Mike Shatzkin is a widely-acknowledged thought leader about digital change in the book publishing industry. Mike has been actively involved in trade book publishing since his first job as a sales clerk in the brand new paperback department of Brentano’s Bookstore on Fifth Avenue in 1962. In his nearly 50 years in publishing, he has worked in all aspects of the industry: writing, editing, agenting, packaging, selling, marketing, and managing production. His insights about how the industry functions and how it accommodates digital change form the basis of The Idea Logical Company’s consulting efforts.

Mike is well known for having introduced the concept of “verticality” — or subject-specific publishing — as a way to think about the digital transition. In speeches going back to 1995, he has told publishers to understand their core propositions and fundamentals — balancing the content and market equations — and presciently told them to resist and be very careful about seductive opportunities that might be blind alleys: CD-Roms in the 1990s and enhanced ebooks in the current era.

At BookExpo America in May of 2007, Mike delivered a speech called “The End of General Trade Publishing Houses”, laying out the reasons why the approach to publishing that had worked so well to build major businesses in the 20th century would soon falter and eventually fail. He predicted then (and earlier) that specialist publishers would thrive by building direct relationships with audiences and that the biggest general trade houses would find that extremely difficult to do.

Mike has organized conferences, spoken to industry groups, and worked with leading publishers, suppliers and trading partners across the globe. His blog, The Shatzkin Files, is one of the most closely-watched ongoing commentaries on digital change in trade publishing.

Mike Shatzkin is the Founder & CEO of The Idea Logical Company and of BaseballLibrary.com. He has four decades of experience as a published writer and working in all aspects of the publishing industry – writing, editing, agenting, selling, marketing, and managing production. He is well known for providing insight into the knottiest questions of the industry, old and new, in a career that began with a summer job on the sales floor of the brand new paperback department of Brentano’s Bookstore on 5th Avenue in 1962.

Two issues have been on the front burner of Mike Shatzkin’s career over the past 10 years. His initiatives concerning the way books get onto retailers’ shelves carry forward ideas developed over 50 years by his father, Leonard Shatzkin. And Mike has been at the forefront in the discussion of how the print publishing world can address the many challenges posed by digital change.

Even before Mike Shatzkin graduated from UCLA in 1969, he had a variety of experiences in the publishing world. He first wrote for pay in the 1950s, covering local sports for a weekly community newspaper. His summer job at Brentano’s in 1962 was followed by stints in the order processing department at Random House in 1966 and developing a new scheduling system for a book jacket printer, Longacre Press, in 1967. Mike got his first publishing sales experience managing commission reps for a small company established by his father in 1968.

Right after leaving UCLA, Mike published his first book. “The View from Section 111”, published by Prentice-Hall in the Fall of 1970, which was a “fan’s diary” of the New York Knickerbockers first NBA championship season. During the same period, Mike recorded two record albums of his own material, produced by the lengendary R&B figure, J.W. Alexander.

After two years of involvement in George McGovern’s presidential campaign, Mike got involved in the family publishing businesses in 1972. For nearly two years, he was a production manager, coordinating the relationships with all the suppliers providing composition, paper, printing, and binding to the clients of Planned Production, which included Times Books, Greenwood Press, and Paddington Press.

For five years beginning in 1974, Mike was the Director of Sales and Marketing for Two Continents. In that capacity, he sold books in all channels, worked in publicity and rights, and worked as a liaison with many of the company’s 100 (or more) distribution clients in the small publisher communities of the US, UK, and Europe. During that period, Mike had his first experience with “vendor-managed inventory” in the book business when Two Continents successfully managed such a program in more than 500 accounts across the United States.

Mike’s consulting career, which led to the founding of The Idea Logical Company, Inc. began in 1979. At first, the company’s services were focused on helping smaller publishers improve their distribution relationships with larger publishers. In time, the breadth of Mike’s experience across the entire publishing value chain led to providing help to larger companies. In one 4-year period in the late 1980s with John Wiley & Sons, Mike worked on separate projects for the sales department, a fledgling audio division, marketers in both trade and technical areas, editors, and the Canadian company during a period when the company was expanding out of its historical base of technical publishing into more general interest areas.

Mike also was active as an author in the late 1980s. His “Baseball Explained” was published by Pelham, a division of Penguin, in the UK for the British market. He collaborated with Jim Charlton to produce two editions of “The Baseball Fan’s Guide to Spring Training” for Addison-Wesley. And in 1990, William Morrow published “The Ballplayers”, a monumental work that was to become the basis some years later of a whole new business.

Thirty-five thousand copies of the original Morrow edition of “The Ballplayers” were printed and distributed within three years of its publication. The book is more than 3/4-of-a-million words of baseball history, organized under more than 6,000 proper nouns and illustrated with 500 photographs. It was the first baseball “encyclopedia” in the traditional sense of that word. By 1994, it was out of print and rights had reverted from Morrow to Mike.

By the winter of 1995-1996, Mike was already beginning to make a name for himself discussing the transition to digital delivery of published material. In the summer of 1995, in the middle of what was a short-lived and very expensive CD-rom “craze” in the trade publishing community, Mike made a speech for VISTA Computer Services conferences in New York and London in which he decried the trend, predicting (accurately) the imminent reality that CD-rom products would, for the most part, fail and the future for publishing would be online.

