To escape the limited marker of a commodity printer, print service providers (PSPs) transform into marketing service providers. This new branding inherently adds value to the PSP, making them not only a source for print, but a business partner for document communications. This description is often designated to those producing brochures, direct mailers, and other lead-generating print advertisements, but the value also extends to those book manufacturers that recognize the advantages in transitioning from a book printer to a digital book publisher.
Many industries experience the move from centralized production and distribution to a more automated and digital distributed workflow. Book publishers embrace the shift to remain competitive as runs become shorter, but more frequent. Top providers look to add value and increase efficiencies to reduce waste and cost from their supply chain.
On the surface, books are books, but the industry is diverse in terms of specialties and applications, as well as the processes in which they are produced. In the May/June issue, we discussed the importance of workflow to the digital book production process. Digital press manufacturers provide the hardware, but also the software to enable a successful workflow. It’s no longer feasible or profitable to physically interact with each order.
Several factors help determine the right selection of equipment for manufacturing a digital book, but most are based on application. Traditional book manufacturers forecast market demand to establish the creation process and determine which long-term services to provide as they consider the benefits of digital.
"Digital technologies have created a major paradigm shift in the book business—from delivery of a finished manuscript and artwork, to the sale of the book and straight through to printing, finishing, packing, shipping, and tracking the entire process," says James Tressler, mid-Atlantic regional sales manager and director of branch operations, C.P. Bourg, Inc.
This industry shift requires a different economic model in comparison to traditional publishing. "For example, digitally printing a long run of the next bestseller would undermine profits, while the finishing of short-run titles demands efficiency throughout the process," says Tressler.
An adoption of digital allows book manufacturers to close gaps in their supply chain. "They are no longer printing 5,000 books, putting them in a warehouse, and destroying 4,000 books later," says Michelle Weir, publishing segment manager, new business and development, Hewlett-Packard (HP).
Instead, virtual inventory models provide the ability to print on demand and enable books to stay in print. Advanced workflow and tracking systems understand when and what to print in order to meet a customer’s delivery demands.
"With digital printing costs coming down, and quality improving significantly, digital solutions are now the preferred choice for many applications," says Guy Broadhurst, VP of new technology and client development, production printing systems division, Océ North America. "Savvy managers know that it’s the total cost over a title’s lifecycle that counts—not just the initial printing cost of a book. Digital technology can improve margins by reducing all lifecycle costs in distribution, warehousing, and reprints."
While digital does provide a number of advantages, it comes with its limitations and costs. Digital houses often staff IT to deal with automated infrastructures. Software and workflow implementation ultimately increases a digital versus analog cost per page. Si Nguyen, national manager, business development, Duplo USA, estimates the cost could be ten times that of traditional offset.
Those considering digital should invest in solutions that support long-term goals and growth. "Digital technology’s capability to customize and personalize books in an economical fashion offers an attractive solution for publishers to meet the demands for current as well as future customers," says Michael V. Ring, president, Xeikon/Punch Graphix Americas, Inc.
Digital didn’t make headway into the book industry overnight. It started with advancements in electrophotographic (EP) print engines and continues to grow with fierce competition emerging in inkjet. Now, color applications have a cost-effective outlet for creation. Continuous toner systems and inkjet compete for efficient B&W book block production, and offset still reigns for longer run lengths and color jobs that require a higher quality than inkjet can currently provide.
"Most book manufacturers are really starting from the offset base line and moving into digital," says Chandni Dighe, worldwide marketing manager, digital printing solutions, publishing segment Kodak. "This is a great environment where it is very important to be able to manage the blended production operation," she adds.
The traditional digitally printed book model still expects a strong double digit growth in one color production, while four-color digital book printing softly emerges as the technology improves. With inkjet entering the equation, color experiences new growth opportunity.
Every digital book that is printed in one-color book blocks features four-color covers that are also digitally produced. "The component business in digital is terrific," says John Conley, VP publishing, Xerox Corporation.
The worldwide monochrome businesses is driven by equipment placements to drive growth. "As long as the publishing model continues to drive down quantities to be more efficient in managing inventory, it will continue to pump more titles into digital platforms," says Conley.
Print technology plays a differentiating role in the book printing space. EP and inkjet are both suited for digital book production, depending on the application specifications. Advantages to EP include superior print quality and a relatively low capital acquisition cost.
Inkjet benefits from its speed and cost per page. With inkjet, applications that were primarily monochrome can economically start venturing into the world of color. "Inkjet technology has the potential to add color and smoother grayscale and halftones," says Rob Malkin, color production product manager, InfoPrint Solutions Company. "The challenges for inkjet, which are under work by all major vendors, is how to support the broad range of papers in the offset world while lowering the overall cost of printing," he adds.
Digital price points were a major inhibitor for adoption in certain applications. Production inkjet is game changing because it moves page counts to digital, especially in trade and education segments.
