Book Printing Outlook : Rolling With the Changes

Top 5 Book Printers

Courier Corp. added a pair of HP T410 digital inkjet web presses at its Kendallville, IN, facility this year.

It seems the love affair between hard-copy books and the reading public wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. Hence, the tendency to curl up next to the fireplace with a good e-reader is becoming more and more commonplace.

Digital books have certainly made their mark on the trade publishing side. According to BookStats 2013, which is co-produced by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group, e-books—driven by adult fiction and children’s/young adult—have grown 45 percent since 2011 and now constitute 20 percent of the trade market. The continued loss of brick-and-mortar stores and the lower cost of e-books will continue to grow that figure.

Despite the evolution, printed books are not exactly bound for life support systems. Printers have done a phenomenal job of positioning themselves to serve the changing needs of their publisher clients, from offering print-on-demand (POD) solutions and reducing inventory to providing drop-ship services that eliminate distribution hubs. The successful book manufacturer can provide multiple formats for publishers, help control their costs and reduce turnaround time.

In such a competitive sector, market and mind share are won by printers who aren’t afraid to morph alongside their clients.

Carbon Copy of 2012

Jeff Duening, vice president and general manager, books and directories, for Sussex, WI-based Quad/Graphics, echoed the sentiments of his industry colleagues in noting that 2013 has closely mirrored its predecessor. Duening notes that overall demand was weak and volume soft or declining across all segments during the third quarter, with mass-market paperbacks having a particularly tough quarter. Education has been a mixed bag: el-hi was impacted by budgetary challenges, while higher ed volume moved up slightly.

“For all segments, the trend toward short runs and more reprints continues,” Duening says. “Publishers are monitoring their inventories more closely than ever. They want to make sure a title has legs and will move off the shelf before they invest in a lot of inventory. E-book sales started showing signs of flattening (in 2012) and this year it appears the e-book market’s days of extreme double-digit growth have ended.”

Related Content
  • Werner R

    All of those statistics only cover the traditional titles. The true action is with the so-called "non-traditional titles." All thanks to easy to use computers and digital printing, we produce more books than ever. Annually, 4 million + titles are listed at the Library of Congress yet my friends down in the trenches tell me, many do not register their keep-sake books. Yes, these are low quantities. Markets do change. Ask suppliers of POD binding equipment and materials and you get the true story, all report record sales.
    Werner Rebsamen Prof. Emeritus RIT

  • Rob Mauritz

    I have to agree with Werner that sales in what he calls ‘non-traditional titles’ are very strong. LBS’ fiscal year ended October 31 and we trended upwards in comparison to 2012. December 2013 was the largest sales month in the company’s history. Publishers and book manufacturers along with material and equipment suppliers that are finding success have morphed themselves to meet the demands of the print and bind on-demand market.
    Rob Mauritz – LBS