Tapping the Digital Book Printing Opportunity
The world of digital content is changing so rapidly with the rise of mobile, video, AR, VR, big data, little data, that many publishers may forget that print content is evolving too. New technologies in the book printing industry are creating opportunities for publishers to streamline their operations, distribute their books faster, and develop new revenue streams. Digital book printing, which encompasses both inkjet and toner applications, allows publishers to take the pulse of the market and adjust their strategy as demand wanes or surges for individual titles. This responsive approach is something that is not possible with offset printing alone, a model where publishers must guess how a book might perform and take on greater risk.
Yet despite the benefits of digital book printing, many publishers, particularly large trade publishers that rely on bestsellers for their income, have been hesitant to adopt. The reasons for this hesitation range from concerns over the quality and cost of digital printing to challenges related to adjusting workflows and infrastructure. While all of these objections have some validity—publishers cannot yet print large, four-color runs affordably on inkjet presses, for example—significant strides have been made in all of these areas. Book manufacturers continue to invest in faster and higher-quality digital printing presses as well as the backend technology that enables publishers to send PDF files to manufacturers who can print the same day—or even immediately.
The revenue implications of these technology advances are huge. Some book publishers have significantly expanded their sales overseas because they are able to deliver digital files to printers outside of the U.S. that can print short, digital runs in growing markets. Others have developed new revenue streams, selling on-demand copies of updated books and volumes. And some are reviving out-of-print titles that previously were too expensive to print offset yet still have a small and loyal following. And of course, many publishers have cited the significant savings of reducing inventory and, in some cases, eliminating their warehouses altogether.
In this article, we will explore what is possible in the realm of digital printing, what steps publishers need to take to expand their digital printing efforts, and how some book publishers are driving revenue and cutting costs with digital printing.