How Rubio notebooks have survived in the digital era | Economy

Enrique Rubio, general director of the publishing house.

Blond, the publishing house founded in the fifties Known for his writing and calculation notebooks, he lives a second youth. In 2018 its turnover increased 22% to 2.4 million euros after opening to new audiences and boosting its digital business (sales in this area grew by 48%). Apart from the school market, its owner, Enrique Rubio, son of the creator of the company, has discovered that in a world full of screens there are many adults who want to write by hand, as a method to prevent neurodegenerative diseases or because they like it.

But the recipe of the Valencian company it is still the same as always: to sell large quantities of product, about three million notebooks a year, at a very economical price. With the cheapest notebooks, those worth a euro, the publisher gets about 10 cents of profit. Current print runs may seem large, but in the 1980s Rubio sold 10 million notebooks a year. In the nineties, the main Spanish publishers began to publish very similar notebooks. "Until then we almost had the exclusive market. And those publishers were giants next to ours, "says Enrique Rubio, CEO of the company.

The company billed 2.4 million euros after selling three million copies

blond resisted the arrival of competition staying in the economic segment of the notebooks. And it has now reached its record of turnover - and a result after taxes of 469,730 euros - after expanding the range of its offer. The classic writing and calculation notebooks represent today 50% of sales. But Rubio also sells summer notebooks in Spanish, Catalan -with a version in Valencian- and Galician, which represent 12.5% ​​of the business. Creative calligraphy notebooks, designed for adults who love lettering (5.4% of sales). Learning English (4.2%), complemented by listening exercises accessed through the Internet. Cognitive and motor stimulation, presented as a way to prevent neurological deterioration in elderly people (3.3%). And dozens of categories with lower percentages in the set of sales, such as notebooks to color mandalas or draw natural landscapes.

Internet sales represent 8% of the total, 200,000 euros. "One of the advantages is that we can offer the full range of products. There are some, such as cognitive stimulation and motor skills for adults that are not easy to find. They sell them in some bookstores and pharmacies, but in the stationeries, for example, they are not, "says Enrique Rubio at the publisher's headquarters, located in the heart of Valencia, very close to the bass where the Rubio Academy was for decades. It was the origin of the company.

The weight of the paper

The publisher has made a leap in electronic commerce. The application iCuadernos, which launched in 2012 and became one of the most downloaded Apple in the educational segment has, instead, a testimonial weight in their accounts. "You have to be, because you do not know where the business is going to evolve, but today it represents very little. A few years ago it was thought that by 2019 we would no longer write by hand. We can say that paper, of course with an ecological seal, still accounts for more than 99%, "says the CEO."

The method to learn calligraphy and mathematics invented by his father, Ramón Rubio, who edited the first notebooks with a small printing press installed in his house, was considered by many to be repetitive and antiquated as of the seventies. The company today orders its collections to external teams formed by pedagogues specialized in the creation of contents of each plot, designers and illustrators. The notebooks respond to the teaching model by competences and pedagogical currents such as multiple intelligences. Their appearance is less spartan and their values, says Enrique Rubio, have changed: "Instead of counting guns, now in the exercises they talk more about recycling".

The publisher, whose business is almost entirely focused on Spain, plans to build a new plant, because the current one, located in Quart de Poblet, in the metropolitan area of ​​Valencia, has become small. It has a staff of few workers -12, and is in the process of hiring two more- and advanced equipment. One of its machines binds 12,000 copies to double production in one hour.

Ramón Rubio, the founder, set up an academy where he devised the workbooks

Enrique Rubio, 59, wanted to be a psychiatrist or doctor, but studied Economics and took over the company in 1997, when his father suffered a stroke. Son of a soldier, born in Tarragona and raised in the small town of Geldo in Castellón, the founder, Ramón Rubio, studied at the University of Valencia, went to work at the local headquarters of the Bank of Aragon -accepted in 1970 by the Central Bank - and opened an accounting academy. To save the time he spent each day writing the exercises on the board, he created some chips that were the germ of the notebooks.

"My father worked in banking, taught classes, created notebooks at home and, when he had them done, he went shopping around the schools throughout Spain with his Renault Gordini, usually taking advantage of the summer, and I accompanied him. He made me a mattress so I could lie down behind me to sleep and I remember that many roads were not paved, "says the current owner.

Ramón Rubio knocked on the doors of countless schools where, in general, he was not well received. The start of the company began with a very persuasive commercial and with very few scruples worthy of Justo Gil, the protagonist of the novel El día de mañana, written by Ignacio Martínez de Pisón and converted into a series by Mariano Barroso. "Instead of going alone to schools, this man began to visit more sites, especially stationery. That's why we are still today especially in stationery. He got many orders, but at the end of the sixties he disappeared leaving my father owed 150,000 euros, which was then a fortune. My father's displeasure was enormous. But in the notebooks I put the address of the printing house, which was my house, and the stationers kept asking for more and more notebooks, and that's how the publishing house took off. " Ramón Rubio looked for years to his commercial following a trail that took to Germany, according to his son, to thank him.


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