By Courtney Saba
The publishing model is changing. Printed books are not going away, but as the needs of publishers evolve, digital print technologies provide a cost-effective means for shorter production runs. High-speed inkjet continues to expand the potential digital brings to this space.
“The introduction of inkjet color opened markets such as education, technical, and institutional. As image quality has dramatically improved and the ability to print to higher grades of paper with greater ink density has developed, we are seeing growth opportunity in book and publishing markets that have traditionally been captive to conventional technologies,” says Mark Schlimme, director of marketing, Screen Americas.
Inkjet technology is becoming an excellent option for printing and publishing. Doug Sexton, director of global strategies, HP Inc., says inkjet web solutions currently dominate the market for production volumes ranging from approximately 20 to 5,000-plus books. Cutsheet toner devices are generally employed for quantities of one to 20 copies. “The highest near-term page volume growth is in the short-run market, but ultra-short runs down to a book of one are growing rapidly.”
Cutsheet inkjet devices are also emerging to target this segment, both competing with and complementing cutsheet toner devices, offering higher volumes than cutsheet toner but lower than continuous inkjet. Media compatibility also plays a factor.
This article discusses the impact of digital print technologies, particularly inkjet, in the publishing space. We also discuss the importance of workflow and equipment advancements targeting this market.
Many are quick to say the printed book is disappearing. However, the printed book is still relevant; it is the process that is changing. The latest digital printing and finishing systems facilitate the future of publishing. High-speed production inkjet solutions allow publishers and book manufacturers to print runs as needed, reducing warehousing costs and the waste of unsold stock.
In the past, book manufacturers struggled with finding equipment capable of achieving the quality, speed, flexibility, and affordability of offset printing. Tonya Powers, segment marketing manager for book printing and publishing, Canon Solutions America Production Print Solutions, says high-speed inkjet digital printing enables publishers to meet the market’s need for short runs. In addition to addressing title proliferation, it provides higher page value through color, customization, and automated finishing. It also offers new business models—for example, mass customization, personalization, and self-publishing—and increases supply chain opportunities such as print on-demand, just-in-time manufacturing, test marketing, and back list extension.
Will Mansfield, director, worldwide sales and marketing, inkjet presses, Kodak, suggests that production inkjet has enabled publishers to achieve cost savings through supply chain improvements. In such a fluid business environment, publishers are under pressure to reduce costs and waste, as well as drive procurement efficiency and sustainability improvement.
Publishers also need to extract maximum value from their entire title lists to maximize revenue. Digital inkjet eases the burden on printers in a lot of different areas of the print lifecycle. “The need to reduce costs and waste and to deliver more value trickles down the value chain. Book manufacturers must find ways to maximize efficiency and cost effectiveness for both long and short runs, as well as improve response times and enhance publisher relationships,” explains Mansfield.
“As publishers try to reduce inventories and over-production as a means of cutting costs, book distributors are faced with the need to control inventory even more tightly. Expanding their role within the supply chain to include short run and print on demand (POD) capabilities is one way for a value chain stakeholder to capture more revenue,” he adds.
The Future of Publishing
The evolution of publishing involves more than ink on paper. The demand of a connected world and the abilities afforded by digital creates innovation in the entire lifecycle of a book, making way for runs as low as one.
Customization and POD opportunities are a contributing factor for why publishers look to digital production within book manufacturing. Publishers and book printers need a fast turnaround that is still cost effective.
“Not only can books be ordered online and delivered overnight; they can also—in theory—be highly customized, thanks to innovations like variable data printing and custom content aggregation,” says Powers.
In higher education, for example, professors may specify custom, bound course packs, creating unique textbooks for a class. While on a consumer level, photobooks and other personalized materials are becoming commonplace. “Mass customization is now still far from universal, however, expectations of book e-commerce are playing havoc with traditional sales channels. Production inkjet can deliver on this personalized trend in a cost effective and timely manner and provides an opportunity for book printers and publishers to tackle new business,” she explains.
