Book Printing–Mixed Results, Mixed Future

BY ERIK CAGLE

Imagine laying on the beach with a blanket, some sunblock, an umbrella—and the laptop computer cued to the latest book by your favorite author.

Too futuristic sounding to be taken seriously? That future may not be as far away as you think.

Most people still would not want to get sand in their keyboard, or curl up in bed or next to a fireplace with a good PC, which indicates that the health of the printed book is not in immediate danger.

“As long as we have the three “Bs”—the bedroom, bathroom and the beach—the traditional book will remain,” laughs Jerry Allee, president of Quebecor World Book Services, based in Greenwich, CT. “People are more apt to use a regular book in that context rather than an electronic reader.”

Top 10 Book Printers
  Company Segment
Sales
(millions)
Total Sales
(millions)
1 R.R. Donnelley & Sons
Chicago
$800.00 $5,000.00
2 Quebecor World*
Montreal
$739.00 $6,160.00
3 Jostens Inc. Minneapolis $655.00 $771.00
4 Von Hoffmann Corp.
Owensville, MO
$400.00 $400.00
5 Banta Corp.
Menasha, WI
$294.00 $1,340.00
6 Bertelsmann Arvato
Berryville, VA
$170.00 $240.00
7 Courier Corp.
North Chelmsford, MA
$162.00 $162.00
8 GTC Transcontinental
Montreal
$112.00 $866.00
9 Phoenix Color
Hagerstown, MD
$108.00 $108.00
10 Taylor Publishing
Dallas
$101.00 $101.00
*Combined proforma data as of 12/31/98

Allee and a number of book printers are intrigued about the possibilities offered by electronic books, or e-books, as the 20th century draws to a close. Electronic readers, presently $400 to $600, are prohibitive for the mainstream market, but he feels the adoption of the technology will increase dramatically once the threshold reaches the $100 mark.

Allee feels the higher education and reference market segments will be most influenced from the onset of electronic books. He believes the reference sector will lead the way as the demand for instant information increases.

“We’re already seeing people looking at connecting software content into formats that can be downloaded into e-books,” he says. “We’re going to be a part of that through some acquisitions our parent company has made on the content management side. This is not something we view as a threat, but rather as an opportunity to build new revenue streams tied to content management.”

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