Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Lightning Source - From the Horse's Mouth II

David Taylor, President of Lightning Source UK talks to JJ Marsh.

In the second part of our interview, David explains his vision of how Lightning Source intends to make the ideal partner for independent authors.

As a member of The Alliance of Independent Authors and writers’ collective Triskele Books, I welcome the chance to talk to someone from the industry angle. All of us at Triskele have used Lightning Source for our print material, and I’m know we’re not the only ones. Why is your service so attractive to small independent publishers?

Lightning Source works with the smallest to the largest of publishers. One key advantage that differentiates our organisation from book printing outfits is the pairing of high-quality single copy book manufacturing with global market access and distribution to readers worldwide.

I’m guessing Lightning Source has seen a remarkable increase in smaller or self-publishers in recent years?

We've seen a steady increase in the number of small and self-publishers using our services. Our access to market and innovative technology have created an inventory-free business model that enables publishers to avoid the risk and high capital investment of traditional publishing models. To put things into perspective, in the U.K. alone, we’ve grown our library of titles from 1,100 titles in 1998 to over 6 million today.

What other services do you offer in addition to Print-on-Demand?

Ingram Content Group, of which Lightning Source is a part, offers a full-suite of comprehensive physical and digital content distribution services to publishers, booksellers, libraries, educators and students. We provide books, music and media content to over 38,000 retailers, libraries, schools, and distribution partners in 195 countries. Tens of thousands of publishers use Ingram’s fully integrated physical and digital solutions and programs including Lightning Source, CoreSource®, MyiLibrary® and VitalSource Bookshelf®, to realize the full business potential of books.

While researching with colleagues, compliments for Lightning Source seems to highlight speed, quality, distribution reach and customer service. Have you needed to change your infrastructure to deal with a different kind of consumer – the indie author? 

We are pleased to hear about the compliments. Ingram took great care when developing our Lightning Source business. Our operation has been completely scalable from the very beginning - we can print, dispatch, and sell one book at a time, and our single copy capabilities give us the flexibility to work with small independent publishers to large multinational organisations.

Lots of satisfied clients from what I hear, but some disgruntlement too. I appreciate you can’t deal with every issue, so I wanted to raise just a few points such as complexity of interface, cost of revisions, lack of facility to offset set-up costs against earnings and the difficulty of making a group order (ie, separate publishers, one delivery). Do you envisage any adjustments being made to these various processes in the future?

We value all customer feedback and continually work to develop our products and services to meet the changing needs of the publishers we work with. In July, we launched IngramSparkSM, a new Publish On Demand platform that offers a new, simple path to publishing. The easy-to-use online publishing tool provides independent publishers with simple, cost-effective access to Ingram's global distribution network for print titles and e-book content. The new platform will give publishers the tools to manage their print books and e-books in one location.

What do you see as Lightning Source’s USP? What do you think is your edge over the competition?

The pairing of our high-quality single copy book manufacturing with our worldwide access to the market we provide to publishers is unmatched in the book industry. Placing titles with Lightning Source gives publishers a unique global distribution model that allows a book to be printed when it is sold. There is no need to print a book beforehand.

What are the latest developments in terms of international distribution? Can you talk a little about Global Connect?

A substantial number of our publishers use Ingram's worldwide distribution network to grow their reach and expand sales internationally - Ingram distributes to more than 195 countries around the world. In addition, our Global Connect program enables publishers to get titles to new markets through arrangements with leading distributors and book manufacturing locations. Our Lightning Source customers are currently distributing content locally in Brazil and Germany.

Colour – I understand there will be more than one new function available for publishers who need to use photographs, illustrations, images, etc. Could you give us a brief overview?

Our high-quality book manufacturing process is perfectly suited for photographs, illustrations, line art and images. Publishers that work with Lightning Source have the option to print both black and white and colour interior books. Recently, premium colour book manufacturing capabilities in our U.S. plant have been duplicated in the U.K., and our new standard colour option has just launched in July giving publishers cost-effective local colour options.

· Premium colour is available from the U.K. with two day shipping to anywhere in Europe. The rich depth of colour makes it ideal for highly illustrative publications.

· Standard colour is also available. Standard colour provides publishers with high quality colour at a very low price.

There has been some concern about piracy of material printed with Lightning Source. What’s your take?

We work with more than 35,000 publishers, and we manufacture content on their behalf. That said, piracy isn’t a new issue. In fact, the majority of pirated copies are from print books being photocopied and distributed, and, for those who can’t or don’t want to pay for books, they’ve always been available for free from libraries. For publishers, the key is to continue to make books not only an engaging experience but also an affordable and easy-to-access experience. We need to make it easy for consumers to find and purchase books legally, and we are delighted to work with publishers to do just that.

What do you see as the major changes likely to happen in the publishing industry? Where do you see Lightning Source fits in?

It has become a somewhat tired phrase to say that the publishing industry is undergoing huge change: but it is absolutely true. We expect to see publishers moving even more content to an on demand model. The old model of printing for inventory is becoming an absurdity that is increasingly difficult to defend. The physical book is not going to disappear, but its mode of production and distribution, for the vast majority of titles, is inexorably moving to one that requires single copy print on demand allied to a global distribution network that can deliver a book to anyone within 24 hours.
Increasing automation allied with the new high speed inkjet printing technologies that are now coming on stream will spur this development as digitally printed books take up more and more of the market. Print runs will continue to shrink as publishers strive to free up capital that was previously locked up in inventory.

E-books will continue to exert downward pressure on print runs but, with very few exceptions, they will not replace the printed book. We expect the print book and the e-book to coexist as publishers offer a choice to consumers about how they wish to consume content.

We expect the explosion in self- publishing to continue and to move out from its homeland in North America and Europe to the BRIC regions. We see new publishing models continuing to appear as creative talents engage with the capabilities that these news global/digital models allow. In short, we think publishing is in a good place. Never before have publishers had so many fantastic tools at their disposal to make their content available to individuals who want to read it. Never before has it been so easy for content to be discoverable.

As the print on demand arm of Ingram Content Group, Lightning Source is set to play a huge role in allowing publishers to make their content available on an increasingly global basis.
provide greater choice in the market. 

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