The theme of the Book Industry Study Group's annual meeting on April 28 was titled "Transforming Supply Chain Communication," and the event included a daylong program of panel discussions that facilitated conversations around key challenges and proposed solutions on how all parts of the industry can better work together.

In a forecasting and supply chain efficiency panel, titled "A Framework for Making Better Decisions," River Rocks Advisors partner Gary Jones was paired with Princeton University Press publishing operations director Cathy Felgar to discuss innovative ways publishers can better determine the quantity and timing of book printings. In the end, a recommendation was made to split forecasting and inventory planning as two different decisions.

"Use simple forecasting, involve marketing, involve sales, and involve publishers in that decision of what should you sell and how you're going to sell it," explained Ken Brooks, BISG Supply Chain Committee Chair and executive v-p of supply chain at Amplify Education who served as moderator for the talk.

"Then move your inventory planning into more of an operations role," said Brooks, explaining that a number of publishers have their inventory decisions made by their sales departments. "When they do that what they are saying is we don't want to lose a sale at any cost. And they end up often with pretty large obsolescence problems." He recommends separating inventory decisions from sales influence.

Delving deeper into the decision-making processes behind what to sell and how to manage supply were two complementary discussions on changes needed in the data ecosystem for greater supply chain efficiency and changes needed in the tech stack to increase communication and create cohesive publishers’ sales and inventory data models, and minimum standards for communicating about rights and royalties. (The "tech stack" referring to all the technology publishers use to manage and retrieve supply chain data.) The panels explored alternatives for improving timeliness, completeness, and transparency of communication across the supply chain, including two-way communication about publishers’ sales and inventory data models.

As part of the meeting's business proceedings, eight board member roles were announced. Members of the BISG board represent one of six specific segments, including publisher, manufacturer, distribution, retailing, library, and industry partners who provide goods and services to one or more parts of the publishing industry. Returning members (elected to a second, two-year term) included Paul Gore (FADEL Group) and James Miller (Barnes & Noble). New board members included Phil Madans (Hachette Book Group), Kevin Spall (Scholastic), Sabbithry Persad (Firewater Media Group), Jason Wells (American Psychological Association), Jason Farrell (University of Toronto Press), and Bridget Marmion (Bridget Marmion Book Marketing).

Joshua Talent of Firebrand Technologies was elected as incoming board chair. He has been a member of the board since 2020 and is currently serving as the board's vice chair.

The organization also presented a number of BISG awards.

PW's editorial director, Jim Milliot, was presented with the Sally Dedecker Award for Lifetime Service; executive director of digital publishing technology for Hachette Book Group Phil Madans was presented with the BISG Industry Champion Award; and the BISG Industry Innovator Award was presented to Hederis.

Putting an endpoint to the afternoon was a closing keynote presentation titled “Thriving On Chaos (Just With Less Chaos)” by Kevin Spall, senior v-p of global manufacturing & procurement at Scholastic. "The work we were doing this morning about figuring out how to connect and collaborate is not a nice-to-have, it's a must-have," said Spall, emphasizing getting publishers and printer on the same page about their plans would not only make the industry more efficient, but more sustainable as well.

Though many supply chain bottlenecks have eased, Spall said the industry is still coping with some pandemic-induced issues, pointing in particular to the over ordering that took place last year, which has left warehouses full of inventory. One way to guard against building up too much inventory is to "lean into digital printing," Spall advised, contending that publishers who don't do that are missing a huge opportunity. And while offset capacity has greatly improved over the last few months, Spall noted that publishers are still deciding where to source printing from, noting that with the ongoing global strife, publishers are being cautious about returning to Asia and are considering doing business in Europe, India, Mexico, and the U.S.

Spall closed by once again urging the different industry organizations-BISG, AAP, and BMI-to communicate with each to get a better handle on what everyone's needs and concerns are.