We Get to Know: Ibolya Nemeth

25th September 2019

In this We Get to Know series, we spoke with the people behind Bob Books, as we reveal our new logo and brand refresh. 

Ibolya Nemeth is Managing Director of Bob Books. She joined the business more than 12 years ago following 7 years at the BBC. 

Hi Ibolya! I’d love to hear a bit about your background, what areas did you work in before becoming MD at Bob Books?

I left Hungary and came to England over 20 years ago to learn English and work as an Au-pair. I fell in love with London so much so that I ended up staying. My first proper job was working as a manager at the Odeon Leicester Square, which was Europe’s biggest cinema at the time. This experience helped me to get a job at the BBC, where I worked for several years in various areas, ranging from BBC Audiobooks, retail and magazines.

What was your knowledge of print-on- demand, the photo book world before you started at Bob Books?

Before meeting John Brown (Chairman of Bob Books), who offered me the job, I knew more about publishing than print-on-demand. Photo books were quite unheard of, and people at the BBC thought I was mad to leave such a dynamic and large corporation for a small start-up photobook company called ‘Bob Books’. I had my doubts, but as soon I got my teeth into it and discovered the business’ potential, which combined cutting edge technology with the tradition and craft of book binding and publishing, I knew I’d made the right decision.

You've been with BB family from the very beginning, so 12 years ago, what are some of the most significant changes in the photo book market you've seen?

When we launched, our books were originally printed in Switzerland, and we had about a handful of products that weren’t Mac compatible, (hard to imagine now I know). This was a very big issue given how many designers wanted to use us but were wholly reliant on Macs. So that was a huge priority to resolve in those early days, to find a creative solution and optimise our business model. From there we pioneered many other products such as our lay-flat lustre photobooks and matte paper books.

There have been many other photobook companies on the market, many haven’t succeeded or have disappeared. Others have decided to adopt a more commercial and more down-market approach to cut costs which ultimately mean they have compromised on quality. This has also meant they have lost track of what their customers want. Bob Books aside, the market as a whole has shifted towards discounting and selling volume, which is a pity as it diminishes the value in the reason people make a photobook- to see that level of quality in something they’ve made from their sitting room. For me, it’s never been a more exciting time to work in this industry with the growing opportunity to support creativity and visual communication through a digital format.

You are a connoisseur of photo books, and make lots to this day, what is it about the medium that still excites you?

I would have never imagined still working at Bob Books after all these years. But truthfully, it's because I still get so much excitement from making books myself. No holiday or special occasion passes by without me committing the memories to a book. It’s always a joy to see my children re-living great moments as they flick through one of our old holiday books. I also gift a lot of books to friends and family. In fact, it’s become a bit of a problem now, as everyone expects me to make one for them! Creating your own photobook is so quick and simple now and the immediacy is highly gratifying. Without the need to be visually trained, the technology allows you to express yourself creatively and indulge in the pleasure of making a beautiful book using all pictures stored away on your phone. One of the many joys about my job is that I get to see other people’s books and how these bring their stories to life.

What do you think Bob Books will look like in 5-10 years? Are there any permutations in the photo book market you predict?

While some of the market in Europe has slowed down, the UK is still growing. Some people have not yet fully embraced how easy and creative making a book can be. Technology is at the forefront of what’s happening next. As a business we cannot be complacent, we have to continue to push the boundaries of what is possible with our products. I believe cross platform utilisation is where we need continued focus. Customers need to be able to develop their projects, seamlessly, on whatever device they are using, without technical restrictions.

I firmly believe that the printed page remains as fundamental a form of expression and communication as it ever has in the digital age. New and old technologies co-exist beautifully within the photobook world and have a crucial role to play in allowing more people access to express themselves, and making their images, their stories, accessible to a wider audience.

Who is your typical Bob Books customer? 

Our customers’ demographic and photographic experience spans a large range. From an incredible new project by an emerging young photographer, to a wildlife enthusiast to a new mother wanting to document those first years. From designers and architects to people celebrating life and making a photobook for their father’s 80th birthday. What’s remarkable is watching someone’s life in a book- just glancing at our bookshop, it is wonderful to see how Bob Books is really for everybody.

Thanks Ibolya!
Want to learn more about our story? Find a rather nice timeline here.