Monday, April 07, 2008

Digital Supply Chain - James Gray, Ingram Digital Group

James Gray begins by introducing us to Nashville - home of country music, Ingram and James.

About Ingram
Ingram is a corporationg with largest inland shipper in the US, largest digital supplier etc. Core work is infrastructure and infrastructure - enormous machinery pictures showing barges, print on demand machines, warehousing etc. 3 prime content companies, Ingram Book Group, Lightning Source, and Ingram Digital. They are trying to put all those areas together and bring some of the print space ideas to the digital spaces.

There are a lot of parallels between print and digital infrastructure. Trades with 18,000 publishers and therefore has extremely large database of metadata and Just In Time distribution network.

Lightening Source is a print on demand company printing around 1.5million books per month but the average print run is 1.8 copies/book. Yup, 1.8. It's a truly an on demand model. You can order a book off Amazon this morning, it's printed immediately and can be delivered to your desk by the next day. Many publishers are now going this way as print runs really don't merit other traditional models.

Ingram Digital is about repurposing digital files. 100,000 academic titles, 3000 e-textbooks, 130,000 on eBay. Digital is more complex than print though.

Digital Supply Chain
The stages for print are linear. Digital includes multiple formats, different supply chains, differing readers etc. so these must be brought together into the supply chain. A complex supply chain flowchart illustrated this supply chain and the many differing options within it. It looks a lot like a giant jigsaw with differing routes, sometimes unique, sometimes overlapping, to take you through the supply chain, formats etc.

Similarities though. There are limitations of eBooks just as there are for print (they are just different limitations). In print there are a lot of intermediaries in the supply chain - agents, publishers etc. This becomes even more complex when you account for the different connections and communications and this varies by location. In a digital landscape larger organisations take out many of the intermediaries and, indeed, geographical issues. The supply chain thus becomes:

Basic Digital Distribution
Internet (and Google*)

*James talked about the scale of server farms etc. Only Google and Microsoft have that kind of power and that has impact. Google, and it's indexes, are effectively an intermediatary for the

Consolidation is occuring at every level. No matter how good a publishers website is there has to be boundless linking between content so that it is easy to discover and navigate.

Content is core. With ejournals the core technologies and infrascructures are now in place. There are rights and business models to develop though.

Digital Asset Distribution:

Publishers offer editorial and selection elements
Publisher portal (link publisher to Digital Asset Management)
Digital Asset Management and Distribution System (content and metadata)
Delivery Technologies
Distribution Partners
Discovery and Delivery

Some publishers are starting to produce their files with an xml workflow so that it may move anyway and into any system. This needs to happen to a greater degree.

MyiLibrary (ebook platform distributed through 3rd parties) allows searchability, Vital platform offers digital textbooks - this is a market about to explode in the US but this will be discounted model direct to users rather than libraries. Audiobooks: from flowing files you can automatically create audio files of any book automatically. A final crucial element is that the user chooses different delivery technology - could be print on demand, audio, digital text etc. It allows publishers to reach everyone in multiple formats (including specialist delivery such as for AmazonKindle).

Underlying all this work is a rich source of metadata. We are starting to harvest metadata for digital files. Interactive tables of contents, full text searching, it is a matter of utilizing the full text to discover content in a new way. OCLC MARC records have an important role and marketing is still important so that there is knowledge of what is available.

Content is evolving - chapters are priced individually by some textbook producers for instant. Ingram have worked with Microsoft (interestingly to help Microsoft "catch up with Google"). Want to help publishers get into digital publishing arena. Books are produced, scanned and go into file and body of content can go into on-demand and digital distribution process. Publishers opt in to possible print/distribution method. Curiously this starts with scanning rather than publishing file. For out of print books this is great - it means they are back in print (by demand) but for new books going straight to print on demand it seems a little odd not to cut out the scanning stage.

Mini widgets (the "next big thing") - these are flash based and can be copied and pasted into MySpace , websites etc. Allows content back on server to be accessed (with publisher-selected restrictions on what is available). This can support a library OPAC - 1st chapter, 5% of book etc. could be available as a starting point to choosing a book to purchase/borrow. A "completely new way" to support a library OPAC.

James now demonstrates usage of integrated metadata on MyiLibrary. Chapters, TOCS, full text etc. are far more searchable than traditional MARC records alone and thus allow new types of discovery. You can link from the search to the text in the (e)book.

Aligning print and eBooks - this means ISBNs etc are linked together to make available formats more obvious and transparent. Talking with Swets etc. about doing this.

Model for Consortia Shared Digital Repositories
Ingram are working with library consortia in the US to link together the content for the consortia and allowing individual libraries to select which parts of a package they select from that consortial collection

Future Distribution
Broadening distribution supply chain and seeing how content is used in different areas. Multimodal usage particularly coming into textbook market. Video and Q&A sessions, reformatting/remixing, note sharing etc. can all be built into textbooks delivered digitally. Various examples shown in the presentation show the various viewing/usage options.

Content is starting to be made available and then the component parts link content together so that users and students can get exactly what they want, when they want it from wherever they want.

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