Waiting for Darwin
According to Carlos Diaz, technical sales manager, Quebecor World, "[E-procurement companies] are riding the Wall Street dot-com wave. That is the reason they have the capital. Because there is a lack of technical knowledge on the part of the investment community, they have been able to sell services based on speculation." Diaz also feels that investors misjudged the consumer, especially in the book space. "The [targeted] users are not the younger Internet-based generation. Are they predisposed to interface with one another in that way? No. Changing a this-is-how-we've-done-it mentality in the book publishing/manufacturing industry is difficult."
Andrew Schaer, vice president of marketing at printCafe.com, agrees: "Printing is a very cautious industry, particularly in the book area. No one is going to make changes unless they feel that the technology is exactly where they want it to be."
Prognosticators erred in assuming an entire industry would alter how it conducts transactions just because it could. There has been little movement towards this model in the book space, but e-procurement provid-ers believe time is on their side. Several factors have kept the two industries from meshing.
The primary hurdle is the strong relationship book publishers have with their printers. "In the book industry, literally all of the major publishers and printers have long-term contracts. At no time are they operating on an event or book-by-book basis. Three or four printers absolutely dominate the market," says Ned Gibbons, business development manager for Noosh.
Robert Hu, vice president, strategic marketing, printing and publishing, Collabria, a print e-commerce facilitator, adds that his company is not really targeting the book space because of these strong bonds. "Publishers make it a point to work closely with vendors. Relationships are much deeper than those in typical commercial printing where the investment is not as long-term," he admits. "The ability to manufacture a book efficiently and economically is core to their product so they have more incentive to map out better production routes."