ATG Book of the Week: The Family Business: How Ingram Transformed the World of Books

by | Apr 22, 2021 | 0 comments

Title: The Family Business: How Ingram Transformed the World of Books
Author: Keel Hunt, Forward by Tim O’Reilly
Hardcover: 978-1513267210, $24.97
Imprint: Berkeley, California: West Margin Press, 2021

The first book to tell the story of one of the world’s most influential media businesses, The Family Business draws on more than 70 interviews with company insiders as well as book-industry luminaries to present the Ingram story and how a little-known Nashville-based company grew to play a pivotal role in transforming book publishing around the world.

The history of the Ingram Content Group is one of the most important and remarkable business stories that almost no one knows. Launched as a favor to a family friend, it started as a local textbook distributor―one tiny division within a thriving corporation focused on oil, construction supplies, and shipping. It grew into the world’s largest book wholesaler, then into the most influential and innovative supplier of infrastructure and services to publishers around the world.

Over the past 50 years, from its headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, Ingram has played a pivotal role in modernizing the book business. Two members of the founding family have led the way: Bronson Ingram, a tough-minded industrialist who instinctively recognized a golden opportunity to apply modern efficiencies to antiquated logistical systems, and Bronson’s son John Ingram, an “intrapreneur” with a keen understanding of both the opportunities and the risks created by the new digital technologies. Led by these two brilliant managers, Ingram has used its unparalleled industry-wide connections to help transform book publishing from a tradition-bound business into a dynamic, global twenty-first century powerhouse…

The Family Business is the first book to recount the story of this strategic powerhouse that everyone in the publishing industry does business with, and that practically everyone admires―but that few people really understand. A must-read for people in the book business and the world of media, and anyone else who wants to understand how this vastly influential industry really works, this book fascinates with the story of the ways today’s electronic information technologies are transforming the world.


Editorial Reviews

“There’s one company responsible for bringing just about every book you’ve ever read into your life, and you may not even know it exists. In The Family Business, author and journalist Keel Hunt charts the history and contributions of Ingram Content Group, a little-known, family-owned business based in Tennessee that has shaped the publishing world for 50 years.” ― BookPage

“We often take companies like Ingram for granted, they are a mostly invisible part of how the economy operates. Yet the role they play is crucial for entrepreneurs and large companies alike. Ingram turbocharged our entry into an existing distribution ecosystem. All of this makes me appreciate Ingram even more deeply. Ingram is a company that has always served its partners, growing as we grow and never at our expense. Reading this history I learned how Ingram’s process of constant reinvention began long before the current era. This is a story rich in both inspiration and practical lessons for any business that intends to stick around for the long haul.” ― Tim O’Reilly, founder, CEO, and Chairman of O’Reilly Media (from the foreword)

“My longstanding respect and appreciation for Ingram’s enormous contributions to book publishing have always been matched by curiosity over how this privately-held company came to be so essential to our business for so long. As only an insider can do so authoritatively, Keel Hunt has entertainingly relayed so much I never would have known about the story of the Ingram family and organization, and their indelible impact on the book economy and our culture.” ― Madeline McIntosh, CEO, Penguin Random House US

“Comprehensive account . . . an inside look at one of the publishing industry’s key players. . . Anyone interested in learning about the modern history of book publishing would do well to check this out.” ― Publisher’s Weekly

“Ingram has proven itself time and again to be an ideal partner―trustworthy, innovative, resourceful, relentlessly self-improving, and even visionary. Reading The Family Business, it is a deep pleasure to see the creativity and commitment to principle through which the company’s leaders forged its present-day excellence. The book is a history of our industry as well as of one company, and the accounts of Ingram’s navigation of crises and opportunities provide business lessons that I will carry forward gratefully.” ― Michael Pietsch, CEO, Hachette Book Group


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