rebecca, thanks for the link. I’ll be sure to bring the book. Also, I’ll review Dominique Raccah’s recent tweets. See you soon!

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