Ingram Spark Launches: An Interview with Robin Cutler [Audio]

POSTED ON Jul 1, 2013

Joel Friedlander

Written by Joel Friedlander

Home > Blog > Book Production, Interviews, Self-Publishing > Ingram Spark Launches: An Interview with Robin Cutler [Audio]

Ingram Content Group is launching their new, integrated print and ebook manufacturing and distribution platform today. It’s called Ingram Spark, and it was announced at the recent Book Expo America.

Here’s some info on Ingram from their recent press release:

Ingram Content Group Inc. is a subsidiary of Nashville-based Ingram Industries Inc. The company provides books, music and media content to over 39,000 retailers, libraries, schools and distribution partners in 195 countries. More than 26,000 publishers use Ingram’s fully integrated physical and digital distribution, logistics, and manufacturing solutions to access global consumer demand, and realize the full business potential of book content.

Since the BEA there have been a number of articles written about Spark, and a good deal of confusion about what exactly it is, who it’s for, what it will cost, and all the other details related to an ambitious program like this.

Screenshot: Combined print and e-book upload dashboardprint on demand

I mean, think about it: with one dashboard being able to order up your print on demand books through Lightning Source, convert them to ebooks and manage the distribution of all your editions into that market of 39,000 potential buyers in those 193 countries. That’s power.

But Spark isn’t for everyone. To get the best information on this program for readers, so they can decide for themselves if it’s something they want to check out, I sat down and talked to Robin Cutler. Here’s her company bio:

Ingram SparkRobin Cutler joined Ingram Content Group in 2011 as Manager of Content Acquisition. At Ingram she leads a team assisting independent publishers in making their digital content available to retail partners throughout the world. Ms. Cutler began her career in publishing over 30 years ago at a university press designing her first book in linotype and letterpress; a year later she was designing on a Mac SE. After many years of university publishing in South Carolina and Wisconsin, she started a trade imprint, SummerHouse Press in 1997. Ms. Cutler most recently worked for Amazon Digital Services. She holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Southern California.

Screenshot: Consolidated metadata entry first screenmetadata

In this 36:51 audio interview, we go into:

  • How Ingram is trying to simplify and streamline their process for independent publishers
  • Which services will be available at launch
  • The countries served by Ingram’s global print on demand service
  • How Ingram is growing the number of ebook retailers they distribute to
  • Who is the ideal customer for Spark
  • How Spark will further level the playing field for indie publishers
  • Ingram will listen to customers after the rollout to see if they want more flexibility.
  • Consolidated, single source metadata is a reality.
  • Coming soon: e-book conversions and integration with Bowker’s ISBN registration.

Robin also runs through all the print on demand and ebook fees involved in using Spark, but I’m not going to enumerate them all here.

Screenshot: Consolidated publisher dashboardself-publishing

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and beauty, and there are trade-offs if you want to use this platform:

  • Discounts will be set by Ingram for both print and e-books
  • No more “short discount” publishing (like a 20% discount that you can set as a Lightning Source publisher)
  • Reporting for ebooks may not be as quick as indie authors are used to
  • You still need to understand the publishing process, file creation, discounting, and things like returns in order to fully make use of this self-service platform.

(Note: In the interview Robin mentions that Lightning Source is almost 20 years old, but in fact it’s 16 years old at the time of this recording.)

Here’s the audio:

And here’s a PDF transcript of our talk:

The Book Designer Interview with Robin Cutler: Ingram Spark Launch

Let me know what you think: Is Spark something you’re going to check out for yourself? Or are you happy with the distribution options you have available now?

Joel Friedlander

Written by
Joel Friedlander

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