Second Part - 1st December 2009

0:05:07 From about 1980 onwards the finances of the company became more stable and we were much more profitable; having more cash we were able to choose what we wanted to do with more freedom; what began to become clear was that there was a growing frustration with microfilm as a medium; I think this was due to the fact that most of our end users actually hated microfilm; there is something quite discouraging in producing something that one is proud of, but knowing that it is not highly valued by the people who will use it; the librarians liked microfilm because it was extremely convenient and neat, and could be stored away in drawers and was uniform; I had become interested in computerization right at the end of the 1970s; I had discovered rather late the online companies like Dialog were delivering information, mainly to engineers and scientists, via telephone lines from mainframe computers; somebody in Cambridge could sit in their office and access huge amounts of data, much of it of a bibliographic or statistical nature, not so much texts of articles, but that was available too; these online companies established very complex systems for being able to search very large databases, but you almost had to learn the search language to be able to put in the commands; these were the days of DOS where you had to put in strings of characters and numerals; the idea of Windows just didn't exist at that time; I found this very exciting and coincident with that we did start to publish an index of British Government publications which needed to be in the form of a database because it was going to be produced both monthly and annually; we got a consultant at Cambridge University Computing Centre to do the work for us; we input the data so a growing database was established in our name, sitting on the University mainframe; it was a very laborious process but we thought it extremely exciting; it was gradually taking us away from the microfilm medium and also print as well; the other big movement in the library world in the early 1980s was a thing called RECON which was the conversion of card catalogues into machine-readable form, and librarians were very excited by this; very substantial budgets were being found to enable big libraries to convert their catalogues; there was quite an industry in converting the data and we were typing the cards, much of it done offshore in the Philippines etc., and producing databases; there were companies selling library automation systems which libraries would spend a lot of money on; we became very aware that computers were becoming an important part of the library world; around the same time the videodisc and people, particularly in universities and the medical world, became interested; they did so for two reasons - you could have both text and images, and you had the ability to branch so it could be used for teaching on the principle of right answer, move to next question; it petered out in the end, possibly because they were analogue; in February 1984, at the American Library Association meeting in San Antonio, Texas, I saw my first CD-ROM; I think I knew almost instantly that that was the medium for us in the future, but I think I only knew it because I had spent so much time getting excited about videodiscs and talking to people about optical discs, which were digital rather than analogue; people were already using optical discs to store things like library catalogues on; one had seen 12" discs in use in libraries but suddenly there was a 6-7" disc, and for us it was the way to move on from microfilm

7:28:16 I realized there was no point in being a very early pioneer, but was interested in how the medium was going to be used; I wanted to wait until it was firmly established in libraries and that the standards were agreed; there was something called the High Sierra Standard early on and eventually libraries began to buy CD-ROM readers; at that point the CD-ROM became a viable medium for publishers like us; I was still reluctant in investing directly and in us becoming producers of CD-ROMs, which is what most other people wanted to do; I started by marketing other peoples' databases and CD-ROMs because I felt that what we had to offer was a marketing network which was worldwide; we had been selling to libraries for ten years, had a company in the US which had been established for almost ten years, and were in the process of setting up another company in France; early CD-ROM publications were things like the British Library Catalogue which sold extraordinarily well because the timing was right; we found a company in Cambridge which had a mapping database called Mundo Cart which was a digital map of the world, used by the oil industry; they had produced a CD-ROM and we sold it for them to libraries; what I think we were quite good at was getting the price right because we understood the library market; in the case of the British Library Catalogue our main contender for the sales rights was Oxford University Press; they saw it in the way a book publisher would and were thinking in terms of charging a few hundred pounds; we saw it in the way that publisher of large microfilm sets would; we knew that the last multi-volume printed edition of the catalogue had been sold for about 20,000; the CD-ROM edition was so much more useful because you could search on any word or phrase rather than just looking up by author; we thought that if they had been able to sell it for 20,000 then we could sell it for 9,000; we had to persuade the contractor who actually had the rights that this made sense; they agreed, and we sold several hundred copies at 9,000, and the British Library and the contractor did very well out of it, and so did we; in a way, pricing was perhaps the most important thing that we could bring to our partners - a real understanding of what it was possible to get libraries to pay, and why they would pay it; the interesting thing about the British Library Catalogue was that it was perhaps the last and only catalogue to be sold on CD-ROM; by the time it had been out for a year or so libraries had moved on and did not want to buy single library catalogues any more; they had begun to recognize that the Union Catalogue whereby you had access to the contents of many libraries, as you got through OCLC, the big cataloguing centre in the US, was where cataloguing was going; this was pre-Internet but most libraries were members of OCLC and had online access to the databases; many of our sales were due to the fact that many librarians of a certain age all over the world thought of what used to be called the British Museum Catalogue as the finest catalogue in the world; they bought this set for 9,000 and it probably sat on their desk as a talisman

