This week I had the pleasure of visiting Ingram’s UK headquarters which is also their print and distribution facility in Milton Keynes (just up the road from Amazon). Zaccmedia uses their facilities for most of our book titles. Ingram are the world’s largest book distributor, a mantle earned by its immense presence in the US marketplace. They work with some of the biggest book publishers in the business, providing backlist titles for Penguin, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and giant academic book publisher, Pearson, amongst many others. Books going back to the 17th century are made available to the world through its trade quality print on demand technology. Putting old and often out of copyright information back into circulation is often referred to as content aggregation, and is another new business born out of Ingram’s print service.
This is a facility through which I have had printed many thousands of books. But this is dwarfed by their overall volume. They digitally print as many as 15-20,000 books per day. Unique to the print on demand service, a vast number of these books are single unit printed books on order from one of their many thousands of distribution channels. It is this approach to printing that has revolutionised self-publishing. Keeping up with technology, Ingram are in the process of swapping all their printing machines from toner to more advanced inkjet models. You can tell a toner printed book, as when you move your fingers across the text on the page you will feel it is slightly raised off the paper. Inkjet inks are absorbed into the paper, so are smooth to the touch. The inkjets provide a more consistant ink spread and arguably a better quality black & white image on the interior.
As I am given a tour of this large facility I marvel at the amount of stock paper they hold. They stock this amount because the turnaround times for having new batches delivered can be weeks, as much of it is sourced from abroad. They wouldn’t want to run out and be found wanting on this level of daily printing. These enormous barrels of paper provide an idea as to the volume of information that is printed and distributed out of these factory doors.
The floor’s shipping out zone displays the different distribution stations that Amazon has in the UK. Just over twenty years ago, Ingram originally opened their UK operation in Milton Keynes to be near Amazon’s then largest hub, which lies just a few motorway stops down the M1. Since then, Amazon have expanded their operation to other UK facilities. Amazon’s most centralised and largest UK distribution hub is their one million square feet premises in Dunfermline on the M90, close to the junction with the A92. The vast building equates to an area of 14 football pitches.
Zaccmedia is connected to Ingram, a world leader in not only print on demand book production, but more importantly, book distribution. They supply Amazon and thousands of other wholesalers and retailers, making books available worldwide. Author’s can print books in the UK, USA and Australia providing localised shipping.
Take a look at their impressive facility below (photographs by Paul Stanier):
– Paul Stanier