BOOKS - Textbooks Lead the Way
"On-demand allows a publisher to keep a title in print forever," Tobin adds. "If a publisher can digitize a title and keep it in an archive, even if they only need to sell 50 copies a year, if it's an important title to them, they can keep that alive indefinitely."
Though the outlook for book printing is rosy, there are still challenges for printers. Among them are maintaining a hold in a shrinking market and finding enough skilled workers to maintain around-the-clock production in an economy with some of the lowest unemployment levels in years.
"With all the consolidation that is going on in publishing, that can create a challenge because there are fewer doors to knock on," Tobin says. "But it can create a real opportunity to build relationships that can result in winning a substantial amount of share from these publishers. There's been a tremendous growth in specialized niche publishers over the last 10 years. Those are people with whom you can build very loyal relationships, people who will be looking to their book manufacturers for total, one-stop shopping."
Reading Labor Issues
Mead echoes Tobin's concerns. "Finding and retaining enough labor in a tight labor market has been a challenge. The wages are being driven up to hire new people, and companies have had to become very creative in attracting new people," he says. "Retention has become more of an issue since competing retailers and manufacturing concerns in other sectors are competing for entry-level labor. One can purchase new equipment, but without labor to support the added output, it would be of little help."
Some of the future trends the executives point to include:
- A continued reduction in cycle time to market through faster turnaround, more frequent printings, better inventory control by publishers and more utilization of plant-connected distribution services.