Transcript: Global Publishing For All

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Global Publishing For All
Interview with Phil Ollila, Chief Content Officer, Ingram Content Group

For podcast release
Monday, February 20, 2012

KENNEALLY: In the publishing world today, regime change is underway. It’s not happening in Tahrir Square, or even in Times Square. The old is giving way to the new in the virtual square, and players like Ingram Content Group have declared themselves on the side of the new regime.

Hello, and welcome to Beyond the Book, Copyright Clearance Center’s podcast series on publishing trends and media technology and innovations. My name is Christopher Kenneally. Joining me today to tell us what book publishers should think about when setting out for new markets is Phil Ollila, Chief Content Officer, Ingram Content Group Incorporated. Phil, welcome to Beyond the Book.

OLLILA: Good afternoon, Chris. It’s a real pleasure to be here, and I’m looking forward to talking about Ingram and the transformation of the industry.

KENNEALLY: Well, we were looking forward to having you. You know, we met just a few weeks ago at Digital Book World, and I enjoyed our conversation there, so I wanted to share some of it with our audience. We should tell people that Phil Ollila leads a number of Ingram business units as Chief Content Officer there, including wholesale merchandising, Lightning Source, Ingram Publisher Services, and digital distribution through CoreSource.

Phil also heads Ingram Content Group marketing. He previously served as Senior Vice President of Ingram Book Group Incorporated. He was President of Ingram Publisher Services, and President of Ingram Library Services Incorporated. Prior to joining Ingram, Mr. Ollila spent 12 years in Ann Arbor, Michigan with Borders Group. His last position there was Vice President of Marketing and Merchandising.

And Phil, let’s start by talking about Global CONNECT, which is a program that Ingram launched last fall to allow publishers in any country to print and distribute titles in countries where Ingram has its own operations, as well as in countries of one of its partners. And when you announced that in September, your first agreement was with Singular Digital, which is a leading book manufacturer in Brazil. And then a month later, right around Frankfurt, you added Germany’s Books On Demand, which will be printing and fulfilling book orders in Germany as well as its German-speaking neighbors in Austria and Switzerland.

All of which amounts to a lot of new bookstore shelf opening up outside the U.S., even as stores in the U.S., including your former employer, Borders, close. Have national boundaries in the book world become irrelevant, or is it simply just shifting?

OLLILA: Well, Chris, one of the major trends that we see in the book industry is the barriers to distribution of content and access to that content by consumers has changed significantly. And the way that that has changed is through the advent of the digital file. And when we think about a digital file, we used to think about a simple PDF that might come through our computer. But today, digital files can turn up in any number of formats. It could be an e-book format, it could be a print on demand format, or it could be a good old fashioned PDF.

What’s happened with the advent of digital file distribution is, it’s primarily about the delivery of that file to a manufacturing solution or the consumer in a way that they desire to read it. So today, when we think about the delivery of books and the distribution books, one thing we should think about is the consumer, and not necessarily the traditional supply chains of bookstores.

KENNEALLY: Well, yeah, and, you know, that really is an important shift. And so maybe you could tell us a bit about the way that publishers are rethinking their business as a result.

OLLILA: Yeah, so from a publisher’s perspective, they have the opportunity to put a file into the system, and whether that’s through a print on demand system or a digital asset through a digital file system, and have that system – or, I’m sorry, have that book arrive at the consumer. So said another way, if you’re a Brazilian consumer, a U.S. publisher can put their book into our content management and distribution system and have that show as available to a retailer in Brazil. And in Brazil, we’ll either manufacture that book on demand for immediate shipment to the consumer, or we’ll be able to deliver that book through an e-book retailer directly to the consumer.

What that means for publishers is, today their content is available on a worldwide basis with what we would consider to be a single entry point, where in the past they had to think about selling rights in a foreign rights market or the physical delivery of that book on a ship or a train or an airplane. So the access to content has changed considerably even in the last five years, and we’re happy to be part of that.

KENNEALLY: Right. And it changes the experience for the consumer. Obviously, they get the material, if not that moment as an e-book download, certainly, you know, within days, if not a day, in print form. But they’re getting access to a whole range of titles, millions of titles, in fact, that they simply wouldn’t have even thought were in their view before.

OLLILA: So a great example of that is what we did in Australia. In Australia recently, we opened a print on demand manufacturing facility in Melbourne that will serve the continent of Australia. Publishers throughout the world have authorized their content for distribution in Australia, and on the day that we opened that plant, we had over a million titles available for distribution in Australia. That’s more books than we’re – that have ever been available in Australia on an on demand basis for immediate distribution in history.

So one of the things that we’re proud of is the ability to bring content into Australia at very little cost to publishers, and exposing that content to consumers in Australia, where in the past, the distribution model would’ve been to sell the rights to an Australian publisher. The Australian publisher would have to negotiate with an Australian retailer. The book would have to go on a shelf. And by the time you get through all those steps, the cost of bringing that content onto the continent was incredibly high. So as a result, very little content actually got through to the Australian consumer.

Well, today I’m happy to say we have 5.5 million titles available in that database that, six months ago, we started with a million titles. So Australian consumers are really driving the bus in terms of availability of content. It’s not necessarily being driven by the supply chain.

KENNEALLY: Right. And what’s interesting, I think, about the Australian example is, first of all, it’s an English language marketplace. So really, you know, there’s not a lot of a lift there for a publisher here in the United States to think about selling their books. But it makes it possible to have the entire catalog available, and not have to think through all those steps as you say, and kind of come to a cost analysis as to which titles should be in the Australian market and which ones just aren’t worth it. You could put them all in there and let the customer decide which ones they want.

