Book Printing Outlook : Riding the Higher Ed Wave
A year after debuting its new Courier Digital Solutions (CDS) operation, equipping it with an HP T300 digital inkjet web press, Courier added two more of these presses at the facility. Tobin is very happy with the offset-type quality of one-, two- and four-color books being produced on the T300s. The strengthening of the digital platform is an acknowledgment of the variables that are driving shorter print runs—the Borders demise, custom textbook publishing, publishers’ needs to reduce inventories and obsolescence, as well as consumer caution and the growth of e-readers.
The printer also invested in an additional binding line and sewing capabilities at CDS. In March, Courier made the difficult decision to close its Stoughton, MA, one-color paperback plant. Excess one-color capacity was one of the reasons behind the move, and Tobin points out that all of the products produced there could be manufactured at other Courier facilities.
A stronger economy and improved consumer confidence could provide a real boost in 2012, he relates. It helps to have a presidential election year, which traditionally spawns a bounty of political titles leading up to November. With Borders’ exit, Tobin believes the number of retail outlets has stabilized.
“Publishers have had time to plan for 2012 in terms of inventories,” he says. “I don’t think we’ll see a big dip in 2012 the way we did in 2011. We’ve invested considerably in the ability to produce short-run, custom four-color textbooks for a particular adoption at a particular college, as well as one- and four- color trade books within our short-run, digital inkjet plant. This will allow publishers to produce quantities they’re confident they can sell. That is a good business for us, and will be strong in 2012.”
The el-hi market will continue to be challenged in 2012, Tobin predicts. “The adoptions out there for 2012 are fairly modest. But, there’s a tremendous amount of pent-up demand for textbooks that, during the past two years, have not been purchased due to funding. That will hopefully create more demand that will be met in 2012.”