2005 Book Market Outlook — El-hi Fuels Some Optimism

By Erik Cagle

Senior Editor

The book printing industry in America cannot live on Harry Potter’s whimsy and Oprah Winfrey’s blessings to survive in an environment that’s losing share to overseas competition.

Hit titles such as the J.K. Rowling line of Potter tomes, and the popularity heft that the afternoon talk show queen can put behind a new or backlisted work, can create a stir in both the publishing and printing industries. What the leading book manufacturers from our Printing Impressions 400 are looking for is consistency from the educational market.

Top 10 Book Printers
  Company Segment
1 Quebecor World
$704 $6,400
2 RR Donnelley
$656 $8,204
3 Banta Corp.
Menasha, WI
$383 $1,418
4 *Von Hoffmann Corp.
St. Louis
$323 $498
5 Courier Corp.
N. Chelmsford, MA
$202 $202
6 Phoenix Color
Hagerstown, MD
$136 $136
7 Taylor Publishing
$114 $114
8 Walsworth Publishing
Marceline, MO
$97 $97
9 Cenveo
Englewood, CO
$86 $1,728
10 Maple-Vail Book Mfg.
York, PA
$79 $79
Sales figures are based on above printers’ self-reported total and market segment breakdowns.

*Von Hoffmann has been acquired by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) and DLJ Merchant Banking Partners. Its revenue figures do not represent segment and total sales for the new enterprise.

Given President Bush’s reaffirmation of his “No Child Left Behind” act and good news in terms of high rollout adoption cycles, 2005 and beyond bodes extremely well in the elementary-high school (el-hi) sector.

For Robert Mathews, president and CEO of St. Louis-based Von Hoffmann Corp., 2004 represented a swing year as the overall market transitions from the weakness that was evident in late 2001, 2002 and 2003 to a campaign that showed momentum and stabilization.

In specific markets, four-color non-education products enjoyed strong growth in 2004 for Von Hoffmann. And while Mathews believes that the educational book market tends to lag an economic recovery by 12 to 18 months, his company is seeing demand building for educational products in its design and premedia businesses as publishers embark on new title development. The best could well be yet to come, from an educational standpoint.

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