I just finished The Family Business: How Ingram Transformed the World of Books by Keel Hunt. I have worked with a number of clients in the book publishing industry since Outcome Labs was launched in 2008. During some of these projects, I have had the opportunity to work with folks from Ingram multiple times. It was interesting to see how this company was pivotal to how the publishing industry evolved over the past 30 years. There was a lot of the history of the company I hadn’t heard before. I was surprised that the last 5 years were not explored as well as some of the earlier periods.
Not as critical or insightful as hoped, but worth a read if you want to understand more about the publishing industry.
The Family Business
How Ingram Transformed the World of Books
The first book to tell the story of one of the world’s most influential media businesses, The Family Business draws on more than 70 interviews with company insiders as well as book-industry luminaries to present the Ingram story and how a little-known Nashville-based company grew to play a pivotal role in transforming book publishing around the world.
The history of the Ingram Content Group is one of the most important and remarkable business stories that almost no one knows. Launched as a favor to a family friend, it started as a local textbook distributor—one tiny division within a thriving corporation focused on oil, construction supplies, and shipping. It grew into the world’s largest book wholesaler, then into the most influential and innovative supplier of infrastructure and services to publishers around the world.
Over the past 50 years, from its headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, Ingram has played a pivotal role in modernizing the book business. Two members of the founding family have led the way: Bronson Ingram, a tough-minded industrialist who instinctively recognized a golden opportunity to apply modern efficiencies to antiquated logistical systems, and Bronson’s son John Ingram, an “intrapreneur” with a keen understanding of both the opportunities and the risks created by the new digital technologies. Led by these two brilliant managers, Ingram has used its unparalleled industry-wide connections to help transform book publishing from a tradition-bound business into a dynamic, global twenty-first century powerhouse.
Now, for the first time, The Family Business captures the whole story. In its pages, readers will learn about:
- The introduction of the Ingram microfiche reader in 1972 and how it catapulted book retailing into the electronic era
- Ingram’s network of coast-to-coast distribution centers turning U.S. book publishing into a truly national business for the first time
- Ingram using fast-growing video, software, magazine, and international wholesaling operations to create a phenomenal record of expansion, growing from a million-dollar company into a billion-dollar giant in just two decades
- Two of book publishing’s most powerful organizations—Ingram and Barnes & Noble—almost coming within a hair’s breadth of merging, and how the deal fell apart at the eleventh hour
- Ingram’s unparalleled ability to rapidly fulfill product orders empowering Amazon’s unique customer service model and enabling its explosive growth
- Lightning Source, a technological marvel spawned by Ingram, converting the “long tail” of niche books from a costly headache for publishers and retailers into a steady source of profitable sales
- Ingram’s transformation of the book supply chain enabling countless booksellers and publishers to survive and even thrive in the disruptive era of Covid-19
Today, with Ingram’s expanding portfolio of service and infrastructure businesses playing an ever-growing role in the world of publishing, the company stands ready to help lead the industry into an era of even more dramatic change.
The Family Business is the first book to recount the story of this strategic powerhouse that everyone in the publishing industry does business with, and that practically everyone admires—but that few people really understand. A must-read for people in the book business and the world of media, and anyone else who wants to understand how this vastly influential industry really works, this book fascinates with the story of the ways today’s electronic information technologies are transforming the world.