The Death of Books Has Been Greatly Exaggerated!
It wasn't very long ago that the pundits were declaiming the death of the printed book. Yes, it wouldn't be long before the printed book was replaced by the soft glow of millions of e-book readers—illuminating bedroom walls as we read our e-book before hitting the sack. How wrong they were...
E-book sales have leveled out, (and even declined), while printed books have proved that they're not going anywhere soon. The e-book platform has proved itself to be wanting for reading longer tomes, and for reading titles with lots of illustrations such as travel, or cookbooks. At the same time, production inkjet continues to make significant inroads with book printers. This means that along with the very short runs—that are inkjet's "sweet spot"—these presses will increasingly be used for longer-run work.
The result will be that the finishing equipment at the end of these presses will have to be upgraded. The previous emphasis on very short runs had the result of lots of smaller binders being installed. These machines are (for the most part) hand-fed with book blocks, with top-end speeds of a bit more than 1,000 books per hour. While they excel at the runs of five, 10 and 100, the labor input for longer book runs is large. Trying to hand-feed a small multi-clamp binder for more than an hour is no easy task.
The finishing vendors are now introducing higher-speed machines that are better integrated from a workflow standpoint. These binders can be directly connected to the printer, or (more commonly) fed from a printed roll using an unwinder and web cutter. The main thrust is to reduce labor and handling to a minimum, while increasing output speed without sacrificing very short-run capability. An "extra" benefit is that these beefier machines will usually produce a higher-quality soft-cover book.