5 Minutes with Ian Synge

5 Minutes with Ian Synge

Ian Synge is a Principal Consultant at Ixxus with particular specialisation in knowledge management, taxonomies, and categorisation. He has delivered projects for major international organisations in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia focusing on helping them dynamically make sense of large datasets. Ian has a longstanding enthusiasm for knowledge organization; his Ph.D. thesis (Aberystwyth, 2002) focused on the taxonomic interpretation of naval diplomacy during the late cold war.


What was the last book you read?

I’m one of these people who has a colossal TBR pile, so I’ll generally have several on the go at once, but the last one I actually finished was Rinker Buck’s The Oregon Trail which is an amazing fusion of social history of the American West and a frank travelogue memoir about family, discovery, and what it means to be happy.

How did you buy it?

Impulsively in a book store, which is often the best way of discovering something!

And what did you read it on?

Does it say something that I initially read this as asking what device I consumed it on? It was paperback, or as an old colleague would say, a p-book. I’ve no objection to electronic consumption and am an avid user of the Kindle app on my phone, but there is something about the tactile pleasure of a physical format book. In terms of what I read it on or where I read it? Well it involved planes, trains, and very mundanely, the laundrette.

What’s next on your reading list?

Which one should I pick, there are so many! I’m looking forward to finishing Oceans Ventured by Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy, John Lehman, and I’ll probably start Tommy Barnes’ A Beer in the Loire as my commuting book pretty soon.

Which writer would you have loved to have met and why?

What a tough question! I suspect I’d go for Paddy Leigh Fermor to get the real full story of what he didn’t say in his trilogy about walking to Istanbul in the 1930s, and of course his command of language and experiences across the 20th century I suspect mean that he was a fount of unique stories.

You’re stranded on a desert island. What three books would you want with you?

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, The Normans in the South by John Julius Norwich, and The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst.

Tell us what you do in 20 words.

I identify publishers’ challenges and implement technology solutions that reinvent the way they derive value from data and content.

Which imprints do you most admire and why?

I think what Unbound is doing is really exciting in terms of bringing out books that might not otherwise get through the publishing process. I think it also encourages authors to deepen their engagement with the audience, which means readers are inherently more invested in the success of the industry.

Does the publishing industry understand technology?

Both yes and no – in some ways there are some really exciting, dynamic things being done in terms of harnessing technology, but there’s still more to be done to unlock how technology can deliver real value rather than the perhaps more humdrum greater efficiencies in production process.

How does social media aid the publishing industry?

It means authors and readers can interact in so many different ways, which builds engagement, context, and ownership.

Which is your favourite bookshop or e-bookstore and why?

As a huge supporter of high street bookshops, I’m going to go for my local, The Beckenham Bookshop, near where I live in South London. Its owner, Kelly, provides an incredible personal service which shows why bookshops are part of the glue that sticks communities together. I was also lucky enough to visit Powell’s in Portland, OR earlier this year, and that’s a place I could happily move into!

Name your favourite app and why.

Maybe controversial and absolutely not without its shortcomings, but I use Amazon Kindle on my phone a lot. I remember how I’d used to be stuck on a business trip with a book I wasn’t getting on with, and the arrival of Kindle transformed things, meaning I was never likely to be left staring into the middle distance.

Go on, let us know your musical guilty pleasure.

Does Taylor Swift count?

And your one from the world of fiction?

I probably shouldn’t be ashamed of this, but I do have a massive soft spot for the ‘cozy crime’ genre.

Which great novel have you tried to read but failed?

August 1914 by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Have given it a number of goes and it just doesn’t work for me.

What was your first job?

Leaving aside the predictable teenage bar work I suspect everyone did, my first ‘proper’ job was sitting in the National Library of Ireland trying to recreate birth, marriage, and death records from the mid-19th century.

And your first in the book industry?

I was editor for a pretty niche B2B risk publication. I’m amazed when I think back on it, right from the start, it exposed me to so much that was involved in publishing, all the way from commissioning to page proofs, and everything in between.

Ixxus is a sponsor of the Academic & Scholarly Stream at The London Book Fair 2019.

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