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ESB takes on the digital world

Posted by Frank Preiss, on 5 September 2021. Comments: 0

I founded European Schoolbooks Ltd 57 years ago as a simple bookselling business but with an uncommon mission: to promote the Languages and Literatures of Europe to a British public with a - mostly undeserved - reputation for not learning other languages.

Now Brexit, Covid-19 and their uncertain consequences have convinced me that in a changed world ESB too must change.

These days email, Chat, WhatsApp, social media, Google, Zoom, Teams and many other tools are common in businesses of all sizes. But I think we can harness those resources in ways that are not so common in the book trade. As the leading specialists in our field, I believe our very experienced multilingual staff can use these tools to get to know and support our customers, not just in Britain but worldwide, better than ever before. We can retain many of the best features of traditional bookselling, while adding new services no online monolith can ever provide.

So we have re-designed and upgraded our stable of language-specific websites. Our Partners scheme will be enriched and expanded. Our European Bookshop in Gloucester Road, South Kensington has been re-purposed as ESB’s London showroom. And we are introducing an ambitious new marketing programme.

On Wednesday 1st September, we launched “Languages for Children”, the first of an ongoing campaign of ‘Topics of the Month’. Each new campaign will feature a carefully curated collection of new and mainstream titles in French, Spanish, Italian, German, Russian and Portuguese – books, e-books, audio-books, software, games and more, arranged according to target readers, most with in-depth descriptions, many with sample pages. Each month we will re-focus all available online and traditional marketing tools on the new topic, and display and promote each new collection simultaneously on our websites, across social media and in our showroom.

Though we fervently wish they had never happened, the two disasters have at least given us a unique opportunity to rethink our business. My father opened his first bookshop in Berlin in 1921, exactly a century ago, and from early on he focused on literature and language as a way to encourage friendship and understanding between recent European enemies. The enemies are now friends but, as Brexit has shown, there is still plenty of misunderstanding. Our mission is as important as ever.

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