lunchBOX interview 008
Vice President, Digital Services at Ingram Content Group.
23 February, 2021
lunchBOX: Hello, good day, and welcome to lunchBOX. On the menu today, we're delighted to welcome Marcus Woodburn, Vice President of Digital Services at Ingram Content Group.
Marcus is a former archaeologist, and is now a Brit abroad in the heartlands of Tennessee, Ingram's home state. We're looking forward to exploring his thoughts on the past, present and the future of accessibility and digital content.
We will, of course, answer the burning question of the day: what does he like for lunch? So, without further hesitation, let's find out. Bon appetit everyone...
1. Who are you and what do you do?
MW: I’m Marcus Woodburn, Vice President, Digital Services at Ingram Content Group. I manage the business side of some of Ingram’s digital services for publishers and retailers, such as CoreSource digital asset distribution, and Aerio, providing direct-to-consumer marketing and sales.
2. How did you come to be involved in the world of accessibility?
MW: I think that it began with an encounter at the Frankfurt Book Fair with the late Robin Seaman, from Bookshare/Benetech. I think she may have somewhat accosted me at a reception and her boundless energy infected me.
3. What does accessibility mean to you?
MW: Giving those who face challenges to read a level playing field in what is available to them, which should be everything.
4. What has been your biggest challenge in promoting accessibility?
MW: We work with both publishers and retailers, and getting the retailers to accept and populate their sites with accessibility information has been hard; thus publishers don’t see a need to add it. Very chicken and egg.
5. What’s been your biggest success in relation to accessibility?
MW: Partnering with Benetech/Bookshare to provide thousands of titles to them to be made available has been great. It’s something that we’re trying to grow participation in.
6. What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
MW: Solving problems and spotting opportunities – not necessarily two distinct concepts. And the people I get to work with.
7. How have you or your organization made a difference?
MW: Looking back over the last year, we were in the fortunate position to be able to help publishers, retailers and consumers. Having services for eBook and audiobook distribution, print-on-demand and direct-to consumer helped us to step in when the traditional supply chain basically collapsed. It was good to see many years of planning and strategy work come to fruition, and good to help our industry.
8. If you could click your heels and make one thing easier for yourself at work, what would it be?
MW: Keeping track of everything we’re involved in at a level that is useful, but not intrusive. Omnipresence would be kind of useful.
9. What is the most exciting development you’ve seen this year in the accessibility sector?
MW: The text-to-speech area is advancing rapidly and has the potential to vastly expand the number of audibly-accessible titles. New technologies that use machine learning and human voice inputs are quickly moving to the point where it will be difficult to tell whether an audiobook is machine- or human-read. We’re a little way off having flawless fiction, where intonation and mood are so important, but even there, as the number of human-read titles expands, there’s a growing base of content for machines to compare the text file with the human audio and learn from that.
10. Where do you see accessibility in 10 years? Any new developments you are keeping a close eye on?
MW: I believe that in ten years we have a really good chance of reaching a point where we don’t even speak about ‘accessible’ books, they just are. Same answer as above on the technologies – text-to-speech has the greatest opportunity to expand the corpus if accessible material.
11. How and where do you learn about new accessibility initiatives in the sector?
MW: Multiple sources – news, colleagues and contacts in publishing. We are also in a very fortunate position at Ingram in having companies that are exploring new technologies come to us, whether for investment or connection to content.
12. What or who is your accessibility inspiration?
MW: I’ve already mentioned Robin Seaman – she often seemed mad as a box of frogs, but her sheer enthusiasm for the cause and passion were truly an inspiration.
13. Which single accessibility tool do you use the most?
MW: I don’t, but I’m grateful for the Benetech Global Certified Accessible programme that provides full certification for accessible titles.
14. Tell us your favourite accessibility story.
MW: Less a story, more of a ‘well duh’ revelation. At one of our user groups we had Alice O’Reilly, from The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) at The Library of Congress, speak. She made a simple statement that really resonated with me – “the blind and reading challenged just want to read the same books as the rest of us, and they’d be happy to pay for them, just like we would’. Pathetically simple statement, but it was a bit of an eye-opener.
15. Which lunch would describe your organization and why?
MW: A mezze – lots of different dishes and flavours that work in concert with each other (mostly).
16. What would be your favourite setting for that lunch?
MW: Many moons ago, when I was an archaeologist, I was working in Jordan and lived in Shobak Castle. I’d go for the top of one of the towers looking out across the Jordanian landscape under a full moon.
17. Which 10 people from any time or place would you invite to your lunch?
Gertrude Bell, writer, traveller and archaeologist.
Iris Origo, biographer and writer.
Beth Chatto, gardener.
Louise Brooks, early movie star.
Michelle Obama (and she can bring her significant other too).
My great uncle, Arthur Woodburn, born in an Edinburgh slum in 1890, had 22 brothers and sisters (from the same mother!), became Secretary of State for Scotland.
Any Republican that can rationally and objectively explain to me why they believe anything that Donald Trump says. And be good company with the rest of the invitees.
18. What are you reading at the moment?
MW: I just finished Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn't Count by David Daley, which was a fascinating account of how gerrymandering, amongst other things, has successfully undermined democracy in the US. Now on to The Dun Cow Rib, John Lister-Kaye’s childhood autobiography – a lot less depressing. Here’s the bedside table:
19. What are the applications/services that you couldn’t live without at work or personally?
MW: In these days of pandemic:
Netflix and The Criterion Collection (hundreds of classic and independent films)
My local wine shop’s online ordering app.
Instagram, for some escapism.
eBay for sourcing art.
Microsoft Teams – love/hate relationship, but it has been a lifeline at work and home.
20. Anything totally secret to tell us? We’re amongst friends…
MW: I prefer physical books still, despite running the biggest eBook distribution system. (Sorry, boss.)
lunchBOX: Your secret is safe with us, Marcus.
Thank you so much for taking the time to join us for a suitably socially distanced (4,182 miles) lunch today. Ingram is an integral part of the publishing community and it's great to learn more about your work to improve accessibility across the industry.
Also fascinating to hear about your great-uncle. And thank you for the recommendation of the The Dun Cow Rib - order already placed. Good luck with tackling your bedside tsundoku!
Thank you for your patronage. We know that you could choose other luncheon establishments. We'll take care of the bill...
You can visit the Ingram Content Group website to learn more about the comprehensive range of services that Ingram offer the publishing industry.