Baker & Taylor, a major distributor of print and ebooks to libraries has changed ownership. The company has separated from Follett Corporation and has been acquired by a group of private investors led by President and Chief Executive Officer Amandeep Kochar. The composition of the investment group has not been publicly disclosed.
Baker & Taylor was acquired by Follett Corporation in April 2016. At that time, the company was estimated to bring in about $1 billion in annual revenue. (Press releases in 2016 stated that Follett was a $2.6 billion company and by 2017, following the acquisition, the stated figure was $3.6 billion.3) Under Follett Corporation, Baker & Taylor made some significant changes in its business strategies, shifting its business to focus as a supplier of books to libraries. In May 2019 the company discontinued its position as a wholesale distributor of books to retail bookstores to concentrate on its role as a supplier of books to public libraries. In October 2020, Baker & Taylor announced its reentry as a distributor of books and ebooks to academic libraries.
No major changes in business strategy were announced with this ownership transition. The existing executive management team and workforce will remain in place. The company will form its own board of directors as it becomes independent. CollectionHQ, one of the businesses owned by Baker & Taylor, will continue to as an important part of its business strategy. According to Amandeep Kochar:
Baker & Taylor's collectionHQ, a dynamic product designed to provide libraries with analytics and action plans based on collection performance, continues to be a cornerstone of our software portfolio. To meet the needs of our library customers and the communities they serve, we've added a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Analysis module. We are deeply committed to collectionHQ, as it is one way we can help our library partners work toward inclusivity and representation, regardless of location or region. Look for the DEI module to evolve in terms of enhanced functionality. Our collectionHQ team plans to combine cutting-edge technology, including AI applications, with the module's existing evidence-based analysis tool to deliver a more inclusive collection.
Baker & Taylor continues to compete as a provider in the library ebook lending arena with its Axis 360 ebook platform. Overdrive has become established as the dominant force in the library ebook lending arena, with the Bibliotheca cloudLibrary service as a contender with smaller market share. Kochar provided additional perspective regarding Baker & Taylor's ebook service:
We're working to make the discovery and analytics more intuitive on our Axis 360 platform. B&T recently implemented a big picture, digital roadmap. We're focused on modernizing core digital offerings, introducing innovative features, reviewing process improvements for librarians and finally, impacting community outreach and the end patron experience.
Primarily, our goal is to provide new tools for librarians to connect more easily with their patrons, thus improving community engagement. Building on the success of our Virtual Book Club program, we are launching additional reading programs. Within Axis 360, we've seen a positive response to e-newspaper and e-magazine offerings and plan to expand the platform to include additional formats.
Follett Corporation Divestments
The sale of Baker & Taylor follows the recent divestment of its K–12 school technology business. In September 2021, Follett Corporation divested Follett School Solutions, selling the business to Francisco Partners. This change was featured in the October 2021 issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter. Prior to these events, Follett Corporation was organized into three business divisions—Follett School Solutions, Follett Education, and Baker & Taylor. According to Follett representatives, revenue for these three businesses totaled about $3 billion in mid-2021.
Following the divestitures of Follett School Solutions and Baker & Taylor, Follett Education remains the corporation's primary business. This division operates college bookstores and virtual storefronts for higher educational institutions with Barnes & Noble as its major competitor. Follett Corporation did not disclose any intentions regarding its Follett Education business.
The history and background of Follett Corporation was featured in the June 2016 issue of Smart Libraries Newsletter.