Home > Uncategorized > A Decade and a Half Later, Wither Lightning Print?

A Decade and a Half Later, Wither Lightning Print?

At the beginning of 1998, Michael Lovett had just been named President and CEO of Ingram Book Group and Larry Brewster was Ingram VP and GM of the new Lightning Print division. Heralded as “an alliance between Ingram, IBM,, and Danka Services International, Lighting Print will store books in a digital library and print each book, one at a time, as ordered…”  Brewster extolled: “…With print on demand technology, titles never have to go out of print.”

Lovett said, “It’s the best of all worlds. Specifically,

  • Publishers win because they sell books that otherwise go out of print.
  • Booksellers win because they sell more books and bring in more customers.
  • Consumers win because more titles are available.
  • Authors win because they continue to receive royalties.”

Oh, if only this were true nearly 15 years later.  Here’s how the story has really played out:

  • The eBook has become the default vehicle for out of print books, mostly bypassing the retail chain.
  • While many publishers have a portion of their catalog available in print-on-demand format, consumers remain frustrated by O/P titles they cannot access, and authors who hoped the new technology would prolong the shelf life of their titles are frustrated that their titles weren’t chosen for the extended run.
  • Booksellers are often faced with everything from shorter-discounts to short-discounts to no-discounts on print on demand titles.
  • Consumers are frustrated by extremely unjustified suggested retail prices.  (As I type this, I’m looking at a 63-page paperback booklet — with 1/3 of each page blank — that a customer refused to take after seeing the $26.99 price tag.)
  • Customers in the market for O/P titles are frustrated that the titles continue to exist in eBook formats, but not print, when they were promised — in extensive articles in major newspapers — that Lightning Print technology would be the default mechanism for keeping books in print.

Introduced as “…the answer you were looking for;” it appears that nearly a decade-and-a-half later, the promise of Lightning Print has been hijacked by even newer technology.

Quotation(s) source: Ingram International in-house publication, “Around the World;” Vol III, Number I, Feb/Mar 1998

  1. July 23, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Paul, once again you’ve mostly hit the nail on the head with your commentary. As a company that has “faster than lightning” technology in our distribution center that delivers on all the promises Ingram made 14 years ago, I can’t tell you how difficult it has been to get full cooperation from the rest of the supply chain. We can even customize each book with a name, photo, chapter, or language for no additional charge, and have it in tonight’s shipment if the order is in by early afternoon. Smaller publishers and authors are getting immense help from our print on demand service and ordering tens of thousands of books per month, but sadly, the larger the publisher, the more people they have invested in maintaining the historic status quo of macho print runs or no printing at all (ebooks). When will they realize that more than half our customers want to feel the pages between their fingers, not just swipe them across a screen?

    • July 23, 2012 at 9:18 am

      Glenn, thanks so much for your comment. It’s informative to hear from someone who is on the other side of attempting to maximize this cutting-edge technology.

  1. July 25, 2012 at 5:50 am
  2. August 21, 2013 at 1:04 pm

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