It was heartwarming to read last week's New York Times article "E-Book Sales Slip, and Print is Far From Dead" that was published on Sept. 22. E-book sales continue to slip, and publishers are building new warehouse distribution centers for, yes, REAL BOOKS.
Modern digital finishing systems have developed to become quite reliable press partners, and the overall savings in both time and labor from combining print and finishing are compelling. It's becoming clear, the best combination of digital print and finishing usually wins the deal!
Some lesser-known players in production inkjet are starting to make their mark. One such entity is Super Web Digital of New York. When the narrow web offset segment basically collapsed, Super Web met with Memjet, an inkjet technology company.
Despite numerous advances in inkjet print quality, and in the range of substrates that can be successfully printed on, inkjet is not going to replace either web or sheetfed offset anytime soon. The real test of inkjet is, how well does it replace offset in the right applications?
I've written more than once on the rapid evolution of finishing, which is being driven by the equally rapid adoption of inkjet web printing. Inline web finishing was always something of a "black art" in the offset web world. Since high-speed offset web presses don't print at the push of a button, performing complex finishing operations inline with the web press took a lot of engineering expertise.
This is a story that's no doubt been repeated more than once. You're a company with a long and glorious tradition of manufacturing first-class finishing equipment. You've had a terrific run through the 70's, 80's, 90's and into the 21st century. But in the last four years, things have shifted.
Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting Japs-Olson of Minneapolis—a printer that can trace its roots all the way back to 1907! Japs-Olson embodies the lean manufacturing approach to today's direct mail. What I saw was a "holistic" integrated process. Japs-Olson is capable of sending more than four million pieces a day into the USPS mail stream. To do this efficiently, you need critical thinking to be applied at every stage of the process.
Contrary to some opinionators, direct mail is going strong. Internet ads can't compete with a well-designed, creative, physical mail piece. You might spend a microsecond on a Web ad, but a mail piece has "got you" for 30 seconds at a minimum. So today's mailers are high-tech and well-equipped to keep this medium going strong for many years to come.
Back in the day, the bindery (and finishing in general) was a fairly distinct environment, with some established processes and workflows that had not changed in many decades, (or longer!). This continued to be the case up until several years ago, when high-speed continuous inkjet presses began to take off.
Steve Johnson, founder and owner of Copresco, is a bit of a legend in the digital book business. Last week, I had the pleasure of spending some time with him at his facility in Carol Stream, Illinois.
The cost for producing a sewn book that's digitally printed, adds a considerable lift to the overall production price. Now there are certain markets, school yearbooks, some wedding albums, and higher-quality hardcovers which demand sewing. And in those one-off segments, price is not such an issue. But for other segments, it's a harder sell.
Many of us over 40 years of age marvel at the digital proficiency of the 20-somethings. We look at the millennials (and those younger) and their desire to be software engineers, programmers, entrepreneurs, video game developers. But, we wonder, who's going to run the saddle stitcher?
Bindery systems vendors are smart folks, and they know which way the wind is blowing at any given time. So, in a bid to keep cash flow robust, they've embarked on a campaign to offer extensive maintenance and upgrade services to their customer base.
Today, I would like to hear from YOU. Tell me your thoughts and concerns for your finishing operation, and I'll summarize them all for my follow-up column next week!
Digital printer vendors have something of a natural preference for running their presses in "print only" mode with nothing extra attached to potentially gum up the works. But the very nature of continuous inkjet (no plates, very short back-to-back runs) argues strongly for integrating finishing so that a complete product can come out the end with little labor involved.