14:27:24 We did not see the advances in computers as death for Chadwyck-Healey, and 1986-1990 were absolutely golden years; we still had quite a big microfilm business, we were going into CD-ROM and getting very good responses, quickly; it turned out to be quite an inexpensive medium to publish in; you could produce in small editions; what it meant was that with all the newspapers, which had been published on microfilm for years, suddenly the CD-ROM rights were available; by 1990 we had the production rights to all the British broadsheets, including the Financial Times which was probably the best; by 1990 I realized that we were moving away from our roots because what we were actually doing was always having to buy other people's data, which was already in machine-readable form; what I also realized was that we were being particularly unsuccessful in the US in getting rights to databases; we had a company meeting in the States in spring 1990 and I look back on it as an absolutely seminal meeting where one suddenly realized the extent to which we had moved away from what we were used to, which was to have access to material which one might not be able to sell many copies of, but cost little in royalties or advances but the profit margin was substantial; what we were finding was that we were paying more and more in royalties and advances for databases which were mainly of a bibliographical nature; we tried to get the Philosophers Index and failed after two years, but we would have had to have sold hundreds of copies to have made any sense of the transaction; I began to think about what it would entail to go back to our roots and actually own the data that we were publishing in electronic form; it made me realize that probably what we would have to do is to take printed texts and at our expense, convert them, but nobody had ever done this as a commercial venture; later in 1990 I thought that poetry was an ideal category of text for converting into electronic form because there tend to be so few words in the average poem; as we were paying for the keying by the number of characters, the less text there was the better; it is difficult looking back to remember just what a venture into the unknown this was, but in the summer of 1990 we decided to do an experimental project; we decided to invest 20,000 to find out how many characters there are in English poetry; we took the Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature and decided to treat the texts in this five-volume set as our corpus, and we will attempt to work out how many characters there were and how much it would cost to convert it all into electronic form; by the end of the summer, under our outstanding Production Director, Alison Moss, we came to the conclusion that it would cost 1,000,000 to convert all of English poetry into electronic form, published on five CD-ROMs; on the basis of that we decided to go ahead; we had great arguments about how much to charge for it - some wanted to charge just a few thousand pounds as they couldn't see how otherwise we could sell enough; I made the decision that we set a pre-publication price of 20,000; that meant that we broke even at fifty copies; that is what we did; I did a little marketing venture in the States, including New York Public Library and the universities of Toronto and Kansas; Toronto said that we were not charging enough, New York Public Library said it was the first really good CD-ROM idea that anybody had proposed to them; the interesting thing was that three years later, of the four libraries I had visited, only one had ordered; it just showed to me, that in some ways, this kind of marketing effort can often be very misleading; we did sell well over 200 copies and it was very successful, also a lot of libraries paid at the time they placed the order, so again it was cash-positive; we used the money to fund other projects; the other big database was an idea that came from one of my colleagues in the US was the Patrologia Latina, which was 160 volumes of very small double-column print produced in France in the nineteenth century, which is all the medieval texts; it was a nightmare project to produce in computerized form because it was so badly produced in the first place; you would find footnotes with numbers, but no numbers in the text, and vice versa; that was a $3,000,000 project and it did well too; for a pretty small company, there was a point in the early nineties when we were spending 2,500,000 on two projects; we got funding from Coutts Bank who treated the projects like films