The minimum cost associated with publishing has gone down considerably. Because of this, the barrier of entry for publication is lowered. Rob Malkin, business development executive, inkjet technologies, Ricoh, points out that many writers see the benefits of self-publication and choose to employ it over other options. To meet this demand, a new hybrid publisher has emerged. These hybrids integrate a variety of services—editorial, proofreading, design, production, marketing, and distribution—into an a la carte menu for writers. “This enables inexperienced writers who may otherwise have not found their way into the market to self-publish with whatever degree of help they feel is appropriate,” he shares.
For delivery, a combination of digital and print—a textbook students can carry, but digital access to excerpts of that textbook—may be the winning combination. Malkin says publishers are evolving to meet these new demands and inkjet equipment provides the ability to produce short print runs on demand in a cost-effective way.
Mansfield agrees, noting that publishers may vary their services to cater to the future of publishing by offering ebooks in both fixed-layout-Apple iPad only and reflowable-iPad and Kindle devices formats. This then allows them to bundle their POD or short count runs along with an ebook for the self-publishing market.
“Publishers looking to thrive need to be able to offer one-stop shopping to their clients or at the very least have the flexibility in their operation to be a valuable partner to clients looking to vary their offerings. That’s why the speed and flexibility of production inkjet are a natural fit for this space,” recommends Mansfield.
Screen’s Schlimme believes inkjet technology will accelerate what is happening in all print market segments. This includes reduced run lengths, customization and versioning, decreased time to market, and just-in-time production. Inkjet is an important tool in the printer and publisher’s toolkit.
Workflow in Publishing
Workflow is a critical element in book manufacturing, especially in digital models where smaller, more frequent orders are the norm.
“End-to-end workflow solutions become critically important as run lengths decrease and order frequencies increase. New supply chain and digital production models require touchless ordering, pre-flighting, production, and invoicing solutions. High mix production management solutions are essential to achieve and maintain factory productivity and reduce waste,” says Sexton.
Mansfield agrees, noting that advanced workflows are an essential investment for all printers involved in publishing. The rate at which publishers and their clients’ needs are changing does not leave room for efficient print operations.
“Workflow software allows diversity for jobs and these jobs can also be printed on the fly. It’s one thing to manage one order involving one file and 1,000 copies of a book, but what if you have 100 files and orders of varying sizes from one copy to 20 copies to 500? Automated workflow can work with existing systems and printers, allowing book printers to manage data efficiently, produce all ultra-short run books quickly, and track elements from start to finish,” adds Malkin.
Features of Production Inkjet Equipment
Advancements in production technologies offer a range of opportunity in the publishing space.
Schlimme believes that the decision to publish with inkjet will no longer be driven by run length metrics balanced with limitations in image quality and paper selection—it is now moving in the direction of production inkjet and addresses just about any image quality requirement. As paper mills scale production of inkjet grade papers, the decision to print long or short runs can be solely economic and not driven by technology trade offs.
One of the biggest values inkjet technology brings to the publishing space is its flexibility. “Inkjet printing allows print providers to switch from larger print jobs to precise, small ones without having to completely redo the set up,” explains Malkin. “The digital aspect allows printers to customize a project’s text, images, and colors during the print process without significantly slowing it down. Accuracy of proofing allows you to save time and therefore money by avoiding costly mistakes that would require printing an entire new run of a document or job,” he shares.
Other features that play a key role in inkjet’s target of the publishing space include faster turnaround time, ink efficiency, variable data and multichannel capabilities, cost effectiveness, waste reduction, and operation benefits.
A variety of inkjet printing solutions target publishing needs. Here we include feature sets that make these solutions ideal for this market and which applications within publishing utilize the equipment.