"When book manufacturers would do X percent of their work on a digital platform—like the HP Indigo 3250 or 7200—the price points and speed were prohibitive. They would contract fulfillment, rebinds, and ancillary products around custom content. For example, an education customer would have a contract with the state of IL for fifth grade English textbooks. Four years into the contract, they need 25 more teachers’ edition books. These applications are perfect for EP technology, like the Indigo. So a lot of the work being done on the Indigo technology surrounding education was fulfilling contracts and applications. What’s changed with inkjet presses—such as HP’s T300—is the ability to move more upstream into the actual adoption and fulfillment into the contracts right out of the gate. They have the ability to move more volumes because the costs and substitution to the inkjet technology," says Weir.
Aside from traditional book manufacturers incorporating digital, and commercial printers adding short-run book production services, a niche emerges for self- and Web-based publishing models.
Since all books are bound, finishing is central to the production process. Flexible finishing is essential to meeting all customer demands.
"The notion that books printed digitally require different binding machines than other books is a fallacy," says David Spiel, partner, Spiel Associates, Inc. He explains that digital often translates to short run. Spiel Associates offers a variety of book binders for short or long runs—digitally produced or not. "Anyone can print a smart looking brochure, flyer, or presentation piece," he says. "The trick is binding a good book—one that doesn’t fall apart."
Spiel’s Sterling Digibinder is a table-top, self-adjusting perfect binder.
"Waste must be scrubbed from every step for the cost model to be viable and sustainable," says Mark Hunt, director of marketing, Standard Finishing Systems. He explains that setup spoilage in bindery used to be a given, but today it is unacceptable. "Automation is key to reducing makeready times, and it becomes essential as you move down the volume curve to the ultimate book of one," he says.
Standard Finishing Systems’ manufacturing partners, Horizon in Japan and Hunkeler in Switzerland, provide a wide range of short-run automated feeding and finishing solutions. The company partners with a variety of leading digital print production players, such as Canon, InfoPrint Solutions Company, Kodak, Océ, and Xerox.
Standard Horizon binding solutions cover a range of needs, depending on volume band or capability—such as PUR adhesive. The BQ-270 handles up to 400 books per hour; the BQ-470 offers EVA and PUR capability and handles up to 1,350 books per hour; the SB-09 handles up to 4,000 books per hour; and the CABS targets 5,000 books per hour. The company also provides equipment for short-run hardcover solutions, popular with photobook applications.
"From our perspective, adhesive application is one of the most critical elements of cost-effective, efficient book publishing—and with the shorter runs and smaller quantities often seen in digital publishing, accurate consumable product use is even more influential to the bottom line," says Elizabeth Jordan, senior program manager, Nordson.
Nordson historically collaborates with domestic and international binder OEMs for automated spine and side gluing for perfect binding. Jordan says these collaborations were mainly for multi-clamp binders used by trade binders and commercial printers, but in the past four or five years, the company responded to integrated, automated gluing in small binders designed for shorter production runs.
The application on hot melt PUR—reactive polyurethane—is important to digital print applications as it addresses the negative implications that fuser oils and toners may cause.
Finishing equipment must combat the feeding issues associated with static electricity from toner. Additional issues include image cracking and paper curl.
Duplo offers both EVA and PUR perfect binding systems to provide soft cover, perfect bound book finishing. The company’s traditional EVA perfect binding solution handles text weight stock books, while the PUR solution handles coated and enamel stocks for digital production presses that use fuser oil as part of their printing process.
"With profit margins as tight as they are, no printer or publisher can tolerate a production process that wastes even a morsel of energy, and finishing is the key," states Tressler.
He explains that publishers and printers can produce books regardless of the technology, but efficiency and zero waste tolerances must be present throughout assembly, binding, trimming, packaging, shipping, and tracking to prosper.
C.P. Bourg provides a range of solutions for digital book finishing. Products include fully-automated inline perfect binding systems tightly coupled to digital print output, near-line systems that are able to accept job components from different digital or analog workflows, and the company is in the process of developing a production tracking system to ensure manufacturing integrity in a highly automated environment.
Muller Martini emphasizes the importance of a complete and integrated workflow. The company offers a scalable SigmaLine featuring SigmaControl to fully automate and interconnect prepress, digital printing, and finishing into one single operation. The system monitors every function of the complete line, including the actual printing of the signatures; tracking of every signature; book block and book throughout the line; and the generation of JMF data for production monitoring. "This enables SigmaControl to generate automatic reprint commands when a book block or book is rejected from the system. We’ve developed and perfected the system that connects every facet of the process starting with a single page PDF. We don’t consider ourselves finishing manufacturers; we view our role and our responsibility as much greater," says Andy Fetherman, division manager, on demand solutions, Muller Martini Corp.
Many Automated Pieces
The overall book publishing industry is in flux. Automation leads to efficiency, which results in a better product.
"Quite simply from an industry perspective, the message is ‘less is more.’ Less waste, less risk—and more in terms of opportunities to win new customers and profit from new revenue streams," says Fetherman.
The traditional publishing model may not disappear, but the overall industry is making room for new technologies. Print is not obsolete. Instead, it is blended with a mix of supporting technologies to better reach consumers. For more on book production, visit www.dpsmagazine.com and search keyword "Books," to read part one and two of this series