By Cassandra Carnes
Certain applications stand out when discussing the future of digital print. Book production is often highlighted when weighing the advantages of digital. Reduced warehousing costs drive publishers to short-run digital production. Additionally, the benefits of quick turnarounds and little to no makeready make it possible to produce smaller runs effectively.
Digital book publishing is a high growth area for digital print. "It directly drives costs out of the book manufacturing supply chain, and as active as digital book printing currently is, the market overall has just barely been tapped," says David Davis, director, INTERQUEST, Ltd. The research and consulting firm expects digital book manufacturing to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 15 to 20 percent in terms of print volume over the next five years. The firm recently completed and released the updated forecast for its 2010 study on the digital book printing industry.
In general, digital print segments are growing faster than analog. Internal estimates from Hewlett-Packard (HP) in 2009 pegged the growth rate for digitally printed books as more than 90 percent higher than the growth rate for the overall book manufacturing industry.
According to Print Industries Market Information and Research Organization’s (PRIMIR) study titled, Trends in Books: 2008-2012, traditionally printed books reached the peak of their product lifecycle with publishers’ net sales of 3,127 million book units in 2007. The report notes that in 2008, six major industry segments of the book industry accounted for three billion published net book copies valued at $35.7 billion. Printed books were headed toward a new high in 2008 when the economic recession hit in full force. The research concludes that by the time the economy recovers, participants in the book publishing production chain will find themselves in very different industry.
Océ studied the transformation of book volumes for quite sometime. The company cites research from Caslon, stating that digital will account for ten percent of book print volumes by 2013. Caslon’s projections estimate that by 2015 digital will account for 13 percent of overall book print volumes. These projections include B&W and color in digital totals.
Sustainability considerations also favor digital book production versus traditional print. According to the Borealis Centre for Environment and Trade Research, book printing accounted for 12 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. in 2006. This figure is comparable to the emissions from 2.2 million cars. Additionally, a large portion of books produced will never be purchased. HP points to European analyst Sean Smyth’s research, which suggests as much as 30 percent of printed books remain unsold and are repulped. Books printed on demand practicing zero-inventory initiatives provide the ability to eliminate waste.
Defining Digital Books
To determine the value, it is important to break down what constitutes a digital book. Books, periodicals, and manuals represent applications fit for digital production. Within these genres, digital book production spans many industries. One differentiating feature is the actual retail value of a book. It is prudent for book printers to narrow efforts and serve one or two similar segments. General requirements may vary significantly, making it difficult to compete effectively.
Trade books consist of adult, juvenile, and mass-market paperbacks. Religious titles are sometimes included in this category, but may also be classified separately.
Professional books serve trades including business, law, medicine, technical and scientific, library science, and education. The education segment is further divided.
University presses are nonprofit publishing houses often funded by parent universities. According to the Association of American University Presses, university presses are publishers, meaning they acquire, develop, design, produce, market, and sell books and journals. However, "while commercial publishers focus on making money by publishing for popular audiences, the university press’ mission is to publish work of scholarly, intellectual, or creative merit, often for a small audience of specialists," states the association’s Web site.
Manuals follow similar production techniques and volumes as books, and can be included under the umbrella of book publishing. However, manuals follow a different mantra, as they are considered a cost of good—or COG—of a product and do not usually carry any retail value of their own.
Photobooks represent a growing segment of book publishing. These applications require close attention to image quality and color control and target a consumer audience. According to the Worldwide Community of Imaging Associations’ (PMA), 2009 PMA Photo Book Report, the photobook market was projected to reach $340 million in 2009 compared to $326 million in 2008.
In addition to the type of book, finishing requirements separate applications. Additional options such as B&W versus full-color, cut-sheet or continuous, and toner versus inkjet further breakdown book types.
Personalization trends force many unlikely industries to tailor their distribution techniques to a new generation of here-and-now consumers. The publishing industry is no exception. With many variations, types, and markets for books, several distribution methods are employed.
Traditionally, book production is a centralized process. Publishers rely on printers to produce massive offset runs, which are shipped and/or warehoused. While this distribution model is not disappearing, smaller runs, environmental considerations, and the growth of digital lessen the demand for centralized book production.