24:50:15 Not sure what advice I would give to an aspiring Chadwyck-Healey; what I do think is interesting about businesses, which I am absolutely convinced is correct, is that every business has its own personality and limitations, and the latter are set by the person at the very top; it is often the founder, but even a generation later it is one or two people whose vision is represented throughout the company; it seems almost impossible to get away from that; looking back on Chadwyck-Healey, while I think we were lucky in our timing and I made some good decisions, we developed a thriving company which is still going, though part of a much bigger company that bought us; I can also see that if I had been a different person with a different vision, the company could have gone off in other directions; you are very dependent on the vision of the founder; our culture was very much whereby we welcomed media like microfilm, any kind of computerized media was attractive to us, because it enabled us to take texts of the past and to convert them into a different medium which was almost like a licence to print money; so while we welcomed new media, the Internet being the final one, most book publishers were appalled by what was happening and saw all these media as very threatening; that is how different these cultures are; you could have no more persuaded Oxford University Press at the time that what we were doing really made sense than they could have taught us to produce scholarly monographs; I've talked a lot about CD-ROM but what happened in about 1993 was that librarians began to come to us, I remember one from Stanford in particular, and said that although they liked the material they didn't like the medium it was published on; they wanted us to provide information online, not on CD-ROMs; libraries had become totally overwhelmed by these thousands of plastic discs turning up every month as part of subscriptions, all of them of different types on different software that couldn't be networked; that was a huge change for us and was almost the single largest crisis the business ever had; suddenly we were no longer able to sell our data outright but had to find a way of leasing it to the libraries; the libraries in their turn who were used to capital acquisitions, did not like the idea of leasing material; we had a very uncomfortable period between 1995 and 1998 where our sales went down and costs seemed to continue to go up; we ended up having to make some people redundant, which was the only time we had to in twenty-five years; we did come through it, I think remarkably well, because we had very tight financial controls and the company was very well managed by the people around me; by the end of 1998 we had come through the crisis and our sales were growing; the libraries now knew how they wanted to pay for our data, we had got our business model right, but in a way I found that I had run out of steam; I made a decision in about November 1998 to sell the company, and spent most of 1999 doing so

31:05:08 The first thing I did after selling the company was to become Chairman of a Cambridge software company, a small company which was beginning to grow quite rapidly; found that quite comforting as I found leaving my own company really very difficult; I knew it was the right decision, that I didn't want to go on doing that kind of work or the pressure, but I missed the people and the ethos of the place; the software company is called ANT, and floated some years later, had some difficulties but is still there and growing; I was asked to be High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire for 2004-5 (it is a one year appointment) and I did that and enjoyed it enormously because, although I had lived in Cambridgeshire for nearly twenty-five years, I had never got involved in civic life at all and knew very little about what went on in the county; being High Sheriff I learned a lot, going to all parts of the county; I was able to sit in court with judges, which I found interesting; I became involved with the Wildlife Trusts of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Peterborough, and became a trustee in 2003, and earlier this year became chairman; that is like being chairman of a small to medium sized business - we have eighty-five employees and a turnover of 4,500,000, and we own or manage 129 different pieces of land throughout the three counties, particularly what is called the Great Fen Project; this project is to turn a huge amount of farmland between two existing nature reserves back into reed beds, open water, wet pasture and dry pasture; it has been very successful in that we were able to get a very large grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund; it has had a lot of publicity and some opposition as to whether productive farmland should be turned into a nature reserve; it is an interesting argument and there are no easy answers; I was involved with the Fitzwilliam Museum fundraising committee; also did fundraising for the Prince's Trust for six years; I find fundraising interesting and I don't mind asking people for money

35:30:24 Cambridge was a good place for Chadwyck-Healey in the fact that we could get software engineers easily; by the end we had forty or fifty, and I met one of them recently who is now working for a small hi-tech start-up; it would have been much more difficult working in some other parts of Britain; our bank always liked the fact we were in Cambridge; having the University Library nearby, which was also a good customer, and of course, having access to many academics; I have a range of interests including photography, collecting photographic books and books generally; I have just built my fifth darkroom in Orford, so will go on doing black and white developing and printing while also trying to master digital photography, which I think is equally interesting and in many ways, much more demanding