November 23, 2017

Ingram’s Shawn Morin on Moving Out from Behind the Scenes

Shawn MorinShawn Morin was named president and COO of Ingram Content Group on January 6. He joined the company in 2009 as chief information officer, and had served as COO of the company since June 2012, managing the company’s commercial activities, systems, and operations.

LJ sat down with Morin soon after his appointment to talk about some of the innovative work Ingram has been doing, an exciting new tool launching soon, and what the space shuttle has to do with publishing technology.

LJ: How will the addition of the President title influence what you’re doing?

SM: What you’ll see, with the addition of the president’s title, is that I’ll be out in the industry as opposed to behind the scenes. I’ve done some of that over the last couple of years, but I’m going to be able to do more. I’m really looking forward to that part of it.

I have a philosophy of “management by walking around,” and I like to do that with customers as well, because you learn a lot more out in the field than you do sitting in the office.

Can you talk a bit about Ingram’s online publishing tool, IngramSpark?

My roots are in technology, and I’ve always been a big fan of [asking] “how can we use technology to help drive businesses?” IngramSpark is a great example of that. We have this comprehensive, robust suite of services that we provide, and it gets complex and a bit confusing. So we kicked off an initiative that we called “Easier to Do Business With.” It was all about how we could empower people to take advantage of these platforms in a much easier way.

Spark came out of that—it allowed us to put together our print-on-demand capabilities through Lightning Source, as well as our digital capabilities through CoreSource, and create one easy user interface.

What kind of interesting ways have you seen people been using it?

Locally in Nashville, Williamson County public libraries have already published two picture books that they created using the platform, and they use the proceeds to augment things the library. We think it’s a great opportunity for libraries to find new ways to generate revenue—and relevance.

We have thousands of publishers signed up for IngramSpark. It gives them the opportunity to use Print On Demand as well as use distribution network, through the 39,000 retail partners we have. It’s kind of an easy one-stop shop to get your works published.

Spark is also a great example of print and ebook bundling. You can set it up as just print, or you can set it up as just e-, or you can set it up as both. We really recommend both, and that’s what most publishers are doing. The response and the feedback have been really positive, and we continue to expand the program and roll out new capabilities.

Has Ingram’s Print on Demand Distribution been busy?

We’re extremely busy. We printed over 30 million units last year—the volume keeps going up. In 2012 we acquired the licensing to a robotic technology, and we’ve started to roll out these robotics in some Print On Demand facilities. In the fall of last year we opened a facility in Fresno, CA. Part of our strategy now is getting closer to consumers, so we can open these smaller shops in neighborhoods much closer to population centers. We think there’s a lot of opportunity there, and you’ll see us continue to invest in it as we go forward, along with a lot of new product types. We’ve added color options, different types of covers, and so forth. As the market tells us what the demand is, we’re pretty agile about moving and adapting and adding those products.

Have you seen some innovative uses for Print on Demand?

There are a lot of really great examples. We’re seeing a lot of publishers doing personalization because they don’t have to print 25,000 copies—they can print them one at a time if they want, so they can personalize a book from a grandparent to a grandchild. From a publisher’s point of view, the other thing we’re seeing is less need for inventory. Rather than their having to store warehouses full of inventory, we’re able to print on demand. We help them turn fixed costs into variable costs so they can use that money to do other things they want to focus on.

What new projects do you have coming up?

We’re launching a new product called Edelweiss Analytics, and we’re really excited about it. It’s a tool that tells a library what they do have, what they should have, what they don’t have enough of, what they need more of, what retailers have—it gives them a feed of retail information—and what other libraries have. It’s something we’ve been working on for a while, and we’re to the point where we can roll it out—you’re the first one in the media we’ve talked to about this, and we’re going to make our announcement at ALA Midwinter. We’ve been testing it with Chicago, Denver, Baltimore, Queens, and Seattle public libraries, and they’ve been helping in an effort to generate a product that we think is going to be very useful in the library market.

It’s going to be basically software as a service, so libraries can log in online. It’ll link directly with our ipage solution as well as [incorporating the existing analytics software used by Edelweiss’] Above the Treeline, so it will be an easy browser interface-type software. Above the Treeline [a web-based inventory and sales data collection platform for independent booksellers] has helped us develop it and we’ve worked with them extensively on it.

How have the major shifts in the publishing industry changed the way you do business, both in and out of libraries?

Like any industry, our industry is dramatically changing. We like to call ourselves a services company, and we believe we are. So our relationship with publishers over the last ten years has gone from more of a vendor relationship to a partnership-type relationship. We have a lot of strategic discussions with publishers. They talk about directions that they’re trying to take, and we try and find ways to help them get there. As you can imagine, they’re going through a lot of transformation and metamorphosis, and so are we. So it’s really good to work together with them on a strategic basis, and figure out what the best path going forward is.

How do you feel Ingram’s relationship to libraries changed over the past five years?

It’s changed a lot. As you know, libraries are under a lot of pressure. They have to change, like everybody else in the industry, to remain relevant, and they have to do it with smaller budgets. That’s a lot of what we talk to libraries about: how we can use Ingram’s services, technology, whatever we have at our disposal, to help libraries be more efficient and help them run their business better, and then provide—as I mentioned in the Spark example—other avenues for potential revenue. And we’re seeing some great library models come out. John Ingram and his wife Stephanie have invested here locally in Limitless Libraries. One of the neat things about it is the way the libraries are set up: during the day students have access to the library, but at night they lock the doors to the school and they open the outside doors, and it becomes a community center. The residents around there speak 29 languages, and for a lot of them English isn’t their first language, so they have English as a Second Language programs going on at night in these facilities. It’s a great example of libraries finding more ways to be a hub in the community.

How has your background translated to working with Ingram’s material?

I have an engineering background, technology and computer science–based. I started at the Kennedy Space Center working on the on-board software for the shuttle program, so technology’s always been a big thing for me. The main thing I’ve found throughout my career, and I’ve worked in a lot of different industries, is that I really like the opportunity to use technology to help businesses solve big problems. That has influenced my work here at Ingram, as well as other places I’ve been in my career.

Ingram has really transformed itself—we’re a technology company at the end of the day. It helps, with my background, to understand what technology can do, and then meet with customers and understand what some of their problems are. I think it helps me find solutions.

I’ve only been in this role for a few weeks, but refining our library business is a top priority for me. One of the things I’m looking forward to is getting out in the field and meeting those in our library community.

Lisa Peet About Lisa Peet

Lisa Peet is Associate Editor, News for Library Journal.

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Comments

  1. Does LJ offer any sort of coverage of ALA Midwinter on this website? I was hoping to find some live tweets on your Twitter feed, but I haven’t found anything related to the conference.

    • There have been a lot of tweets throughout the conference coming from LJ writers’ individual Twitter accounts. We’ll have more in-depth coverage throughout the week, so stay tuned—and thanks very much for your interest!

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I truly appreciate your
    efforts and I am waiting for your further write ups thanks once again.