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5 Questions with John Ingram, CEO, Ingram Content Group

22 January 2016

From Digital Book World:

John Ingram, chairman and CEO of Ingram Content Group, has been leading the successful transformation of the company for some time now. And what was once primarily a book wholesaler has become a comprehensive, innovation-driven company that, founder and Ingram’s father, E. Bronson Ingram, may not recognize.

. . . .

Ingram has been involved in helping the book business change with technology for many decades. Is this a role that is a “mission,” or is it just the natural outgrowth of Ingram trying to improve its own business?

Can I just answer “yes?” It’s kind of both. I view my responsibility as to do my best to keep Ingram relevant. And in our role as a service provider, you stay relevant by being able to have solutions that help other people run their businesses better. So it’s both helping the book business change, and it’s kind of a natural outgrowth of being a service company.

. . . .

What most excites you right now about the future of publishing?

I think the opportunity for new technology and creative people to help solve fundamental issues, and to try to address problems or pain points for publishers. In our world, just looking for really clever people and new technology would help solve the pain for our clients and the people we’re trying to provide services for. A great example would be trying to help publishers figure out how to more effectively sell more direct or to add channels. Either and both. I don’t think there’s any magic bullet, but I do know that technology and the right people can do amazing things, and that’s what excites me—trying to create those intersections and then figure out how to turn those into services.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Mr. Ingram is probably a nice person, but PG has heard many leaders of innovative companies speak and they don’t sound like this.

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20 Comments to “5 Questions with John Ingram, CEO, Ingram Content Group”

  1. “Mr. Ingram is probably a nice person, but PG has heard many leaders of innovative companies speak and they don’t sound like this.”

    Did look like a killer game of buzz-word bingo …

  2. “…just looking for really clever people and new technology would help solve the pain for our clients and the people we’re trying to provide services for.”

    His self-censored follow-on to the above quote:
    ‘But we aren’t going to match Silicon Valley compensation. Are you kidding? Those programmer people each make more than our whole IT department. They make as much as I do. And if they invent something that makes money for MY business, they want to share in the profit. That’s just not the business model in our world.’

    • It’s still one hell of a business strategy though. /sarcasm

    • “‘But we aren’t going to match Silicon Valley compensation. Are you kidding? Those programmer people each make more than our whole IT department. They make as much as I do. And if they invent something that makes money for MY business, they want to share in the profit. That’s just not the business model in our world.’”

      he really said that??? Really??

      hear that sound Mr. Ingram? It’s all the young hotshots who could TRULY revolutionize the company, and make you a s load of profits, pounding away from your crypt… to a new living world that is RIGHT now.

  3. If I had to guess what industry CEO would say something like this:

    “as a service provider, you stay relevant by being able to have solutions that help other people run their businesses better.”

    My guess would be the CEO of a gas or electric utility. He certainly doesn’t exude confidence in the possibilities inherent in risk-taking and innovation.

  4. Pain points. That’s a new one to me.

  5. look, I’m not sure why ingram exists to tell you the truth. Decades ago there were several ‘ingram’-like joints all over the USA. There were indeed the ‘middle man’ between the publishers and the bookstores, with authors being not even mentioned. The “units” were the thing. And the middlemen ‘distributed’ the units. And everyone was happy.

    Then ‘stuff’ happened. The smaller ingram-like joints were eaten up by comp, absorbed or went pale in the water. Ingram held strong as the place a buyer from book store admin could order the book, whatever it might be, and it might be, given Ingram’s warehousing/delivery sys, be there for the reader [at the bkstore] the next day.

    More ‘stuff’ happened.

    And along came Brown, sweet talking, long legged Brown, er Bezos.

    And krikey, reader didnt have to go to bkst. Could order what was most often ALWAYS in stock. Dint need no stinkin’ middleman, in the old sense. Ppost office was now the middleman.

    Ebooks made it terrible worse for Ingram. Pubs and indie authors dint need no stinkin’ middle man. They just used 1s and 0s to deliver the goods. \

    Ingram missed their bet by some of the admins trying to keep ineffective headlocks on indie authors by not carrying their PODs or otherwise sself pub’d units to bookstores and certainly not touting/selling/promo-ing them to brick/mortal bkstores.

    seems the thinking was Me Ingram, GATEKEEPER, hear me roar! Me, the DECIDER in order to keep bkstores as business. Meantime may have had some salad w amz, or not. Certainly ingram’s idea of regional warehousing was taken up by Amz.

    I say, in the end, amz is again ‘de debbil’ for ingram, Mr. Ingram’s strange ‘I went to a motivational seminar and firewalked’ language, aside.

    My sense is tho I know manyof us brighten up anytime someone seems to offer a fair deal to carry our works into bookstores, that ingram is bad wounded out in the flats.

    Actually, bkstores would ideally do better to have amz as their distrib partner, and let ingram slide back down into the ooze along with the fossilized pessaries and buggy whips.

  6. Pure CEO speak. Its meant to be content free.

    Ingraham looks ripe for a buyout. Lots of valuable infrastructure, distribution know-how, but in a shrinking niche. If Bezos decides to start distributing to bookstores, Ingram would be a useful purchase. More fuel for the anti-monopoly crowd!

    • Oh that would be funny.

    • B&N tried it in 1998.
      The outcry blocked it.

      http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/NewsBreaks/Barnes–Noble-Abandons-Attempt-to-Buy-Ingram-17936.asp

      Things have changed but not enough that Amazon could buy Ingram. And besides, Ingram distributes primarily to the ADS-afflicted currently boycotting Apub titles. Most would probably quit the business rather than rely on Amazon.

      • “Most would probably quit the business rather than rely on Amazon.”

        So Amazon buying Ingram might make them quit? Heck, if Amazon was truly ‘evil’ that would be reason enough to buy them!
        (me picturing evil Snoopy giving Lucy a lick-kiss just so she’ll run around screaming, “I got dog germs on meeee!” 😉 )

        • 🙂
          As the FTC made clear in 1998, the idea of the dominant retailer in the business controlling the supply chain of their competitors is rightfully troubling. Courting antitrust scrutiny that way isn’t exactly wise and pretty much unnecessary: Ingram (and it’s margin) is one of the bigger reasons why Indie bookstores are rarely price-competitive with Amazon.

          One way to look at it is that since Amazon mostly buys their books direct from the publisher and some bookstores quietly buy from Amazon on occasion, they are closer to being a distributor with a retail operation than a pure retailer. (Amazon does deal with Ingram to some extent so it gets complicated real fast.)

          As a thought experiment it can make sense for both to combine the warehouses and backend services to maximize efficiency but the resulting entity would be pretty close to a real monopoly. As is, Baker & Taylor is probably the only thing protecting Ingram from antutrust scrutiny.

          Fun to consider but the legal costs would be a real drag.

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