Printers can plug together off-the-shelf software and create a good part of the touchless workflow, he says. “You can get a lot more of the software pieces today, so you can do it more cost-effectively,” he adds. “The hardware is also better. The best way to describe it is to say there is a lot of investment going on in workflow, finishing, and one-color and four-color print-on-demand solutions.”
West also touts automation as a key. “Finding a workflow partner that can integrate into your MIS system to automate inventory, accounting, logistics, and overall management will be important to success in this market,” she says.
West stresses that PSPs must find a niche that allows their salespeople to create opportunities. It may be in trade books, education, manuals, legal and reference books, or children’s books. “Once they begin to print books for one customer, there are often other customers in the same market that surface,” she points out. “Then a print provider can develop expertise in certain verticals for types of print requirements, regulations, or binding—all things that can add margin to a job.”
Judging Books by Their Covers
If you’re going to produce books, you may want to consider hardcover books. There is a cache to hardcover that other books don’t enjoy, says John Jacobson, partner in On Demand Machinery (ODM), which manufactures a line of on-demand hardcover binding machinery, ranging from semi-automatic to fully automatic equipment. “A hardcover book signifies value and durability,” he asserts.
As the digital revolution has advanced, Jacobson says, the book market has moved in the direction of print on demand for both environmental purposes and for the purpose of delivering smaller, more obscure titles. “Aligning yourself with a publisher allows you to do their back print books, short print books, and out-of-print books and be that publisher’s provider for their non-mainstream book production,” he notes.
For about $80,000, Jacobson says, a printer can buy a case-making system that makes the hardcover itself, a casing-in machine that glues the bound pages into the hardcover, and the building-in machine that presses the books and forms the joint or hinge area of the book. “The only additional piece needed is an adhesive binder or a book-sewing machine that would bind the actual pages together,” he reports.
Digital book printing can address many of the industry pain points and offer incremental revenue to the value chain participants, West says. “It may seem at first that unit costs are higher than conventional offset printing,” West adds. “But when customers factor in set-up, inventory carrying cost, the cost of returning unsold books to be pulped, it becomes clear digital provides many benefits, including a lower per-unit cost for shorter runs.”