David Taylor, President of Lightning Source (LSI) UK, spoke to ALLi member, JJMarsh, recently about how LSI works with indie authors, the lowdown on Ingram Spark and what it all means for the future of self-publishing.
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.
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 only when it is sold. 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 in perspective: in the U.K. alone, we’ve grown our library of titles from 1,100 in 1998 to over 6 million today. We've seen a steady increase in the number of small and self-publishers using our services.
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.
Piracy isn’t a new issue. 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 free from libraries. The key is for publishers, 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.
In July, we launched IngramSparkSM, a new POD 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.
Additionally, we wanted to streamline our sales, account setup, content management and customer support activities by providing publishers with a better experience through a self service, completely online portal, where they manage all their activity in one place.
On the difference between IngramSpark and LSI print services
LSI is a pioneer and innovator in POD technology so all that LSI has to offer in choice of format, trim size and colour options will be available to the IngramSpark publisher. The cost of printing and shipping content is the same in both platforms. LSI allows more flexibility in terms of a publisher being able to set a range of channel discounts where Spark applies a standard trade discount of 55%. LSI accounts have an assigned CSR where Spark is designed as a self service platform with limited support.
Just to be clear: we are not trying to move customers over to Spark, just provide greater choice in the market.
On the future of the publishing industry
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, 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 co-exist 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.
I wish someone would spell out the steps an author has to take to self publish with LSI. How do you become a publisher??? What are the minimum steps needed to meet LSI needs and government’s. Do you have to form an LLC? Will your new entity need a website for stores? I want to print with LSI, but they are hard so hard to reach and surprisingly this info is impossible to find on internet.
Another advantage in using LSI I have found was necessitated by the need to limit printed book distribution in the UK to a print run distributor,( for bookshop stocking) and therefore the flexibility of LSI in other markets for POD (US Can. and Aus.) could combine two options. Had I decided on Createspace this would not have been possible.
I trust the option to lower or change the discount will continue to be offered by LSI as well as extending its POD in due course.
I have been pleasantly surprised by the proof quality, which is great.
Thanks for your excellent report on LSI. As writer who is about to embark on self-publishing and will also expand into a small press available for other authors who work thematically on the topics I focus on, I spent some time researching the differences between LSI and other companies. I have settled on LSI for all the reasons you mention in your essay. I have found your customer service excellent, even while I am in the “set up” stages. I look forward to my continued relationship with LSI.