Part 4 of 4
By Kim Crowley
By now we know the potential of digital book publishing, we are aware of its benefits and challenges. In the last installment of this four-part series, we rely on users of the technology to share first-hand accounts.
Proven Direct, located in Milwaukee, WI, offers a range of services including strategic marketing, database solutions, variable data imaging, personalized URL (pURL) campaigns, distribution, response tracking, and short run photo product manufacturing.
The company fulfills over 100,000 orders for digital photobooks per year. Most of its customers have only one copy of a photobook printed.
"This is a new industry and a lot of the machinery is new to the market such as on demand case making, PUR perfect binders, and short run laminators," states Mike Limbach, president, Proven Direct. "When you take new machines and employees who have not made books before, a long learning curve and ramp-up period is almost certain. With three years under our belts, we feel like our experience provides a nice competitive advantage."
Proven Direct operates a fleet of seven HP Indigo presses for printing books. For finishing the company utilizes Duplo DC-645 Slitter/Cutter/Creasers, Duplo MR-720 PUR Perfect Binders, Epic CT-660 UV Coaters, GBC 620 Laminators, MBO B-120 Continuous Feed Folders, On Demand Machinery Case-making and Casing-in Lines, and proprietary lay-flat book block machines. In particular, "The Epic UV Coaters allow us to easily incorporate several variations of coatings on our book pages," explains Limbach.
Limbach says that finishing techniques bring additional dollars to the book business. "It is possible to derive additional revenue and margin from finishing if you can develop unique options. These could be coatings, bindings, formats, and covers."
Professional photographers make up a large portion of Proven Direct’s clients, and they demand products. "Not that consumers don’t care about the quality of their finished book, but the scrutiny from professionals is definitely higher," says Limbach, "this helps us maintain a high level of quality for all our customers."
"The bottom line is that finishing is important from both a quality and cost standpoint," concludes Limbach.
Inkubook, an Author Solutions brand, based out of Indianapolis, IN, is an online photobook and calendar creation service. Approximately 100,000 customers purchase digital books from Inkubook each year, selecting from hardcover books in three sizes, softcover books in one size, as well as spiral-bound wall calendars.
"With Inkubook, it's simple to upload photos and then drag-and-drop them onto creative layouts to make a fantastic book or calendar. Inkubook creators can invite friends to contribute text and photos, which makes collaboration fast and fun," says Kevin A. Gray, public relations manager, Author Solutions.
Books from Inkubook are printed on an HP Indigo 5500 printer. The case-binding systems used for binding books are from On Demand Machinery. Gray says that most customers create photobooks for personal use and order in quantities of one or two, while many others make cookbooks and family histories in quantities of 20 or 25 copies.
Consumer technology devices and Internet familiarity drive digital photobook sales. "The increased popularity and lower cost of digital cameras—including the devices in cell phones and PDAs—makes it incredibly easy to record life’s events through photos. The destination for many digital photos was memory cards or hard drives. Now the average person can have digital photos turned into a one-of-a-kind photobook for personal or promotional use," explains Gray.
Established in 1893, Edwards Brothers, Inc. is a large, privately owned book, journal, and catalog manufacturing firm based out of MI, which specializes in short, medium, and ultra-short runs for publishers, authors, scholarly societies, industrial firms, and universities. Edwards Brothers operates three manufacturing facilities totaling nearly 300,000 square feet, two on-site digital book centers, and six remote digital book centers installed in customer facilities in the U.S. and the UK.
Edwards Brothers uses continuous and cut sheet printers from InfoPrint Solutions Company, Océ, and Xerox, and finishing devices from C.P. Bourg, Muller Martini, and Standard Horizon to produce books.
The choice between digital and offset production varies at Edwards Brothers. "Because we’re short run specialists, the line between offset and digital doesn’t really exist for us. We’ll produce the work on the most economical and cost-effective equipment available, regardless of the platform," explains John J. Edwards, president and CEO, Edwards Brothers, Inc. "Our goal is to print the right quantity at the right time on the press that offers the greatest efficiencies. We call this concept Life of Title and it’s our solution for helping customers manage inventory and associated costs by printing closer to actual demand. The result is the maximization of a title’s revenues and profits from cradle to grave."
Sometimes a title is printed in offset and digital. "It’s quite common for a customer to send us a new title with an initial print run in the thousands, which we’ll run offset, and then come back and request multiple reprints as needed, which we often print digitally. We service the customer’s needs regardless of how much their print runs fluctuate. We’re with them for the complete life of the title," says Edwards.
Finishing at Edwards
Edwards Brothers’ customers look to digital to save money, but they are not willing to skimp on quality. "Our customers keep a much closer eye on inventory these days and all are looking for digital options to control costs," notes Edwards. "We want our digital work to be same quality as our offset work. We don’t want anyone to be able to tell the difference between the two—that’s our goal," he adds.
It is important for Edwards Brothers to have well trained finishing professionals on staff. "Case binding is still a very manual process versus our high-speed lines for offset products. Having skilled operators is very important," says Edwards.
He adds that, as with any printing operation, controlling overhead costs is an issue. "The key is to continually look for ways to automate and reduce the cost per order."
This concludes our online series on digital book publishing and finishing. Look for our full-feature article on the topic in DPS magazine’s March/April issue, also available as a digital edition. dps
Search: The Benefits of Digital Book Publishing to read Part 1 of this exclusive online series
Search: The Growth of Digital Book Publishing to read Part 2 of this exclusive online series
Search: Digital Book Finishing to read Part 3 of this exclusive online series