Special Report: Today’s Global Sourcing Market
The concept of offshoring—the practice of sourcing manufacturing or content management services overseas—is no stranger to the book publishing industry. Complex four-color work has long been sent to countries such as Italy and Japan, where the labor-intensive processes of producing art books (hand-stripping, contacting and working with film) were more cost-effective.
Today, the same advances in technology that have had such a profound effect on publishing in general over the last 20 years—digital prepress work, real-time tracking of projects through the supply chain and instantaneous sending of digital files, among others—have opened the door to a true global sourcing revolution.
“With Mac, Pagemaker, Quark and InDesign, much of the prepress is no longer a big deal,” says George C. Dick, president of Four Colour Imports Ltd., based in Louisville, Ky. “Printing machines are automated, and most books are printed using computer-to-plate technology.”
China has captured the bulk of this new automated printing business made possible by the ability to work directly from digital files, while most U.S. publishers have retained prepress services domestically, believing that more complex design and layout tasks are best kept close to the chest.
“The advantage to having the prepress handled over here in the U.S. is, if there are any problems encountered, they can be promptly worked out by the technician right here, rather than two or three days back and forth,” Dick points out.
But even this is changing. The most significant recent development in global sourcing is the sending of prepress and editorial services overseas, made possible by the near-seamless integration of domestic and offshore production work, to the extent that publishers can customize combinations of services based on the needs of a particular project for maximum speed, quality and profitability.
“In an era of FTP sites, video conferencing and increased data-transfer speeds, the transfer of information and the development of projects overseas becomes more viable every day,” notes Raoul Goff, president of San Rafael, Calif.-based printer Palace Press International. “Communicating with our English-speaking Hong Kong office is no more difficult than communicating with a print vendor down the street.”