Canon Solutions America
Canon’s cutsheet Océ VarioPrint i300 makes high-volume, high-quality color digital inkjet printing accessible to a much broader audience. It combines inkjet technology, proven input and output units for sheets, and Océ iQuarius Technologies. High productivity and low running costs team with the versatility of sheet-fed, white-paper-in, full-color-out workflows.
Powers suggests that when you take into account a lower acquisition price and up to half the operating costs of traditional toner-based equipment, this press is well suited for a lot of different printers. “It works for book printers because it doesn’t require as high of monthly volumes as other presses. Plus, this press can easily be used for a variety of other applications when not used for books and manuals,” she offers.
Additionally, the company’s Océ ImageStream 3500 is the first full-color, continuous feed Océ inkjet solution to print on standard offset paper. “This means a printer can save up to 50 percent on paper costs by using paper already in stock. Its extensive paper spectrum includes standard offset, lightweight offset, and standard offset coated stock—without the need for primers or bonding agents. This press can print up to 525 feet per minute, but still has one of the most compact footprints in its class. Powers says the ImageStream is an excellent option for traditional offset printers to transition into inkjet and the world of digital printing.
According to the company, HP PageWide Web Press T200, T300, and T400 platforms are broadly deployed in the book publishing markets by the largest book printers in North America, Europe, the U.K., and Australia. The format size, productivity, reliability, and economics drive adoption in trade, education, science/technology/math (STM), and journal markets.
Sexton says leaps in quality on coated offset stocks enabled by recently introduced primer solutions will drive wider use in books and expand into journals, manuals, magazines, and catalogs.
Across its base of publisher customers, Mansfied says the majority of the short count work that was once done on offset is now being done on the KODAK PROSPER Presses. He says the KODAK PROSPER 6000 Presses offer an advanced feature set and next-generation capabilities.
Targeting the STM journal segment, which Mansfield says is not adopting color inkjet production, the Kodak Prosper 6000 press stands out with nanoparticulate pigment inks and a unique approach to drying.
Malkin says digital inkjet printers like Ricoh’s InfoPrint 5000 and RICOH Pro VC60000—with the ability to add personalization and versioning—allow printers to migrate short-run publishing jobs to inkjet without sacrificing quality, all while improving job turnaround time and decreasing overall costs.
The InfoPrint 5000 family provides book printing customers with a high quality, fully scalable solution that meets all needs.
Some of the usage benefits for publishers that make the InfoPrint 5000 stand out include providing good print quality—with multiple bits per spot—and utilizing piezoelectric inkjet technology that automatically and dynamically determines the optimal drop sizes to jet at every pixel on every page to produce clear text and images.
It also offers a suite of ink measurement tools that produce quick and accurate ink estimates at the job costing stage and capture actual ink usage upon print completion. This includes the Ink Savvy tool for ink optimization, which provides ink usage reductions from ten to more than 50 percent, while preserving the document’s high-quality color appearance, allowing for extensive cost savings. The Ink Savvy tool also can be used on all stocks.
The RICOH Pro VC60000, coupled with Ricoh’s software offerings, enables a more rapid shift from offset to digital as book printers focus on data-driven applications and workflows requiring high-performance color inkjet presses with vibrant print quality and increased media flexibility. Some additional usage benefits to the RICOH Pro VC60000 include advanced drying capabilities, variable data capabilities, and finishing capabilities.
In addition to its hardware solutions, Screen has developed workflow software to allow for the grouping of like jobs by paper type into one workflow ‘input channel’ to allow for efficient production.
According to Schlimme, grouping jobs by paper type—while allowing book-independent imposition and final trim—greatly increases potential throughput of a publishing inkjet press and enables dramatic reduction in production costs through ganging of short runs.
Publishing is a target market for production inkjet technology. As the industry continues to shift toward digital, the growth opportunity is expanding. With cost effectiveness and waste reduction, inkjet helps increase potential revenue for publishers and book manufacturers. dps
May2016, DPS Magazine