Book Printing–Mixed Results, Mixed Future

Quebecor World is one of several mainstream printers branching out into technological peripherals. The Montreal-based printing giant boasts a company called Intellia, which concentrates on content creation, Website development and e-commerce programming. It also owns a Web portal called Canoe, the Canadian answer to America

Online. E-books appear to be a natural extension of these initiatives.

Allee characterized 1999 as a relatively flat year, with growth approximated at 11⁄2 percent and taken into context of units produced, which he feels is a more accurate measure than sales. Quebecor World had that area covered as well, generating an estimated $739 million, up from the $420 million the previous year, buoyed by the integration of World Color Press, which was acquired during the summer.

Adult trade, particularly paperbacks, and the educational segments enjoyed a stellar 1999 campaign, but the Bible market took a hit, as 1998 inventories were still being depleted by publishers. Mass market paperbacks also didn’t fare as well—a result of market erosion occurring within the publishing companies. The mail-order book market slumped somewhat, as well.

Despite increased volatility, R.R. Donnelley & Sons, headquartered in Chicago, enjoyed a surprisingly strong year coming off a disappointing 1998, according to Mike Allen, president of R.R. Donnelley Book Publishing Services.

“Publishing partners are trying to relate to shorter cycle times brought about because of the Internet and other electronic publishing modes,” Allen says. “They’re trying to draw down their inventories, and they’re making later and later decisions about how they want to construct their content, because they’re trying to decide which content is best suited for electronic distribution and what content is for print.”

Donnelley witnessed an increase of roughly 5 percent to 7 percent in the consumer segment, far and above the 1 percent to 4 percent that had been forecasted, particularly closer to the low end of the range. Allen doesn’t foresee the trend continuing, however, but does see good news ahead for the education segment, which also surprised the company in 1999 and should take off for the next two years, due to state funding and major adoption cycles. And while the religious segment was up a whopping 20 percent, the professional, university and reference markets—small niches for Donnelley—were all flat.

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