Over the past few years, print on demand emerged as a viable mode of digital book production. "The print on demand model focuses on inventory replenishment at point of distribution," says John Conley, VP of book publishing, global marketing solutions, Xerox Corporation.
Lightning Source is one book printer making its name with the print on demand delivery model. The company formed in 1997 during the advent of print on demand technology. In 1998, the company reported 1,100 print on demand titles and 110,000 books printed; in 2007, the numbers grew to 500,000 print on demand titles and 50,000,000 books printed. Lightning Source’s digital warehouse stores all of the electronic data necessary to print and deliver its titles to the intended destination—whether it’s a single book or a run of 10,000.
Distributed print models, which exist at a retail level, are developing. As publishers realize the benefits of a consumer-based book printing environment, more titles are available for instant production. Some of the biggest challenges—content, royalty fees, and workflow—are solved with On Demand Books’ EspressNet software, which drives the kiosk-like Espresso Book Machine digital printing solution. Read more about the Espresso Book Machine in the sidebar.
Digital books may also be associated with wireless book readers such as the Apple iPad, Amazon Kindle, or Sony e-reader. Consumers appreciate electronics, and look for convenience wherever possible. While it is still unclear the affect ebooks will have on the print industry, it is likely they will remain part of the equation as the book publishing industry shifts to meet the demands of a new generation.
PRIMIR’s Trends in Books: 2008-2012 study concludes that, "while it will take years for ebooks to penetrate all aspects of the traditional print book market, the handwriting is on the wall. In the short term, the current economic turmoil will be the prime driver of change in the book industry. In the long term, changes in book industry products will impact all elements in the graphic communications industry’s supply chain."
Cost and revenue opportunities are key factors driving publishers to consider digital. "A traditional book publisher’s biggest problem is that he can’t raise the retail price of his book," says Conley. He explains that from a cost standpoint, the further you move a book down the supply chain before it prints is beneficial. "If you consider this—in combination with the fact that major publishers digitize backlists—as print on demand and distributed print platforms emerge and become ubiquitous, publishers have the opportunity to obtain revenue from books previously out of print," he adds.
The Right Mix
Benefits provided to publishers through digital print are clear. Equipment suppliers and manufacturers throughout the entire print workflow ensure their products are optimized for digital book production.
With workflow and production efficiency top of mind for reducing costs and increasing productivity, the shift towards solution selling helps those looking to break into or expand book printing services focus on end-to-end solutions that meet all of the right requirements. A range of hardware and software partnerships and OEM agreements allow sales staff to offer an end-to-end workflow.
According to INTERQUEST, Xerox holds the largest market share of digital book publishing in the cut-sheet production segment. "Xerox pioneered cut-sheet printing with the DocuTech, and had a tremendous lead over all of the other manufacturers for years," says Davis. Xerox provides a range of monochrome, highlight, and full-color cut-sheet engines.
"On the continuous-feed side, where the majority of impressions are produced, Océ probably has the largest share," adds Davis. He says the company leveraged its many years of experience selling continuous-feed systems for transactional printing, and went after the book market early in the game.
He notes that HP, InfoPrint, Kodak, Océ, and Screen (USA) are pushing into the market with high-speed continuous-feed inkjet systems. "All major vendors are active in the market today because it presents such tremendous opportunity," says Davis. "HP is very active in color book printing applications, and is beginning to make its presence felt there."
Workflow is essential to any operation striving to improve efficiency. In addition to partnerships with many third-party integrators, digital press manufacturers including InfoPrint, Océ, and Xerox developed a workflow platform for the end-to-end production of digital books. These solutions allow efficient book production beginning at Web submission.
Finishing is also an important aspect to digital book production. C.P. Bourg, Duplo, Muller Martini, and Standard Finishing are among the vendors making strides to automate the finishing considerations of digital book publishing. The next issue of DPS discusses production and workflow efforts in detail.
Evolving to the Next Generation
Digital print’s advantages run parallel with the evolving needs of book publishers and printers. Shorter runs, less waste, and the ability to push production processes further down the supply chain mean higher efficiency and lower costs throughout the entire production cycle. Traditional print has a place in book production far into the future; but digital will affect the transformation of the entire industry. The next two issues of DPS further discuss the digital book publishing industry.