Then, in December 1995, “The Ballplayers” was introduced to Rick Wolf of a fledgling Florida operation called Sportsline USA. Wolf saw the immediate value in building internal hyperlinks for “The Ballplayers” and mounting it as an online product.

This was the start of BaseballLibrary.com, which was hosted by CBS Sportsline for five years through the end of the 2001 baseball season. By mid-2002, under the direction of Editor-in-Chief James G. Robinson, who came to The Idea Logical Company originally as Mike’s administrative assistant, BaseballLibrary had grown to more than 20,000 pages and more than 3 million words. Its structure – an A-to-Z “data dictionary” provided originally by “The Ballplayers” and a “day-by-day” account of baseball history built around Jim Charlton’s “Baseball Chronology” and a growing set of tools to manage the integration of vast amounts of relevant outside content – demonstrated a model for “future publishing”. And they provided a laboratory where Mike’s observations about how publishing is changing could be refined and tested.

Throughout the quarter-century of Mike’s consulting career, he has continued to explore the question of better management of inventory in bookstores. The opportunities inherent in a historically-inefficient distribution system were a central concern of Leonard Shatzkin, Mike’s father, throughout his six decades in the industry. Len Shatzkin applied the first vendor-managed inventory system in the book business, The Doubleday Merchandising Plan, in the mid-1950s. Mike picked up some of the techniques working for his father at Two Continents in the 1970s.

In the early 1980s, Mike persuaded the Turner family, owners of the tiny Under Cover Books chain in Cleveland, to cease title-by-title buying and to manage performance by sales rep using profitability measures instead. For a year or so, the store provided reps with printouts showing their books’ activity and expected the reps to use that data to keep their store stocked. Although the experiment was ahead of its time – the primitive personal computer capabilities of the time made the data distribution just too inefficient to support the technique – it was probably the first time profitability measures were used on a wide scale to measure the effectivness of book distribution. The data from the study provided important grist for analysis by Leonard Shatzkin, which he published in an article in Publishers Weekly and within the pages of his seminal study of the publishing business, “In Cold Type”, which was issued by Houghton Mifflin in 1982.

In the late 1990s, VMI for books took a giant step forward when, under Mike’s direction, the publishers of Butterick Patterns formed Soho Publishing to distribute the books of all publishers into the women’s hobby store market they already served. The flagship client became JoAnn Stores, which Soho has been stocking with about 2000 titles in 1000 outlets since 1999. All the stocking decisions are made by a VMI program originally developed under Mike Shatzkin’s direction, and since refined by Soho. The program enables automated decisions on every title for every store for weekly shipments, with constantly-improving efficiency.

Also in the late 1990s, Leonard Shatzkin worked out a sophisticated VMI system aimed at the more complex challenges faced by bookstores stocking tens of thousands of titles obtained from multiple sources of supply. Before his death in May of 2002, Leonard managed to get the system beta-tested at one of America’s premier independent bookstores, Northshire in Manchester Center, Vermont. After he died, Shatzkin’s widow, Eleanor Shatzkin, and his daughter, Nance Shatzkin, tried to commercialize the system. But the consolidation that had already occurred in the independent bookstore market diminished the potential client base for the system and the effort did not bear fruit.

The experiences Mike Shatzkin had with inventory management, enhanced by the capabilities being developed at Shatzkin Systems, led to a whole new practice specialty for The Idea Logical Company in 2002: helping publishers improve the performance of their inventory at Barnes & Noble, to the benefit of both the publishers and the bookseller. By early 2004, more than a dozen publishers were applying the techniques Idea Logical has developed to analyze B&N POS data and improve their sales while lowering returns.

In 2003, Idea Logical started providing applying its account-specific data warehouse technique and accompanying reports as a service, allowing all publishers to do at a manageable monthly cost what had previously only been available to the biggest publishers making 7-figure investments.

The pioneering work Idea Logical did with its reports, called Supply Chain Tracker, lives on in the systems of many of its fomer clients, including Hachette Book Group and Chronicle Books.

Mike’s work on VMI and baseball history aside, he is still best known as one of the industry’s most provocative observers, a stage of his career that began when he co-organized the first two high-profile conferences on “Electronic Publishing and Rights” in 1992 and 1993. During the late 1990s, he always delivered the “vision” speech at VISTA’s “Publishing in the 21st Century” conferences; he also served as co-chair of their informal “think tank”: The VISTA Editorial Board. In 2000, Mike co-organized the Publishing 2010 conference at the London Book Fair and in 2001 he conceived and ran the “Big Questions” conference at the Frankfurt Book Fair, including participation from several of the leading publishing trade magazines from around the world.

In the past two years, Mike conceived and created industry projects on Digital Asset Distribution, Experimentation and Innovation, and StartWithXML, all of which had both a written report and live event component. He is currently (January 2009) organizing new research on “Shifting Sales Channels” for a BISG Making Information Pay conference in May 2009.