Print Today: The Future of Digital Book Printing

Book publishers and manufacturers have long had to contend with inefficiencies created by the traditional practice of printing, carrying, and warehousing long runs of books. For example, on average, 40% of printed hardcover and trade paperback books are remaindered or returned unsold to the publisher. Historically, these costs have just been part of the price of doing business.

Digital book printing, which allows for shorter print runs, solves the problems caused by excess capacity. Standard digital print runs, generally limited to fewer than 500 books, are too short for many kinds of book publishing applications. Publishers and manufacturers have had to choose between repeated short digital print runs or maintaining the significant investments in inventory management dictated by long-run offset printing.

The book publishing industry hasn’t had a printing option that offered flexibility, scalability and top-notch quality. Until now.



Groundbreaking new digital printing technology provides the means for book manufacturers to print books that will meet the quality expectations of book publishers and consumers—and transform the traditional inventory model. The introduction of Kodak’s new PROSPER Press platform—running live at Kodak Booth 1227—offers a digital printing model that delivers offset class quality and efficient production with supply chain cost savings for run-lengths of up to 7,000 books.

The PROSPER Press platform allows book manufacturers to substantially improve flexibility and productivity, producing the right quantity of books at the right time. It will significantly reduce over-printing costs, including the cost of warehousing and the other financial burdens created by excess inventory. This new digital printing platform can be used to print books in short runs as needed to meet actual demand, creating supply chain efficiencies that could generate up to $10 billion in savings worldwide.


Keeping books in print

Publishers will be able to keep books in print longer and increase the profitability of regularly updated books like textbooks and reference materials. Additionally, the reduction in the overall cost of book production could allow publishers the latitude to offer titles which otherwise might not have been deemed viable.

Book manufacturers will use the PROSPER Press platform to create a complete end-to-end process that streamlines the production of books allowing for a fast and efficient response to orders and reorders. Combined with an in-line finishing unit, the PROSPER Press becomes the anchor of a fully automated production line—from PDF to finished book in a single operation.

Offset Paperback Manufacturers (OPM), a Bertlesmann Company, recently installed a monochrome PROSPER 1000 press to maximize productivity and efficiency in book production. One of the largest manufacturers of mass market paperbacks in the world, OPM’s clients include many of the most recognized brands in publishing, such as Random House, Pearson Education, Penguin, and McGraw-Hill.

OPM sees significant opportunities to add value to its customer—and to capture more revenue in the changing book publishing environment—with high speed, short-run production of books using the PROSPER Press. For example, OPM recently produced 1.7 million book pages and 3,850 books in a single day.

Already digital

Webcrafters, Inc., a Madison, WI-based book manufacturer whose clients include publishers such as The McGraw-Hill Cos., Pearson plc, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is already using digital printing for very short runs of between one and 300 books. The company will install a Kodak PROSPER Press later this year.

Webcrafters is adding the new PROSPER Press to its existing line-up of offset and digital printing capability to better manage its low- and mid-quantity book titles. The company expects the PROSPER Press will help it better manage inventory levels of educational titles as updates and new editions are prepared.

In addition to allowing book manufacturers to take advantage of short run printing and improve inventory management, the PROSPER Press platform opens up a world of new opportunities. The press’ speed, consistency, offset class quality and ability to handle variable data will allow manufacturers to provide new services and expand their businesses.

Among other kinds of projects, the PROSPER Press platform will give book manufacturers the ability to offer high-quality specialty publications. “On demand” and short run publications are a fast growing segment of the book publishing industry. According to bibliographic data collection company Bowker, in 2008, the number of “on demand” and short run titles eclipsed the number of traditional books.

With the advent of the strong acceptance of e-books and other ongoing changes in the retail marketplace, the ability to print books as efficiently as possible becomes even more important. The PROSPER Press gives book publishers and manufacturers the flexible technology they need to adopt a business model that better fits the industry’s fast-changing business environment.