Virtual inventory and Ingram’s
Ingram’s Alistair Pitts explains the advantages of virtual warehousing and how
ipage can help sell more books
What is ‘virtual inventory’
and how does it work?
inventory is the digital equivalent of a shelf in a storeroom or warehouse.
Just like the traditional version, the point is to have your books available the
moment someone wants them. The major distinction is that the space in a virtual
warehouse is essentially infinite. The vast improvement in the quality of print-on-demand
books since the technology was originally developed means that virtual
inventory is now a viable alternative or complement to traditional print models.
How does virtual inventory benefit publishers?
While print costs per unit are still higher for POD books than their
traditional offset counterparts, virtual inventory can be used to greatly
reduce the risk that copies will sit on a physical shelf costing money for months
before they find a buyer—or worse go unsold entirely and need to be destroyed.
The ability to print in or close to markets acts as an insurance policy against
unexpected disruptions to international supply chains, such as those resulting
from the Covid-19 pandemic. It also helps publishers and retailers to capitalize
quickly on opportunities—so if events or trends make the topic or theme of a
backlist book newly pertinent, copies can be dispatched rapidly.
And what about booksellers?
Having access to a huge catalogue of titles on demand allows bookshops to curate
their range to match the needs and interests of customers. It also means they
don’t miss out on a share of sales in the long tail of backlist books.
Readers aren’t always aware
that the bookshops they support can offer much more than is physically held in
store. Although some booksellers have understandably been wary of the potential
impact on footfall of having some form of virtual shop front, if organised well
it can be a great asset for communicating the breadth of choice that shops
offer, including titles that they might not always hold in physical stock.
How can publishers make their virtual inventory visible to booksellers?
Publishers who make their titles available for wholesale via Ingram are
automatically listed on ipage®, Ingram’s
book search and ordering platform. In the UK, Ingram offers free delivery of a
single copy of any title that a publisher has priced in GBP to any UK address.
This makes a bookseller’s cost-benefit calculation much simpler when deciding
whether to place an order. Typically, a paperback ordered via ipage will be
with a bookseller within a few working days, meaning that readers don’t have to
wait long for their new book. ipage is currently used by around 150 booksellers
in the UK, as well as in the US and Australia—and if rights allow, publishers
can also price their titles in USD and AUD to make them directly available in
these markets. Hundreds more retailers worldwide use ipage to source books from
the UK, the US or Australia.
Can I open an ipage account as a publisher?
While ipage is primarily designed for booksellers, it can be useful to have
an ipage account as a publisher so that you can see your books as they will
appear to retailers using the platform. You can begin the set-up process for a
view-only account here.
If you know booksellers who might find ipage useful, direct them here.