Champaign publisher looks to association ties for growth; firm also sees boom in global sales, e-books

Champaign publisher looks to association ties for growth; firm also sees boom in global sales, e-books

CHAMPAIGN — Human Kinetics is increasing its ties with professional associations as it charts out growth plans, expands into international markets and increases e-book offerings.

Most recently, the Champaign-based publisher expanded its relationship with the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

Under the new arrangement, the company will do the alliance's publishing and help develop products ranging from print and electronic books to online continuing education courses.

Paul Roetert, who heads the 20,000-member organization, said Human Kinetics is the right partner for his group.

"With our educational expertise and their international reach, we are going to enter new markets never imagined before by AAPHERD," he said in a release.

Brian Holding, the CEO of Human Kinetics, said the arrangement could eventually amount of 2 to 3 percent of Human Kinetics' business.

"For them (AAPHERD), it could triple what they're doing in terms of sales," Holding said.

The alliance helps determine standards for physical education, said Scott Wikgren, director of Human Kinetics' Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Division. It's conceivable the alliance could create a national model for physical education curriculum.

Human Kinetics produces books, journals, DVDs, online courses and Web applications, most of them related to sports, physical activity and kinesiology.

The employee-owned company was created in 1974 by University of Illinois kinesiology Professor Rainer Martens. Today it employs about 245 in Champaign and 35 in subsidiaries abroad.

The alliance is the latest in a number of organizations that look to Human Kinetics to develop and publish materials for them.

The company already has a similar arrangement with the National Strength and Conditioning Association, Holding said.

In another development, Human Kinetics recently hosted the educational wing of the Chinese Olympic Committee — the second such visit by that group.

The group wants Human Kinetics to make more of its resources available in China for use by coaches and fitness professionals there. It's also interested in Human Kinetics publishing scientific findings from China, Holding said.

Human Kinetics already works with Beijing Sport University Press, which provides translations for some of the company's products.

Since 1995, Human Kinetics has signed 264 book-rights deals in the Chinese language, Holding said. Sixty-one Chinese language deals have been signed since 2010, when the company began working with the Chinese Olympic Committee.

On another front, Human Kinetics is enhancing the resources of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Council for Coach Education.

At the Summer Olympics in London this August, the council will sponsor a Global Coaches House, where visiting coaches can meet each other and learn more about better coaching and performance.

Human Kinetics will have a booth there, with hopes of developing relationships with coaches — some of whom could be potential authors, Holding said.

In yet another development, Human Kinetics is working with Special Olympics, with plans to introduce an online course this fall for Special Olympics coaches. The product will be piloted in two states, including Illinois, with the goal of expanding the program elsewhere.

Holding said Human Kinetics' international sales remain strong, accounting for about 30 percent of the company's revenue.

"It's really helped with the domestic market being so soft," he said.

Growth has been particularly strong in India, and the European office has set sales records the last three years despite economic woes in the European Union, he said.

Holding credited the growth in Europe partly to expansion into Eastern Europe and partly to more products being produced for the European market.

To pave the way for Human Kinetics' growth in China, Enyi Cai — who is married to UI kinesiology Professor Weimo Zhu — has opened KinesWorld, a distributorship for Human Kinetics in China.

Holding said the demand for e-books continues to grow, with e-books producing about $900,000 in revenue for Human Kinetics during the fiscal year that ended April 30.

That's up sharply from $419,000 the previous year, and Holding predicted greater growth ahead, now that e-readers, such as Nook and Kindle, are better able to display illustrations, tables and charts featured in Human Kinetics publications.

Amazon.com is the largest channel through which Human Kinetics e-books are sold, accounting for about 45 percent of them, Holding said.

The next largest channel is Human Kinetics' own website, which provides about 25 percent of the company's e-book sales. The third-largest channel is a consortium of college universities, he said.

Holding said the next big bump in e-book sales is likely to come when more college students buy e-readers. Most e-reader sales to date, he said, have been in the consumer market, rather than the college market, as people clamor to read best-sellers.

This story appeared in print on June 17.

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