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Profile: Ron Pramschuffer

Published by The New York Sun on 2005-01-24

Ronald Pramschuffer arrived in New York in 1980 when he finished a stint in the Merchant Marine, liked the city, and decided to stay here. But, of course, he needed a job.

A native of Baltimore, Mr. Pramschuffer had had some experience in the printing industry, having worked at a press that published books on naval history. So he wound up working as a salesman for commercial and book printing, matching customers with printing presses in Maryland and Ohio. Like many people, he played the stock market, "won a lot, and lost more," he said yesterday.

Then in 1994, Mr. Pramschuffer, seeing the potential of commerce on the Internet, started his own company, RJ Communications, and launched his own Web site attract clients who wanted their books printed. "I no longer wanted to be the old-fashioned salesman, going from door to door, and having some 25-year-old determining whether I was going to eat or not," he said. "I wanted customers to come to me, and that's exactly what my Web site was good for."

Eleven years later, that Web site, www.BooksJustBook.com, has resulted in orders of more than 100 million copies. One book, The Beanie Babies Handbook by Les and Sue Fox, was lodged for 38 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.

What does it take to make it in New York? "Nothing beats hard work," was Mr. Pramschuffer's answer. "The Internet has opened a whole new world in book publishing, and there will be even more surprises in the years ahead. I'm ready for the technological future."

He recently started the Junior Writers Foundation to publish books written by third and fourth graders in inner city schools and schools in the suburbs. "This way kids can read one another's writing and realize, at an impressionable age, that they are capable of being expressive, regardless of their social backgrounds," Mr. Pramschuffer said. "You particularly don't want inner-city kids to be left behind."

And his take on investments? "My favorite is the financial services sector," he said. "I'm a great fan of the Fidelity family of funds. Magellan is now a closed fund, but I've been in it forever. I'm hitting an age where I need to be fairly conservative, so -- although I swear by high-tech -- I stay out of technology. I'm tempted by overseas funds. In the final analysis, though, you cannot beat a balanced fund."

Pranay Gupte,
Senior Writer and Global-Affairs Columnist


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