Cover Story: Top 30 Book Manufacturers
UPDATE: Click here to see the latest ranking of Top Book Manufacturers.
In the current economy, the book manufacturing industry appears to be caught square between the proverbial rock and a hard place: on the one side, a publishing business suffering from decreased consumer demand and on the other, suppliers destabilized by the credit crunch. The industry, however, is showing surprising resiliency, having been thrust into difficult times with eyes wide open. Printers are determined to meet the challenge of a new marketplace defined by multiplatform delivery systems, environmental awareness and niche distribution models in the hopes that the post-“great recession” economy will find a book manufacturing industry emerging leaner, “greener” and more focused on the place of books in a digital age.
In light of these challenging times, this year’s list of North America’s Top 30 Book Manufacturers reveals a mixed bag of results. Of the 23 companies appearing on both last year’s and this year’s list, 10 reported declines in book manufacturing revenue while 13 grew this segment of their business. A year ago, just seven of the 30 companies on the list reported lower figures than their 2007 revenues.
Book Business’ annual list of the Top 30 Book Manufacturers is the industry’s most comprehensive ranking of the leading public and private book printers in the United States and Canada. In addition to financial information from public companies, the ranking includes figures voluntarily provided by privately held firms. Despite Book Business’ repeated attempts, some companies declined to divulge their annual printing sales figures—or would not break down these sales by revenue from book printing—and, therefore, were not included on the list. RR Donnelley does not separate its revenue from book printing from its other businesses, but based on the company’s acquisitions of Perry Judd’s, Von Hoffman and Banta Corp. more than a year ago, Donnelley took the No. 1 spot.
To accompany its annual list of Top 30 Book Manufacturers, Book Business asked several manufacturing executives to share their thoughts on the state of the book printing industry in 2009:
- John Edwards, president and CEO, Edwards Brothers Inc.
- Mike Collinge, president and CEO, Webcom Inc.
- Jim Pentecost, president and CEO, Dickinson Press
- Doug Symington, general sales manager, Friesens
John Edwards, president and CEO, Edwards Brothers Inc.
BB: What are the most important changes you’ve seen in the book printing market over the past year?
Edwards: … The economy. …The trade market has probably been the hardest hit since it depends on disposable income. When people are worried about paying bills and keeping their jobs, they cut back spending on discretionary items like books. In the K-12 [education] market, things are … less clear. There is a lot of talk that the stimulus plan will trickle down to spending on textbooks and supplementary materials, but … we’ll see if the orders roll in as usual this spring and summer. The college market is more stable—when the economy goes south, people go back to school, and they’re going to need textbooks and related materials. However, in that market, publishers are battling a growing used-book market [online] as well as technology developments like Amazon’s recent announcement of an academic market version of the Kindle. (See Market Focus sidebar for more on this.)
The key question is whether the market rebounds when the economy turns around. There are some fundamental shifts in how publishers are looking at inventory. They’re printing shorter runs more often versus stocking up in hopes that the inventory sells through.