The Warehouse Test

Thirty years ago, when I was a rookie editor at Oxford University Press, there were quite serious discussions within that august organisation about electronic publishing. I remember being astonished when the then Finance Director, now deceased, wondered aloud whether it was wise to be building a new warehouse facility at Corby if the whole market for books was to be computerised by digital editions within five years.

At the time (this was when the standards for CD ROMs were still being defined) this struck me as a wildly extravagant concern. I am not so sure now. Are many publishers planning this year to build large warehouses for books? It seems pretty likely that the market for printed books will be transformed and perhaps for educational and academic books, largely replaced by digital books within 5 or 10 years. That is the kind of time horizon that impacts on warehouse investments.