Mid-sized and small publishers need to put in a lot of effort to conquer the Eastern European market. This region, and Poland to be specific, holds a lot of potential something that can be seen with time and dedication. For years, libraries in Poland, and many other countries in this region were left wanting, during the communist era.
Funding for institutions, which didn’t even have any control over their inventory, was solely provided by the state. However, the political and social changes across the region during the nineties triggered the transformation of the status quo. Substantial improvements in all aspects of academic libraries started occurring as the countries in the Eastern Bloc joined the European Union back in 2004, and with it, started receiving capital inflows from abroad.
Eastern European libraries still rely on the state even with these developments. More than 50% of the funding received by libraries in this part of the world, including those in Poland – one of the fastest developing countries in the region- comes from the state. The economic troubles that led to a decrease in funding for academic libraries also had a negative effect on the region as well. To succeed awareness of some critical factors is necessary given the nature of the environment resulting from the combination of the above described issues. In addition to providing a number of tips on how to succeed in the Eastern European market, below you will find a comprehensive guide into the various factors affecting the market, particularly in Poland.
Market Challenges in Poland
In recent years, a significant change has been seen in how academic libraries offer services to the communities, with Poland being home to around 500 institutions of higher learning. A small group of large academic publishers would, in the past, supply content after the libraries secured a national license from the Ministry of Education. However, at present, to better meet their needs, academic libraries enjoy more freedom and are also looking at what smaller publishers can offer on top of their larger more established counterparts. These changes have introduced new problems when it comes to selling and promoting resources in this market; some of which are described below:
The acquisition of new resources has become all the more challenging as a result of government red-tape and funding issues; libraries can barely afford to make new purchases due to the reduction in funding occasioned by economic woes. The decision making and funding approval processes are both seen to consume an extended period of time. On top of this, to acquire any electronic resources, the libraries have to go through an exceedingly long tendering process, which further delays things.
In most cases, the lecturers, and not librarians, at academic institutions – mostly the senior academic staff members – present a noticeable language barrier. They struggle with assessing and suggesting English material to their students considering that Russian is usually their second language. Instead of soft copy, they lean towards hardcopy as well. However, in addition to showing a preference for online communication, and opting to receive via email trail offers and new material, librarians also have a good understanding of the English language.
Even though not on the same economic level as other European countries, Poland is seen to be one of the wealthier nations that emerged from the Eastern Bloc, this creates a pricing challenge for the Polish market in particular. To remain attractive to libraries and institutions in Poland, publishers are forced to significantly lower their prices, prices may be discounted by up to 40% in some cases, on their sizeable collections as the most of the initial funding from foundations abroad to local research institutions continues to decrease.
In Poland, limited conference opportunities further complicate matters. To attract and help academic publishers promote their resources, some countries in the same region put in a lot of effort towards the organization of international conventions.
Poland only hosts a few small conferences that are promoted in the Polish language and also conducted in the same language unlike the larger international conventions hosted by neighboring nations such as the annual INFORUM conference in the Czech Republic and Slovenian Libraries Association conference held in Slovenia after every two years. A medical conference held in Katowice and a conference held in Poznan and another hosted by the Lodz Technical University (both held after every two years) are the most notable Polish conferences.
Eastern European Market: Recommendations For Success
Monitoring this market and remaining visible at all times is important when it comes to conquering this market. Publishers should be able to maintain open communication channels with the local libraries and institutions and respond swiftly when funding is secured. When librarians have the resources they need to acquire new resources, regardless of how random or inconsistent this may be, it is important to be on their list of priorities. You can achieve this in a number of ways:
Introduce your products by offering trials. Help librarians, who are already sold, promote the new resources to their patrons. You can do this by offering an introduction email to the trials in the local tongue or offer user tutorials to your online resources, provide flyers and posters to the institutions before the trials start, ask your advocates, society members and authors to promote the trials as well. To remind librarians of the positive trial results and your brand, remain in contact via telephone after the completion of the trial.
The period between October and November is the best time to schedule trials. Marking the commencement of the academic year, libraries and academic institutions get to know how much they can spend, as budgets are approved during this period. Even though there may be differences in some institutions, most make their purchase decisions during the months of December and/or January. eBooks are not as popular as databases and serials.
Once you identify potential customers, be sure to have in-person meetings with them. The best way to ensure that your product is on their wish list and your brand is remembered is through library visits. Answer any questions raised by librarians as you describe your resources as they are bound to appreciate your in-person visit to their institution. This will give you a better chance of successfully selling to them as they will be more open to future correspondence and feedback.
Getting feedback from faculty members through librarians can be challenging after the completion of a trail or promoting a new product. To create a close bond, maintain contact with the library or institution. To introduce a new product in a country that did not have it before, and address any concerns raised by stakeholders, it is important to be present in conferences.
Prices should be flexible. Avoid asking or deals that run for a number of years and where necessary extend discounts, on small subject collections offers for instance, designed to best fit the requirements of the library or institution. To demonstrate that you understand the budgetary restrictions placed on the institutions, you can offer stepped pricing in some cases. To build a better long term relationship with the libraries, you can learn more about how to customize the pricing for each institution by tracking the number of downloads made. However, libraries in bigger and more prestigious institutions, which may account for the most use of some resources, should cover the entire cost.
Create online training programs and webinars for support purposes. Since some institutions in countries in this part of the world are not used to online/electronic resources, librarians and their patrons will find such resources to be quite useful. Sorting through the resources for a specific piece of material can be quite challenging. If they are facing technical issues, it is good for them to know that they can find the help they need.
Seek out local agents for assistance. Dealing with some issues will be much easier as they have a better understanding of the local market. Seasoned individuals are better suited to handling bureaucratic matters, such as tender requests, when doing business in this part of the world.