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Book Printing Outlook : Addressing Evolving Needs

December 2012 By Erik Cagle, Senior Editor

If anything, the emergence of eBooks as an über niche tucked inside the book publishing space has provided more opportunities for the printing community to show off its diversity to publishing clients. Some of the nation's largest book printers have dug deep into their coffers to fortify printing capabilities and capacity, a sign of health despite an economy that refuses to break into full recovery mode.

2013 Top 5 Book Printers
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From digital formats to print-on-demand and traditional runs, in addition to warehousing, logistics and—in some cases—worldwide sourcing, the impact of the electronic book is certainly causing the nation's major book manufacturers to be nimble and adept at addressing the evolving needs of publishers.

Print runs numbering in the millions may not be business as usual in the 21st century, but most publishers have not curtailed the number of titles they've brought to market. Electronic books now rule the adult fiction segment, according to the BookStats 2012 study, co-produced by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group. E-book net sales revenue more than doubled in 2011 compared to 2010.

How bright is the future for books? Take a look at who's reading. The children's/young adult space ranked as the fastest-growing category in publishing during 2011, raking in a cool $2.78 billion. Religion showed strong growth as well, according to the study.

It would be premature to dig the grave of printed books, the electronic growth notwithstanding. Even with the demise of the Borders chain, brick-and-mortar retailers remained the No. 1 sales distribution channel for publishers in 2011, boasting net revenue of $8.59 billion. Publishers' revenue from direct-to-consumer sales nearly doubled, eclipsing $1 billion for the first time, according to BookStats.

It was a solid, steady year on the trade publishing side, with smaller initial print runs somewhat offset by strong reprint activity as publishers once again sought to manage their inventories very closely, notes Peter Tobin, vice president of North Chelmsford, MA-based Courier Corp. According to Tobin, publishers also seem to be publishing a consistent number of new titles, and the printer enjoyed considerable success in bringing in new clients.

On the higher education side, custom four-color textbooks—for several consecutive years—continue to be a burgeoning space as short runs for specific adoptions are where the growth is. Tobin has noticed a reduction in print quantities for traditional college textbooks, though not dramatic. The religious market was a consistent performer again for Courier in 2012, with both trade and scripture sales faring well.

 

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