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Book Printing Outlook : Trade, Higher Ed Better

December 2009 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
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IT IS fascinating to note what market influence the recession has visited on the book market, beyond the tempering of consumer confidence. The 2009 campaign's slump has not only impacted how much we read, but what we read. But even in an atmosphere of printing platform right sizing and other business-related reconciliation, it is difficult to take any view but an optimistic one of the past year and the coming fortunes in 2010.

Some of North America's largest book manufacturers have instituted programs, installed equipment and forged partnerships with technology providers in an effort to stay several steps ahead of the needs of their clients, despite downward pressure on capex funds. These efforts seemed to have cushioned what could have been a truly atrocious 2009.

RR Donnelley of Chicago uses its domestic and Asian platforms to play ball in the trade and education sectors. According to Ed Lane, president of Book & Directory, the company enjoyed a solid performance in the trade realm. While Harry and his wizard friends didn't drive the trade sector's growth this year, the Windy City printer enjoyed work from the wave of vampires and werewolves that have caught the public's attention.

Needs Are Being Met

"We saw publishers requiring capabilities that coincided with our platform's strengths," Lane notes. "For example, inventory management is playing a greater role in helping to contain costs. The ability to respond quickly when titles take off, and the flexibility to use an international production resource in order to optimize cycle times and costs, are especially at a premium."

Lane feels the biggest book segment victim of the 2009 economy was the elementary-high school (el-hi) sector, with state budget shortfalls either delaying or eliminating adoptions. Increasing college enrollment enabled the overall higher education sector to enjoy growth, while the general economic doldrums retarded the growth rate of Asian production for RR Donnelley.

A range of one- and four-color digital solutions buoyed the printer's conventional offerings and allowed it to offer customers the ability to produce quantities from one to a million units as publishers sought to improve their turnaround times and reduce inventories. Included in these initiatives was the exclusive agreement with Muller Martini to create the first high-speed, in-line ink-jet printing and book binding system. RR Donnelley will take delivery of the first six integrated systems in the United States in 2010 and 2011, according to Lane.



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