Inkjet Digital Printing Changes Book Manufacturing/Publishing Models
The emergence of high-speed inkjet digital printing has become a game-changing technology for several print product market segments. And the growing adoption of continuous-feed inkjet output for book manufacturing is arguably the most disruptive of all segments from a standpoint of altering legacy production workflows, slashing publishers’ inventory requirements and book return costs, extending lifespans of out-of-print titles, enabling personalization and one-offs, and shortening turnaround times. These changing dynamics accurately describe the current state of the book publishing and printing marketplace, agreed several book printers who participated in a special roundtable breakfast discussion held during the Inkjet Summit 2015.
Since many smaller book publishers still don’t grasp the advantages that production inkjet has in comparison to offset—as well as digital toner-based—book manufacturing processes, printers must demonstrate how high-speed inkjet printing enables publishers to drastically reduce their overall costs, especially related to inventory/warehousing requirements and returns. Buy-in requires book publishers to analyze their entire supply chain costs (including printing, distribution, warehousing, returns) compared to basing their cost models just solely around unit cost prices.
It’s also not necessarily an either/or offset vs. inkjet scenario, according to the book printer group. In some cases, a hybrid print production model may make the most sense—with an initial, longer offset run, followed by inkjet runs on an as-needed basis. It solves the need for publishers to tightly forecast the demand levels for individual titles and reduces the costs associated with book returns. This hybrid offset/inkjet scenario is made possible given the acceptable quality levels that can now be achieved for most color and monochrome inkjet book printing applications.
Continuous-feed inkjet printing does requires a different business model for book printers, though. While the actual inkjet printing portion of the workflow may not be difficult, book manufacturers typically need to refocus their front end and finishing operations. The number of touches involved with short-run, sometimes variable, book manufacturing requires them to aggregate multiple book jobs and be able to finish them efficiently and economically. Inkjet-compatible substrate choices made available to book publishers should also be limited, the printer attendees advised, helping to reduce multiple press makereadies and downtime for roll changes.
And, a book printer shopping for its first inkjet press can’t compare them on an apple-to-apple basis. One needs to consider web widths, size of footprint and paper compatibility, among other requirements. Some attendees said they would still invest in new web offset press capacity because inkjet press speeds still aren’t fast enough.
On a positive note, one printer at the breakfast also noted how some offset book jobs that had previously been lost to Chinese printers based on pricing are being recaptured by U.S. printers with inkjet capabilities due to publishers’ burgeoning just-in-time printing requirements to achieve more efficiencies. PI