The paradigm shift to on-demand and/short-run, just-in-time printing continues to gain track in book manufacturing, as the traditional book publishing model of large print runs, returns averaging 30 to 40 percent, and three to four week turnaround times just won’t cut it with the realities of today’s market.
The book publishing business is fielding constant pressure from companies that are outside of the normal publishing community. Amazon.com, for example, is not only a tremendous distribution channel but also a fierce competitor. Book publishers, in turn, are looking to minimize return risks, slash inventory and storage costs, and bring books to market faster. Publishers are changing how they manage the lifecycle of a title, printing targeted short runs, and adopting a just-in-time replenishment system.
The Move to Inkjet
“Publishers, trying to improve the supply chain and reduce costs, are reducing press runs, which is helping drive the move to inkjet,” notes Peter Bouchard, Global Publishing Segment manager, Kodak. “They will do the first offset run under forecast and then quickly respond to demand with inkjet; maximizing the value of a book’s lifecycle,” says Bouchard.
Book manufacturers, already vested in offset and toner-based machines, are filling the gap with inkjet presses, such as Kodak’s monochrome Prosper 1000 and color Prosper 500XL presses and Océ’s color JetStream 1000.
In May 2011, Mercury Print Productions in Rochester, NY, installed a Prosper 500XL to meet publishers’ demands for just-in-time and short-run books in the educational/textbook market. “The book publishing industry is in the midst of dramatic change and our customers expect us to help them streamline supply chains and reduce overhead costs, such as inventory and distribution,” says John Place, CEO of Mercury Print Productions. “Digital printing provides an answer and the Prosper 5000XL press is the central element in our digital printing strategy. We’re no longer constrained by volume. Prosper press technology has vastly expanded the scope of and reach of digital printing.”
Mercury’s Prosper 500XL is part of a comprehensive on-demand solution that includes Lasermax Roll Systems wide unwind and rewind units and finishing lines that feature the Stack 2230 systems that, via a Shuttleworth conveyer, feed a Muller Martini Sigma binder system.
“We are in an evolution right now, just like we were eight to 10 years ago, when we started moving book production from offset to toner,” echoes Ray Sevin, president of manufacturing for the Bookmasters Group. The 40-year old, $100 million firm in Ashland, OH, installed a JetStream 1000 in October, 2011.
“No one wanted anything printed digitally, but as the quality of digital improved, publishers stopped caring one way or another,” says Sevin. “We are going through the same thing with inkjet. Many publishers equate inkjet with the printer they have on their desktop, so out of the gate publishers snubbed their noses at it. And initially, there wasn’t the range of substrates available; now we have the substrates and publishers won’t see a difference.”
It’s a New Day
Similar to what happened in the commercial market, book printers are finding that the new order requires new business models and workflow optimization to meet the new challenges. “The velocity of orders going through the system increases dramatically with the short-run POD model,” says Bouchard. “There could easily be 10 times the orders, putting pressure on book manufacturers’ systems. Making it even more difficult, as their order number is increasing their time-to-market is decreasing.”
Kodak has answered this scenario with a full range of services to help the book manufacturer make that transformation, from print optimization to workflow to business transformation services, known collectively as MarketMover Business Advantage Solutions. “We not only provide the printing device, but also the workflow and services to allow book printers to work in this environment,” says Bouchard.
The Bookmasters Group’s full-color Océ Jetstream 1000, paired with an inline Lasermax slitter/cutter and Muller Martini Sigma finishing system, helped the 40-year-old firm to beef up its digital division for very short-run and POD manufacturing. The newest system joins a toner-based Océ DemandStream 8090 used for short runs.
“We bought the JetStream to meet the demand for the POD part of our business,” explains Sevin. “Typically, it’s for a publisher that sells direct-to-consumer. For example, we have a publisher that represents over 40,000 titles, which they sell through a variety of outlets, including a website. They may have anywhere from 100 to 700 orders per day, but each individual book order is very small. We archive the print files; when we receive an order, our system retrieves it and cues it to the JetStream. Covers are printed first on a cut-sheet digital color printer, UV coated or film laminated, and then placed into the cover feeder of the binder. As this point it becomes an inline process. The text flows off of the JetStream, matched with the cover via barcode verification, and finished inline.”
While the sweet spot for inkjet runs is in the 3,000 to 5,000 range, Bookmasters moves jobs to offset once they hit 1,000. Although, Sevin admits, “Once we get through the learning curve, I will personally investigate the practice of taking some of the offset runs ranging in the couple of thousands to the JetStream.”
Making its Impact
The Espresso Book Machine (EBM), developed by On Demand Books and now sold and serviced by Xerox, features an inline binding system and the EspressNet software system, which gives users access to more than four million in-copyright and public-domain titles. Xerox’s 4112 copier/printer is now sold as part of the system. “What makes EBM unique is the proprietary compact binding solution combined with ExpressNet, which manages all the transaction issues for the retailer,” says John Conley, vice president, Publishing, Xerox.
There are three places that EBM is making an impact: trade book stores, college bookstores, and libraries. “Within the trade book stores, there is a tremendous amount of self-publishing occurring,” says Conley. “This was a nice ‘aha’ moment for us—seeing how much of the volume is self-publishing. There is a latent demand of that service; a lot of people have a story to tell.”
The EMB is one of the few changes in the book industry, with everything going digital, that bookstores can actually take advantage of, says Chris Morrow, owner of Northshire Bookstore, a family-owned, independent bookstore in Manchester Center, VT. “The EBM has been a successful investment for us, allowing us to experiment in the digital realm and letting us add another business model of self publishing. We’ve already printed books for more than 200 authors. We also print books that are out of copyright and were scanned by Google.”
Northshire EBM print runs top out at 400; it sends larger runs out to a digital printer. Color is also sent out. “We have it in the front of the store,” says Morrow. “Our customers can see books being made. You plug in a digital file and out pops a book on the other side. The finishing is all integrated; it prints, glues, and binds inline.
The University of Missouri (Columbia) bookstore’s EBM, installed in September, 2011, has ramped up the facility’s offerings, says Heather Tearney, the bookstore’s media group coordinator. Using the EBM’s on-demand capabilities, the bookstore has created its own imprint; taking public domain books, like Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”, and reprinting them for faculty and students. Self-publishing is a growing part of the bookstore’s business, with both on-campus and off-campus authors using the service. In fact, the bookstore recently held a self-publishing workshop, which was attended by 30 local authors. Faculty are creating their own customized course packets and textbooks and the university’s various departments are producing customized materials to market their offerings to potential students. “Every segment is growing,” says Tearney.