In Europe, as in the United States, publishers have been conditioned to over order books because of the comparatively low incremental volume costs and fear of empty bookstore shelves. The return rate for unsold books averages 35 percent in France, for example, so the total cost per book sold ends up being much higher, Kieffer added.
Current inkjet printing technology is suitable for quantities of 500 to 3,000 books, he asserted. With CPI now able to offer two-day delivery, book publishers can place smaller initial orders and reorder as needed to cut overruns, while ensuring a title stays in stock. The per-piece cost for a digital book may still be higher, but the ROI for books sold is more competitive.
Kieffer admitted that publishers initially are skeptical when pitched the concept, so the company has been holding customer events to bring them onsite to see Quantum in action. "They have been impressed with the quality and say it's equal to, or better than, offset."
Two of the only 34 Cameron letterpress belt presses ever built sit in the next room at the Firmin-Didot facility, and the organization has nine overall, according to Kieffer. The two departments seem worlds apart, but the integrated book production capabilities of the Cameron line were the model for Quantum.
Catté characterized the company's recent moves as "transformational" and said CPI is making a major bet on inkjet web printing technology, which could include installing up to 10 systems over the next five years. Providing further evidence of this transformation, the company has since announced a draft agreement to divest a significant portion of its offset printing business.