Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Phil Ollila

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  We must wonder now, how will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations can help us understand the outlines of what is happening in the publishing industry, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in and around the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

Philip Ollila (widely known as Phil in the book industry) is the Chief Content Officer of Ingram Content Group Inc., one of the largest distributors of book content and providers of digital printing in the North American book industry.  Phil is responsible for Ingram Content Group’s publisher facing business, and has been instrumental in leading the transformation of Ingram from a traditional wholesale service provider, into what is now a fully integrated solutions company for clients. Ingram combines wholesale distribution, print-on-demand, digital distribution, inventory management and comprehensive worldwide services for both physical and digital content.

Phil leads a number of Ingram business units including wholesale merchandising, Lightning Source, Ingram Publisher Services and digital distribution through CoreSource® and also heads up Ingram Content Group marketing.  Before joining Ingram, where he has held several leadership positions, he was Vice President of Marketing and Merchandising for Borders.

Anyone in the book business, and many people outside it know about Ingram.  It is one of the two large book wholesalers transitioning from a key role in the physical supply chain between publishers and retailers.  Perhaps earlier than any other large company in the industry, Ingram had the foresight to invest in a range of services that would enhance their offerings to both their suppliers (mainly publishers) and their customers (bookstores, libraries and many other retailers).  In many ways, it is only the two large former traditional wholesalers, Ingram and its competitor Baker & Taylor that have the unique perspective and ability to act as really powerful and influential transformative agencies as the book business evolves into a combination of print and digital products.

Phil Ollila is therefore now in a key role at a tremendously interesting and  fast moving business that possesses a great deal of information valuable to publishers and to anyone interested in how publishing, books and readers will interact in the future, both near term and much, much farther into the future.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Rich Freese

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals and other smart people about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.  We must wonder now, how will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and  economics?

I hope these Publishing Talks conversations will help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in and around the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

Rich Freese is well known in the book business as a successful member of a very small “fraternity” of distribution experts who work in and understand the intricacies of sales, marketing, warehousing, logistics, and balancing customer and client relationships.  He has worked in publishing for his entire adult life.  He’s a smart, dedicated and forward looking professional.  Rich worked for independent publisher distributor National Book Network for a number of years, moved on to run Motorbooks International, a specialist publisher and distributor, then became President of west coast based Publishers Group West, and after a brief stop establishing a distribution division for the printer, Bookmasters, and has now returned to be the President of NBN, which is based in Lanham, Maryland.

Because book distributors stand in the middle of the supply chain, their worldview is often broader than other entities within the book business.   Rich’s breadth and depth of experience in publishing and distribution gives him a unique vantage point from which to view and understand the publishing industry.  I thought it would be interesting to talk to him broadly about his current perspective on the ongoing changes in the industry, with some special reference to developing e-book distribution models, the particular issues for independent publishers, and the evolution of publishing models.  This talk ought to be particularly useful for independent publishers and anyone interested in their future in a chaotic, challenging marketplace for books.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Jason Epstein

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.

How will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and its economics? Publishing Talks interviews help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends.
I believe these interviews give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed within the industry.

Jason Epstein has led one of the most creative careers in book publishing of the past half century. In 1952, while a young editor at Doubleday, he created Anchor Books, which launched the so-called ‘paperback revolution’ and established the trade paperback format. In the following decade he became cofounder of The New York Review of Books. In the 1980s he created the Library of America, the prestigious publisher of American classics, and The Reader’s Catalog, the precursor of online bookselling. For many years, Jason Epstein was editorial director of Random House.   He is the recipient of many awards, including the Curtis Benjamin Award of the American Association of Publishers for inventing new kinds of publishing, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the National Book Critics Circle for creative publishing, and the National Book Award for distinguished contribution to American Letters.  As an editor, he worked with many well-known novelists, including Norman Mailer, Vladimir Nabokov, E. L. Doctorow, Philip Roth, and Gore Vidal, and important non-fiction writers as well.

Most recently he has spearheaded the creation of the Espresso Book Machine as co-founder of On Demand Books, and is the author of Book Business: Publishing Past, Present, and Future and numerous articles and essays.

For me it was a great honor and pleasure to talk to Mr. Epstein at his kitchen table, first about his incredible career in publishing, then about his current work with on-demand publishing, and of course, his many ideas about the future of books and publishing, all of which deserve the close attention of all of us who are trying to figure out where books, publishing and literary culture is headed.  His vision of the evolving future of the nature of publishing and the value of traditional editorial skillsets will be of particular interest to many listeners.

Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Morgan Entrekin

February 26, 2010 by  
Filed under PublishingTalks

entrekinIn this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I am talking to book industry professionals who have varying perspectives and thoughts about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses.
Publishing has been a crucial part of human culture for as long as people have been writing and reading.
How will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and its economics? Publishing Talks interviews help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds. Publishing Talks interviews give people in the book business a chance to talk about ideas and concerns in a public forum that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends.

I hope that Publishing Talks interviews will give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear about some of the thoughts, ideas and concepts that are currently being discussed by engaged individuals within the industry.

Morgan Entrekin is the iconic publisher of Grove Atlantic, one of the most prominent and successful midsized literary publishers of the past couple of decades.  He has all the chops of a “traditional” book publisher: a great commitment to authors and their texts, a belief in the enduring power of a great backlist. But he is also an astute marketer who understands readers and the necessity for publishers to pay attention to what readers want and need.

Entrekin grew up in Nashville, graduated from Stanford in 1977,  started in the business at Delacorte Press, working under the late, great Seymour Lawrence and editing the likes of Jayne Anne Phillips, Richard Brautigan, and Kurt Vonnegut. In 1982 he moved over to Simon & Schuster, where he made his name by championing, acquiring and editing Bret Easton Ellis’s breakout novel Less Than Zero.  In 1984 he created his own imprint within Atlantic Monthly Press, Morgan Entrekin Books and a few years later he bought Atlantic outright; two years after that, he purchased Grove Press, which featured one of the great backlists that included D.H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, and Samuel Beckett.

Entrekin’s gained well deserved fame and credit for publishing Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain in 1995. In the course of promoting the novel, Entrekin is credited with more or less creating the pre-publication tour, sending Frazier to meet book buyers in various cities before the book landed in stores. It paid off: Cold Mountain was a huge success, sold over 1.5 million copies, won the National Book Award, and was made into a big-budget Hollywood movie. Other notable Grove/Atlantic titles include Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down, Candace Bushnell’s Sex and the City, as well as the works of Sherman Alexie and P.J. O’Rourke.

We had a terrific talk, covering a wide range of interesting topics, from the current state of the book business, to the kinds of things that Entrekin is doing at Grove/Atlantic to stay current.  Morgan is thoughtful, intelligent and incisive on every topic he discusses; he cares deeply about the books he publishes, backlist and frontlist titles alike, and is clearly still motivated and excited by the same beliefs and ideas that brought him into the book business in the first place.   Anyone interested in understanding how a publisher can navigate the changing landscape of the business will benefit from listening to what he has to say in this interview.