One measure of Ingram’s growth as a distributor is that more than a third, or 34, of the 93 publisher sponsors of Winter Institute are either distributed by Ingram Publisher Services or use Ingram’s third-party logistics. With its purchase of the distribution arm of the Perseus Books Group in March 2016, the Ingram Content Group immediately went from being a midsize book distributor to the largest for small and midsize independent presses—and arguably for all houses. As part of the acquisition, Ingram added four distribution lines: Publishers Group West, Consortium Book Sales & Distribution, Legato, and Perseus Distribution Services. The company folded Legato into PGW and in September, Perseus Distribution Services was rebranded as Two Rivers Distribution.
Altogether, the acquisition netted Ingram a little over 400 new client publishers for a total of nearly 600 presses, including those already distributed by Ingram Publisher Services, which the company launched in 2005. Although the transition period is expected to continue through 2018, Ingram has kept many of the clients it gained from Perseus, along with most of its own IPS clients, including two early ones: Applewood Books in Carlisle, Mass., and O’Reilly Media.
Speaking by phone from PGW’s sales conference late last year, Ingram’s chief content officer, Phil Ollila, who oversees the company’s distribution business, said: “The publishing industry is full of optimists and skeptics. I think I can say quite confidently the PGW publishers see we’re a supporter. It took us a year, but we’ve gained their confidence.” That’s something that Ingram has worked hard to do across all its brands, including its newest, Ingram Academic Services.
The Perseus purchase gave Ingram two major university presses, which had been distributed by PDS (now Two Rivers), Princeton and University of California. Indiana University Press was already an IPS client at the time, prompting Ingram to create Academic Services in July 2016 and to actively solicit more academic publishers.
Part of the reason that most houses stayed with Ingram following the acquisition is its commitment to maintaining each distribution line as a distinct brand—and to keeping the staff who made PGW, Consortium, and Two Rivers unique. “We’re dedicated and committed to retaining these five distinct brands,” Ollila says. “If we were to put them together, we’d homogenize the experience. We believe that publishers identify with their distribution company. We also know that each brand has a distinct personality, which is derived from the publishers within the brand. These brands rest on top of the Ingram brand.”
Ingram is now two-thirds of the way toward integrating what had been Perseus’s distribution arm with its own operations. Ingram began by retiring Constellation, Perseus’s e-book distribution program, and implementing Ingram’s CoreSource platform to manage digital assets. Over the summer, Ingram upgraded the Perseus Distribution facility in Jackson, Tenn., which was also part of the deal, and installed its own management system. The final step toward full integration will take place in this year’s third quarter and involves completing systems and reporting changes to move to more integrated order management.
But that’s not all that’s on Ingram’s distribution plate. Last year, the company launched the first phase of its new publisher reporting system to IPS clients. And it grew its clients and sales at all its distribution brands. Among the new clients are: Europa Editions (PGW), Fodor’s (IPS), F&W (Two Rivers), Oberon Books (Consortium), Stanford (Ingram Academic), and Tuttle (PGW).
In 2017, Ingram made additional acquisitions to better position itself for a changing distribution landscape. These include OptiQly in November, to provide data improvement tools, and NBNi in June—the U.K.-based international unit of National Book Network—to expand its global footprint. “The industry should expect to see Ingram continue to invest in marketing and service tools that expand the reach of our clients’ lists,” says Ollila, who anticipates continued growth in Ingram’s export market, both for print and digital books.
All in all, as Ollila notes, “it’s been a busy year.” He is quick to credit all the people on the distribution team for the company’s growth. That growth is reflected in the physical transformation of Ingram’s LaVergne headquarters in greater Nashville. Over the past six months, the ground floor has been turned into the “Public Square,” where clients and Ingram associates can gather and exchange ideas.