While there have been notable advancements in digital printing and inkjet technology, there are still several barriers to widespread adoption among publishers. The most notable is perhaps book publishers’ fear of using the zero-inventory model that complements a short-run, digital printing strategy. Publishers don’t want to lose control over distribution and fear lost revenue from out-of-stock titles.
Those fears are unfounded, argued many book manufacturers at yesterday’s Digital Book Printing Conference, which was held at New York City Union League. They argued that the technology exists; it’s a matter of publishers taking the plunge. The event, which gathered book publishers, manufacturers, and equipment suppliers, furthered an ongoing discussion on the future of digital book printing and its impact on the book industry.
Here are a few of the best sound bites from the Digital Book Printing Conference:
“In 2015, we'll see a crossover point where inkjet pages pass toner pages.” - Marco Boer, VP, I.T. Strategies & Emcee of the Digital Book Printing Conference
Boer shared this stat in his keynote address, which kicked off the Digital Book Printing Conference. He went on to say that while inkjet quality has continued to improve, the next hurdle for manufacturers is to be able to print on coated, offset paper. The wetness of inkjet complicates this prospect, but new solutions are being developed like pre-coating, reactive inks, and extended drying processes. The benefit for publishers will be greater flexibility to print on any paper stock, faster and more efficiently than offset.
“Part of the issue is fear of being out of stock and lack of confidence that manufacturing can do the job. We also have to think about content management. It’s tough to move our content around.” - Lynn Terhune, Global Digital Print Manager/Strategic Sourcing & Procurement, John Wiley & Sons
Terhune said this in response to a question about why publishers haven’t embraced a zero-inventory model in which warehousing costs are eliminated and book manufacturers handle distribution. She and her fellow publisher panelist, Bill Barry of Macmillan, emphasized that significant culture and infrastructure changes would need to be made within publishing organizations before a zero-inventory model could take hold.
“Me personally, I think its in the best interest of all publishers to get to zero [inventory]. The generations growing up are going to require this. They want products immediately. The market is going to drive this transition.” - Nick Lewis, President, Publishers Graphics
Although Lewis admitted that there are barriers to book publishers adopting a zero-inventory, on-demand model, he said that the shift is inevitable. IT departments need to be able to share book files easily with book manufacturers so that publishers can serve the short turnarounds demanded by retailers and consumers.
“We used to throw away three quarters of a million dollars every year [in unsold inventory]. For a small company that’s a lot of wastage. We’re saving that now. Having the print shop right in the warehouse is crucial.” - James Gaskin, Director of Content, Publishing Technology & Production, Practising Law Institute
During the panel “20/20 Vision: What Will Book Distribution Look Like in 5 Years?” Gaskin said that the Practising Law Institutes has partnered with a book manufacturer that can also handle inventory and ship titles. He said when looking at the entire supply chain cost of warehousing and inventory waste, the math simply made sense to eliminate warehousing all together.
“I would like to encourage the printing and publishing community to push for standards so that we can create consistent information that will work across many platforms and geographies.” - Yvette Nora, Director of Global Procurement, Reed Elsevier
In the same panel, Nora argued that industry-wide standards must be implemented in order for digital printing models to succeed. She wants those standards to define what information needs to be shared with book manufacturers in order to print a book on the same day a file is sent.
Look for more coverage on the Digital Book Printing Conference in the coming weeks.