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Top book printers -- El-Hi, Trade Fuel Optimism

August 2005
By Warren Chiara

Mergers and acquisitions in the printing industry over the past year resulted in some changes at the top of BookTech Magazine's annual Top Book Manufacturing listing—ranked by book manufacturing sales.

One change concerns the perennial Nos. 1, 2 and 3 on the list. When RR Donnelley acquired Moore Wallace last year, it changed the way the $8 billion company breaks down its revenues. It used to report the performance of individual units, but now casts revenues into two major business components: publishing and retail services, and integrated print communications and global solutions business.

The latter category accounts for 40.2 percent of RR Donnelley revenues. Of that percentage, Ed Lane, president of RR Donnelley's book publishing services business, estimates the company's global book revenues at around $700 million (which was calculated to be $698.4 million, based on an estimated percentage). That estimate would push Donnelley slightly ahead of Quebecor World, which reported its book revenues in 2004 as $695.3 million.

But an acquisition also affected Von Hoffmann, which ranked third on the list last year. Visant Corp., which combines the book manufacturing businesses of Von Hoffmann and Jostens Corp., pushed past both Quebecor World and RR Donnelley into the top spot, with book sales nearly double what Von Hoffmann reported last year as a single entity.

Jostens and Von Hoffmann operate separately, but report their earnings under the Visant umbrella. Book manufacturing accounts for approximately 50 percent of Visant's overall revenue, as opposed to 100 percent when Von Hoffmann reported its earnings last year.

"Since these companies are now jointly owned, [we want to] list ourselves under Visant and show book revenues for the entire entity," says Mike Ford, vice president of marketing at Von Hoffmann.

Staying Competitive

In addition to the mergers, manufacturers are streamlining their operations, producing less waste, and decreasing turnaround times to retain customers and attract new ones. The result: a competitive marketplace that may cause some manufacturers to lower prices to keep business.

"Some strong competitive pressures in the marketplace are causing us to price aspects of our product at a more competitive rate, even though we may be selling the same number of units," notes Rob Krehbiel III, president and COO of CJK: Print Possibilities, in Cincinnati. Krehbiel cites prepress as the area that has changed the most in his business in recent years.

Other book manufacturers installed new equipment and upgraded their plants to remain competitive and prepare for increased demand in some segments. One segment that is predicted to get particularly busy over the next few years is the elementary-high school (el-hi) and higher education textbook markets.
 

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