Australia and New Zealand have always been the far outposts of the English-speaking territories for book publishers based in New York and London. But the logistics and economics of managing inventory are very difficult. These countries are across long seas from where US and UK publishers normally warehouse their books. Whatever copies are shipped to Australasia are committed inventory. The books they send to those countries aren’t going to be returned to their home warehouses if they don’t sell.
So the net effect has always been that sales are inefficient. It is hard to match inventory to demand for any but the most predictable books, whatever those are.
But in 2011, Ingram built and opened a Lightning Print facility in Melbourne. They are now printing and delivering pretty instant service to booksellers, libraries, and consumers in Australasia from the 18 million of titles set up in their system, most of which the publishers have given them the rights to deliver in those countries.
I would expect this, by now, to be revolutionary. Since I am now in that part of the world, writing this from Auckland, New Zealand, and on my way to Melbourne on Monday, I will do some real investigating. Thanks to my friends at Ingram, I’ll take a tour of the Lightning facility this week. But, before I do, I will meet with a global publisher based in Melbourne and the head of a sales group that covers this part of the world.
What I’m expecting to learn is that sales of many titles have been boosted from what they would have been in the past before this capability existed. And I’m also expecting to find out that publishers in the Western World have discovered that setting up books with Lightning for what John Ingram describes as “just in case” (rather than “just in time”) really pays off.
This has apparently already been a success for Lightning. The plant in Melbourne is being heavily used and titles are making their way into the Lightning database that would otherwise not have been there, available for “just in case” use somewhere else in the world. But the details should be fascinating. And I’ll report them sometime before I head back to the States on February 8.
Parenthetically, we have just spent a week in (they say “in” not “on”) New Zealand’s less-populated South Island. It is stunningly beautiful. And many of the residential neighborhoods look like the United States in the 1950s (which I am old enough to remember.) It’s a long way for most of my readers to go, but you’ll be richly rewarded if you get here.
More from Melbourne to come.