Top book printers — El-Hi, Trade Fuel Optimism

“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.

State departments of education prepare their adoption schedules far in advance, and tracking the schedules allows manufacturers to know what’s in the offing a few years down the road, giving them time to upgrade as they see fit.

“In ’03 and ’04, those were sort of the trough years of the adoption cycle, [while] ’05, ’06, ’07 look like very strong years in terms of states purchasing textbooks,” contends RR Donnelley’s Lane. “This is particularly true for California, Texas and Florida—which are big adoption states with large student populations.”

To prepare, RR Donnelley approved the expansion of its four-color education platform in 2004, adding two presses and some bindery modifications at its Willard, OH, plant, Donnelley’s principal education book facility.

Looking ahead to 2006, the biggest adoptions will be in: California, which will be adopting history and social science books, known jointly as social studies; Florida, which will adopt K-12 subjects; and North Carolina, which has a large reading adoption scheduled, according to Rick Blake, vice president of communications and government relations with Harcourt, a global education company, in Orlando, FL.

“Reading and literature are the largest, followed by math and then science,” he notes.

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