Book Printing Outlook : Riding the Higher Ed Wave

Top 5 Book Printers in the 2011 Top 400 ranking. (Double click chart to enlarge.)

Higher ed has been nothing short of phenomenal, with its $4.5 billion in net sales representing a 23.1 percent increase since 2008.

El-hi (BookStats refers to it as K-12) registered 2010 net sales revenue of $5.51 billion, a net change of -6.2 percent. However, the entire loss can be attributed to a 12.4 percent decline from 2008 to 2009; the market rebounded from 2009 to 2010 with a 7.1 percent increase. It’s a segment at the mercy of federal and state funding and the legacy state adoption market systems.

The professional segment also flourished, growing to $3.75 billion in revenue for 2010, and a 6.3 percent growth rate during 2008-2010.

However, as 2011 draws to a close, it’s evident that the pinch being felt in the trade and el-hi markets is being felt at the book printer/manufacturer level. Brian Freschi, president of Retail, Books and Directories at Sussex, WI-based Quad/Graphics, points out that the demise of book retailer Borders eliminated a channel responsible for 15 percent of trade volumes in past years. This exacerbated the 7 percent annual decline in independent bookstores during the past decade.

“Higher ed shows ongoing single digit growth as adults return to school in the face of persistent unemployment,” Freschi notes. “However, el-hi shows single digit declines in the face of continued tight state budgets. Individual publishers fared quite differently; some were more successful with state adoptions than others.”

Freschi adds that book imports appear to have flattened as Chinese prices rise, turn times shorten, and concerns about sound environmental and safety policies make domestic production more attractive.

Quad/Graphics embarked on a pair of initiatives to help augment its revenue streams. It increased digital print-on-demand (POD) capacity by more than 500 percent with the addition of one- and four-color digital devices across its network, which bolsters its ability to offer publishers life-of-title support. In addition, Quad offers e-book 
conversions, providing publisher clients a single point of contact on all formats (particularly beneficial for smaller publishers).

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