Book Business EXTRA! Q&A -- Xerox’s New Technology Helps Customize Teaching Materials Digitally
Xerox rolls out a new digital production product this weekend at Graph Expo 2006--it’s one that the company expects will change the way teacher’s editions of textbooks are produced. Incorporating a combination of a press retrofit and new software, school districts across the country will now have the ability to pick what content goes into their version of the teacher’s textbook to help meet the “No Child Left Behind” legislation at a much lower price. Printers will be able to produce the books more quickly and at a much lower cost, too. Tracy Yelencsics, manager of Production Color Marketing for Xerox’s Production Systems Group, chats with Book Business EXTRA! about the new offering.
Book Business EXTRA! -- Has there been much interest in this type of product?
Tracy Yelencsics -- We actually came up with this solution because our customers were asking for it. As we worked with various publishers, this came up as an opportunity. We think there will be a great interest in doing this.
At Mercury Print (Book Division in Rochester, N.Y.), they reduced prepress setup time from 30 hours to 30 minutes. It’s just incredible. They were our initial test customer.
EXTRA! -- From a production standpoint, will this technology save printers money?
Yelencsics -- Absolutely. In the past, what happened was that for each state there is a different book--even for each school district. There were several skilled employees who would pull the pages out of a PDF repository, manually bring these together and send them to the printer. Then they would manually collate the books. That’s tons of manual labor. ...With the new process, you basically have one operator. It’s an integration, with lightweight papers, to create a custom teacher’s edition book that has each page that can be customized for each state. ... It calls out and assembles that book for Pennsylvania, [for example] and creates a completely collated book.
EXTRA! -- How does this change what is currently available in the textbook market?
Yelencsics -- This is really revolutionary. You’re going from offset to digital. ... Book publishers are pulling for it -- the book printers are doing it the way they’ve always done it because they can demand these prices. ... The publishers were really enamored with the lower price per book. We’ve actually modified the IGen3 (Digital Production Press). Because we’re running these lightweight stocks, we had to make some modifications and develop the software to automate the process. It’s a really exciting new capability.
EXTRA! -- How much is digital technology expected to lower the price of a teacher’s edition book for schools?
Yelencsics -- It’s a significant savings. Currently teacher’s edition books can be in the thousands per book. There’s a lot of prepress and startup time. The distribution, the warehousing. These books are between 1,000 and 1,300 pages.
They can be very pricey. But they’re necessary. Because of the reduction in prepress time we can take that cost down to the hundreds. You’re talking about a magnitude of savings.
EXTRA! -- What grade levels and subjects is this expected to work best with?
Yelencsics -- It’s suited for elementary through 12th grade. It’s focused more on the basics. Math, science and English--where there can be standardized testing.
EXTRA! -- Should we expect to see this type of technology used in the production of other types of textbooks or other books?
Yelencsics -- I think so. ... There’s a couple of ways it can be used. With other textbooks in general, a lot of times you’re running very short quantities. You want to make sure you can do that digitally, rather than off an onset press. Both the textbook and teacher’s edition require them to be available for 10 years. As the traditional model, for the teacher’s edition, as well as the textbook, you don’t want to put it on press again. You print it, store it in a warehouse. That drives cost up. With this, as you get to the end of that 10 years, you can reprint them on-demand with a digital file. That’s why it will be utilized in other textbooks. We’re also seeing a lot of this in self-published books.