“ReaderBound truly has publishers’ best interests at heart," says Portage & Main Publisher Catherine Gerbasi. "They know the book market, they’re such good listeners, they’re great problem-solvers, and they’re creative. I would definitely recommend them for their experience, expertise, and value.”
She adds that, “Sales through our website increased by close to 40%. Within a year, the site had more for paid for itself. The value for what we received is extremely high. No more constant bills for fixes. We’ve saved a lot of money moving to ReaderBound.”
Portage & Main Press publishes books and comprehensive educational resources for young readers. They are prized by educators who prioritize child-centred, inclusive learning and Indigenous and marginalized voices. Portage & Main imprint HighWater Press publishes stories by emerging and established Indigenous writers. Together, Portage & Main and HighWater are highly regarded for their significant contributions to publishing, pedagogy, and storytelling.
For quite some time, Portage & Main was running a pieced-together website on WordPress. Everything was done manually, from adding new titles to processing e-commerce orders. The site didn’t properly reflect the two sides of the publishing program. And the platform and plugins often crashed or needed to be fixed.
When the site was hacked and couldn’t process credit cards for six weeks—starting in August, the busiest time of year for educator orders— publisher Catherine Gerbasi reached out to ReaderBound. “When we started our initial conversations with ReaderBound, we greatly appreciated their understanding of the challenge, the direction we wanted to go, and the problem-solving approach,” she says. “They can automate all these processes and improve efficiencies and allow marketing to focus on what we do best.”
ReaderBound Basics: Security, Stability, and Automation
The ReaderBound team developed a fully featured, secure, and efficient website that well represented and highlighted both the Portage & Main and HighWater lists. Like all ReaderBound sites, metadata is pulled in automatically through an ONIX data feed. ReaderBound worked closely with the Portage & Main team to prepare their metadata for a smooth new landing pad, including sorting out many different product types and large, complicated book series. Now, the marketing team can be as hands-off as they wish. “With WordPress, I was putting all the data in,” says director of marketing Kirsten Phillips. “Now I don’t even touch it. It’s so easy to use. It’s super.”
Rich content creation, such as blog posts and event listings, are now also managed by the marketing team with ease. “I am not a website person/developer. I had a little experience with HTML but that was it,” continues Kirsten. “Once you learn the system and understand it, it’s super easy. It’s just there. It’s a click. I can’t stress enough how easy it is, compared to WordPress.”
Excellence in E-Commerce
Alongside their books, Portage & Main/HighWater offers teacher’s guides, hands-on and inquiry-based resources, and texts to support inclusive classrooms. ReaderBound’s robust e-commerce platform takes care of all these product types and more, even offering ways to bundle and discount different types of products so the press is able to promote and sell ready-made packages to educators.
“Sales through our website increased by close to 40%,” reports Catherine. “Within a year, the site had more for paid for itself.”
Phase 2: Improving Customer Journeys
In the spring of 2022, Portage & Main accessed a marketing and shipping recovery fund from Canadian Heritage and approached ReaderBound with an idea for Phase 2 of the website. How could we enhance discoverability and usefulness to educators? What features would support teachers and teachers living outside of urban centres? How can we help those who don’t have a bookstore in their community? How can we encourage educators to find books that are appropriate for their needs, grade/reading levels, and so on?
The ReaderBound team developed advanced search and filtering functionality that allows customers to locate books by a number of carefully chosen fields, including age or grade level, theme, series, reading level, language (including various Indigenous languages), and more. This custom work has supercharged the site’s functionality for Portage & Main’s most important target market. “We think we’ve created an even better resource for teachers through ReaderBound’s great work,” says Catherine.
The team at Portage & Main continues to be excited about the future of the site. “This is just the beginning,” says Kirsten. “We have plans to do big things. And ReaderBound is really good at doing them. Any creative vision we have can be implemented.”
The excitement is shared by the ReaderBound team. We truly believe in Portage & Main/HighWater’s mission and publishing program, and look forward to working with Catherine, Kirsten, and the rest of their remarkable team in the years to come.