Ingram Greenlight and LSI POD

This morning I thought I noticed a surge in the number of titles Ingram is listing as Greenlight in their online catalog. I tried to Google up some current information on the Greenlight program, but all I could find were some references from the late 1990's and a single PDF document on the Ingram Book site that mentioned Greenlight on a form. Back in the mid-90's when we were publishing on offset and trying to get our books included in the Ingram catalog, it seems to me that Greenlight was an option we looked at and didn't sign up for, but that may just be my imperfect memory. Ingram was trying to grow their catalog at the time so they could become a one-stop source for bookstores and online resellers, and the Greenlight program was supposed to handle low demand titles.

Some titles from LSI (Lightning Source Inc.), the sister company of Ingram Book that serves as the main POD (print-on-demand) printer for the industry, are now listed as Greenlight in the Ingram catalog. It looks to me like one of the factors affecting whether LSI POD titles are listed Greenlight is the distribution discount. A friend recently changed the discount on several of his LSI titles from 25% to 50%, and they were all changed to the Greenlight program. I notice that a lot of slower selling Wiley titles, including some Dummies books, are also in that Ingram program, and Wiley does mention on their site that their POD books are not returnable.

Since Ingram stopped showing the LSI graphic on POD books a couple months ago, I'm not sure whether having titles listed as "Greenlight" in the Ingram catalog is a good thing or a bad thing for the publishers. For example, some of the Wiley titles listed as Greenlight at Ingram are heavily discounted in the Amazon catalog, but others carry no discount at all. A heavy discount at Amazon can be a positive thing, especially if Amazon is weighting search results and Also Bought sorts with a discount factor. A quick search of the Ingram catalog shows that many titles from all the major trades (McGraw-Hill, Random House, St. Martin, Tor, Bantam, every publisher I checked at random) are listed as Greenlight, and since some Audio books are included, it's clearly not limited to LSI POD.

Since this morning is the first time I ever looked to see how widely the Greenlight designation was being used in the Ingram catalog, I don't know if this is a recent event. As I look into it further (I'm writing this post in real-time) it becomes obvious that returnability isn't a factor asmany Greenlight titles are listed as "returnable." Some even have the old green warning "Backorder now from DC Pairs" which is the kiss of death for impulse sales. It seems like the only way to determine from an information only Ingram account whether or not a title is printed by LSI is the virtual stocking number in the TN warehouse, either exactly 100 or 100 plus a few copies that are physically in stock. It also means there's no causal tie between LSI and Greenlight. I can't even find a correlation between Greenlight books printed by LSI and the Amazon discount, though that may be due to Amazon having existing stock of these titles.

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