Frankly Speaking: The Rise of the Full-Color Book
FujiFilm and Dainippon Screen introduced production 4-up machines in 2008, though they did not reach the market until 2012. That same year, the industry learned about Landa Nanographic Printers which use liquid toner delivered by inkjet—the machines came in B2 and roll-fed versions. Their technology allows full-color printing with less ink, as liquid toner use is evolving rapidly. Once the province of Indigo, Xeikon and Océ have also shown new machines using this method.
Combined with new finishing systems, these digital printer/presses allow production of book printing runs from one to hundreds—in full color. Once new technology is in place, innovative companies find new markets. In the old days full-color books required long runs to justify their production. For some full-color books overseas production was an option. Because they could have long lead times they could be sent to India, Singapore or China for cheaper offset printing. I caught up with Joe Pasky in Hong Kong last year. He is a consultant to American publishers who print in China, and he does color checks to assure quality. The majority of the printing that he sees is books.
The new breed of digital printer/presses is bringing some of that work back to the U.S. Thanks to new devices capable of longer short runs, publishers are embracing on-demand concepts. The growth of online book buying and the decline in physical bookstores has changed the way buyers buy real books. More importantly, the color book, whether el-hi, college or some other category, is on an upswing.
HP sent me a full-color travel book printed on coated stock. I would defy the most adamant print proponent (anyone left with a loupe in their pocket) to tell the difference between it and offset. Thus, as color becomes easier and more economical to produce, printers and publishers avail themselves of the new methods. Just as the monochrome digital printer gave us the on-demand book market, new digital color printer/presses are accelerating the production of all manner of books. And more and more color books are now produced than ever before—one at a time. x