Yesterday I had a Grand Day Out at the Ingram premises near Milton Keynes. Months ago – I forget how – I came across the interesting fact that Ingram (a book distributor and now parent company to IngramSpark, the print-on-demand service that I use for my Sam Plank books) runs open days. You go along to their offices/factory and they give you a talk about their services, a tour of the printing bit and a sandwich lunch. I really, really wanted to see the printing bit and my husband, being a production engineer, is always up for touring a factory, so off we went. And I can highly recommend it as a day out.
The Ingram people we met were, without exception, extremely helpful. The open day I chose was geared specifically to IngramSpark clients – they also do days for people who use their more commercial printing services – and we were a mixed bunch, from one chap who said at the outset, Manuel-like, “I know nothing”, to those of us who had been through the POD mill and were vaguely familiar with most of the steps. That said, I did learn quite a few new things – for instance, I had always steered clear of IS’s Global Connect option but have now signed up, ready for the orders to come flooding in from India and China. And the printing process is a marvel to behold, from the giant rolls of paper (they have stocked up, given Brexit…) to the wonderful Infinitrim machine that grabs a stack of books in its mechanical arm and then – whoosh! – trims them all with a guillotine blade. (If I were the manufacturer I would have called it the Triminator and persuaded Arnie to advertise it.) And exactly as promised, the books are indeed printing on demand: you see them coming out of the Infinitrim and each book is different – it’s not a “print run” in the traditional sense but the fulfilment of thousands of orders for individual books. There is even a Tardis-like structure waiting to come into service to speed up sorting and packing the books after printing. (No photos: we had to sign non-disclosure agreements and pinky-swear to secrecy.) And the sandwiches are delicious.
Joking aside, I found the day useful for two main reasons. Firstly, we were shown all the paper types and cover finishes and trim sizes, so now I know what’s on offer. And secondly, we met the staff who will be the ones answering any IS queries – and they were so generous with their time that I feel confident that any POD problems I might have will be dealt with promptly and kindly. In these days of webchats with robots and emails to help departments that go unanswered for days, that’s something to be celebrated.