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

The success enjoyed by Courier was bolstered by $30 million that had been invested in equipment and technology upgrades in 2000 and 2001, according to Tobin. “In 2002, we really worked at filling additional capacity as a result of the investment,” he says. “Because the market was quieter, we kept our capital initiatives more to maintenance and improving internal efficiencies.

“That said, we increased our share of volume with customers who were interested in one-stop shopping. We did more component manufacturing, assembly, kitting and media procurement for them because we found that, in a challenging economic market, publishers were really interested in partnering with us to handle every component of a print job—complete project management.”

Tobin notes that Courier is working closely with clients to help them realize cost savings. Areas such as Web-based preflighting and online proofing have resulted in both cost and time savings. Additionally, business-to-business transactions over the Web that allow customers to handle orders online can speed up the overall process.

“We’ve had a strong focus this year on cost management and improving plant efficiency, all to accomplish more in shorter periods of time,” Tobin states. “Customers’ needs for turn times on jobs have become compressed. Because publishers are so concerned with managing their inventories to such a close level, they allow less time to get books manufactured, and we have risen to that.”

Consumer confidence will play a vital role in 2003’s fortunes, according to Tobin. State and federal funding for educational materials will impact the el-hi market; for now, adoptions appear to be near 2002 levels, while 2004 looks to be the rebound year.

“Fortunately, the next Harry Potter title is supposed to be published by the middle of 2003,” he adds. “That creates enormous demand for print.”

Jerry Allee, Book Group president for Quebecor World, also saw a Jeckyl/Hyde pattern to the fiscal 2002 season. From Quebecor World’s perspective, the first six months of the year, in comparison to 2001, were strong. As of press time, the second half of the year, while still stronger than its predecessor, has weakened overall as publishers are now delaying reprints and firming orders at the last minute. Consumer trade (fiction and non-fiction) is a concern as publishers are forecasting a modest holiday sell through.

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