Book Market Outlook — El-hi, Potter Hold Keys To Success

By Erik Cagle

“Give ’em hell, Harry!” That’s the rally cry for both trade publishers and their print production suppliers, who eagerly await the next installment in the Harry Potter series (give ’em hell J.K. Rowling would be more accurate).

And why not? The four-book (and counting) children’s fantasy series from Scholastic has sold a staggering 150 million copies worldwide (70 million in the United States), and many of the leading U.S. book printers have dipped their toes in the Potter pool. Who needs an Oprah plug when you have a multi-faceted marketing machine that has licensed movies, trading cards, action figures and all things Harry.

Top 10 — Book Printers
  Company Segment
1 Quebecor World
$693 $6,300
2 R.R. Donnelley
$688 $5,298
3 Banta Corp.
Menasha, WI
$335 $1,457
4 Von Hoffmann
Saint Louis
$305 $407
5 Bertelsmann Arvato
New York
$257 $339
6 Courier Corp.
N. Chelmsford, MA
$211 $211
7 Phoenix Color
Hagerstown, MD
$130 $130
8 Taylor Publishing
$114 $114
9 Walsworth Publishing
Marceline, MO
$84 $84
10 Webcrafters Inc.
Madison, WI
$80 $80
Sales figures are based on above printers’
self-reported total and market segment breakdowns.

But one little boy cannot be the savior for an entire print production industry segment.

Peter Tobin, executive vice president for Courier Corp., North Chelmsford, MA, characterized 2002 as a challenging year. Courier concentrates on three segments: education, religious and specialty trade. Education and religious fared better than specialty trade, according to Tobin.

“A lot of the major publishers had directives to keep down their working capital, their expenditures, so they did things like manage their reprints very carefully in order to keep inventories low,” Tobin says.

“That had an impact on the market. We found that the religious publishing market was strong in 2002; we had a good year with that.”

Courier’s 2002 fiscal year began in October 2001, at a time when cautious publishers cut inventories to the bone. As the year wore on, publishers found the need to reorder product; meanwhile, demand increased on the secondary education side. The elementary-high school (el-hi) market provided modest success and the religious sector enjoyed a solid year.

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