Forty Years in the Book Industry

The annual Book Industry Study Group (BISG) meeting took place on September 30th – coincidentally on the eve of its new Executive Director Brian O’Leary’s first day in his new job, October 3rd.  Almost one hundred members and industry participants came for the program and to celebrate BISG’s 40th anniversary.  Awards were also given out, the first one to Ingram Content Group’s John Ingram for “Excellence,” rather than, as in prior years, for lifetime achievement.  In an upbeat and humorous speech, Ingram told the assembled that he much preferred the new description, as he didn’t intend to retire to the golf course any time soon.  He accepted the award “on behalf of the 3,400-plus people” who work at Ingram.

A panel discussion on how the industry is being transformed was moderated by Sourcebooks CEO Dominique Raccah, who later won a BISG Industry Innovation Award.  The participants, John Ingram, Overdrive’s Steve Potash, Firebrand’s Fran Toolan and HarperCollinsChantal Restivo-Alessi, talked about the opportunities and the issues facing publishing.  Restivo-Alessi focused on backlist and international, while Potash cited metadata.  Ingram urged publishers to take more chances, even at the risk of failure.

Wiley’s Peter Balis reviewed what had happened in the last year, and how the board and membership is expanding, both in numbers and the variety of companies they represent.  A panel moderated by Peter Hildick-Smith that included Jeff Abraham, Angela Bole, Ken Brooks and Maureen McMahon (the incoming Chair of the Board) talked about their respective memories of BISG over the past years.

Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer of the City of New York, was supposed to be the end of the day keynote but, no surprise, he was called away to tend to a city crisis.  So Brian O’Leary had a chance to tell the audience BISG’s plans for the future.  It will be, he said, the “information hub” for the industry and will help it become more efficient on a global basis.  His remarks were met with enthusiasm and (given the recent turnover) a sense of relief that BISG was in very good, and experienced, hands.