johningramThe theme of this year’s Digital Book World Conference is “transformation.” A number of panels were set up looking at individual publishers or companies and their transformation to stay relevant in the digital market.

Here’s a look at Ingram Content Group.

Ingram Content Group has been in business for more than 50 years. It has seen a number of changes in publishing, and rather than rely on its legacy business, Ingram has looked at ways to transform its business.

Its main function has been as a major distributor and printer for booksellers, libraries, educators, specialty retailers and more.

On Tuesday, John Ingram, CEO of Ingram Content Group, discussed how the company has changed starting with its most recent agreement to acquire the distribution business of Perseus Books Group. The deal was announced less than a week ago.

“I think what Ingram’s acquisition of Perseus’ distribution really signals is a change in Ingram’s center of gravity,” said Ingram at Digital Book World Conference. “Our legacy is in wholesale, and wholesale is something we will continue to do, but there are realities out there.”

Ingram pointed to Amazon’s warehouse structure. With its nearly 100 warehouses in the United States, Ingram Content Group isn’t needed as much as it used to be. Ingram also illustrated the changes in his company with three pie graphs showing how its business model has changed in 20 years.

In 1995, 100 percent of its revenue was earned through legacy sales to just 44 percent in 2015. New business has accounted for the majority of Ingram’s revenue in 2015.

“The profit has grown, but this is actually where I started to think about,” Ingram said. “I did this (pie charts) for our own board and family. This is how things have been changing. It’s not just a theory for us, it’s something that is happening.”

The story of Ingram’s transformation began about 10 years ago with the creation of Lightning Print Inc., a print-on-demand service. It started with print books and moved into the ebooks space soon after – for better or worse.

“Of course, digital did not happen at that point in time,” Ingram said. “That’s when it became phase 2 of Lightning. … We spent all this money; I had my family going ‘What are going to do to fix this?’ A couple of years were really tough for me personally. In 2005, it was clear it was going to work. Then, phase 3 started was our success.”

While some the offerings of Lightning were not easy for Ingram, he stuck by it, which was difficult for him on a personal level. However, he had a firm belief that Lightning was truly something that could work in the changing marketplace.

And that was a sentiment he shared with the crowd at DBW.

“There are probably people in this room that are at stages of things where they are not sure they are going to work,” he said. “If you faith in it, just stick with it, and chances are it’s going to work.”

Yet, change and transformation do not come easy. According to Ingram, one of the most important pieces in transformation is people. In order to change, people have to be willing to come for the ride and also learn new skill sets.

Not everyone will survive the transformation, Ingram said. But it will be worth it.

“It’s about people, about trying to stay connected to what’s new,” Ingram said. “All with the idea that we can build it into a service and be part of what we do. If you get too far up field, it will be hard to connect it back to something.”


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