OLLILA: Yeah, and that’s the – I completely agree with that. So the major trend in the book distribution industry is the exposure of content through a variety of formats to the consumer. We’re relying on retailers for the commercial component of that transaction. Said another way, retailers still have to collect the money, retailers still have to present the content as available. But retailers today are the conduit of the transfer of those – of the books to the consumer. They’re not necessarily the folks who are in charge of determining what goes on the shelf.

KENNEALLY: Right. Well, we’re talking with Phil Ollila, who is Chief Content Officer at Ingram Content Group, about the globalization of the book market. And since it’s Copyright Clearance Center bringing you this program, we have to bring up the question of rights. And you’ve alluded to it, Phil. You know, in the past, the sale of rights, transfers of rights from one territory to another, it was really about what was worth doing from a cost-benefit analysis. Now, with this kind of global marketplace at your fingertips, a publisher can keep the rights and really manage what they have on a global basis without needing all those intermediaries.

OLLILA: Right. So the rights market, I think, is actually a fairly good example of how content has become frictionless. So in the past, very few books actually made it to the rights market. And the reason very few books made it to the rights market is because it was an expensive proposition to bring a book to a rights marketplace like the Frankfurt Book Fair, find someone to buy those rights, find a publisher to publish that book in the geography or the country where the publisher had its business.

Well, today there are really two kinds of rights. There are big book rights, which I think will continue to go through book markets. And then there are rights to everything else, which I think publishers will start to retain slower selling rights. So again, said another way, books that traditionally wouldn’t have made it into the rights market because they were low sellers, well that content can now be exposed to the worldwide marketplace, where the consumers can decide.

One of the reasons that publishers will continue to sell rights is there’s still – for the biggest books, there’s still a marketing component, or potentially a (inaudible) component to rights that a publisher, say from the United States, wouldn’t be able to realize in the rest of the world market. But on the other hand, in the English language market, publishers can take their deep backlist or their long tail, and even without a rights sale can make those books available in just about any country in the world.

KENNEALLY: Right. And I know it’s early days just yet, Global Connect came into being in September. But what’s the experience Ingram has so far with managing all the data that has to flow back and forth? I mean, are there global standards at this point for that kind of metadata?

OLLILA: Well, we’re lucky in that there are global standards, or at least for much of the global market there are standards for the delivery of metadata, and also the delivery of e-content. And whether that content ends up in a print file or it ends up available as an e-book, those standards are pretty secure, and I would also say they’re ubiquitous.

When we think about standards, what we want to do is make sure the publisher, when they put information into our system, metadata plus the book file, they’re following a protocol where they get feedback actually directly from the market to say this book was accepted or this book was rejected. And specifically, on a granular level, say why was this book accepted or rejected for distribution, from the perspective of metadata, into the geography? So when we think about metadata, again, there are ubiquitous standards throughout the world, and we’re in a position to deliver that file based on those standards.

KENNEALLY: Well, you know, the other part of it that’s really interesting to me is that what Ingram is offering is available, of course, not only to, you know, the big trade houses in New York City, but to independent book publishers, to publishers of any size, I suppose. And you have other services along with the delivery of the e-book data and the metadata that really make it possible for those smaller players to take a bigger role.

OLLILA: Yeah, I think we’re entering a golden age of content. And so the challenge for publishers, I think, isn’t how are you going to get your book into the distribution network, and again, whether that be a print distribution network or an e-distribution network. The challenge for publishers is going to be, how do I find, create, edit, curate, and price relevant content?

So no matter what size publisher you are, the big challenges for publishers now is going to be finding content that consumers can connect with. Not necessarily putting books into a closed distribution network, because as I’ve said throughout the conversation, the distribution network is now open. And a publisher of any size can succeed in that marketplace. The challenge, again, is finding content that consumers will find relevant.

KENNEALLY: Well, what I know about publishing is that most people got into the business to do just that, Phil. To create really valuable content, not to get involved with, you know, all the sort of practicality of it. They want to publish the best books they can and get them into as many hands as possible. So really, it’s kind of freeing them up, it sounds like.

OLLILA: Well, we’re lucky to find ourselves in an environment where content can easily reach consumers, but also lucky as a business to find ourselves in a position where the distribution of that content is complex. So one of the value propositions that Ingram brings to publishers is, we remove the complexity of distribution and allow publishers to focus on the development of content.

KENNEALLY: Right. Well, I think that’s a really great way to end this discussion here, to think about the opportunity for publishers to, as you say, kind of be what they want to be.

We’ve been talking today on Beyond the Book with Phil Ollila, Chief Content Officer for Ingram Content Group. And Phil, really appreciate your coming on the program.

OLLILA: Chris, a real pleasure talking to you, and I look forward to seeing you around the industry.

KENNEALLY: Likewise. And we should tell people that Beyond the Book is produced by Copyright Clearance Center, a global rights broker for the world’s most sought-after materials, including millions of books and e-books, journals, newspapers, magazines, and blogs. You can follow Beyond the Book on Twitter, like Beyond the Book on Facebook, and subscribe to the free podcast series on iTunes, or at our Website, copyright.com/beyondthebook.

Our engineer is Jeremy Brieske of Burst Marketing. My name is Christopher Kenneally. For all of us at Copyright Clearance Center, thanks for listening to Beyond the Book.