Top Book Manufacturers: Printers Adapt by Following the Market
"The printers we compete with every day are generally pretty smart about how they run their business," he says. "They've been at it so long they know how to adjust their business to get through the tough spots—look at Edwards Brothers, Malloy, Sheridan [Books], [RR] Donnelley. We've had times in the industry where we've had to reduce costs to come in line with demand, and we've been successful with it. We remember that as a business."
In other words, Spall says, now is not the time to be thinking in terms of business models being overturned by a digital deluge. It is more a matter of shifting strategies to match publishers' evolving needs, and too much focus on e-books threatens to take attention away from what is, at this time, most significantly impacting the market: short-run printing.
"The e-revolution has been upon us," Wurster says. "It will certainly affect the printing industry moving into the future; however, the question is to what degree. Our experience to date shows us that both POD [print-on-demand] and e-books have increased the overall number of titles 'in print,' which has been extremely beneficial to our business."
Bruce Jensen, group vice president of sales at Transcontinental Printing, says that shorter runs and lower book inventories are becoming the new norm in the book manufacturing world. "Not to say that our traditional web production is going away, but it is definitely changing," he says. "We've had to get better, making shorter runs and being … faster to market."
Spall agrees that, near term, the main effect of POD and short-run printing has been publishers' desire for speed. "They are still not investing in inventory, so they need to move quick—[including] having content readily available on the Internet," he says.
Speed also has become a key leverage point for North American printers in a changing global marketplace.