Bookbinders' Guild of NY Examines Offshoring
More than 100 executives from the book publishing industry made their way across New York City on the eve of Jan. 11, through a particularly heavy downpour, to Café St. Barts to examine offshore printing at a monthly meeting of The Bookbinders' Guild of New York.
"With so much work moving offshore," as the meeting flyer had announced, the meeting organizers felt the subject was an essential one to address. And, despite the cold wind and rain, the topic lured in attendees.
"Attendance was about 120—larger than most of our meetings," says Marvin Dunkiel, program director for the guild and sales director for Cadmus Communications. "I was a little concerned starting off the New Year with the subject, but I believe we were pleasantly surprised."
Presenting at the dinner were Sue Cole, director of production for the Children's Book Group of Disney Publishing Worldwide, and Rick Willett, vice president of production for Sterling Publishing Co. Inc. (Stanley Redfern, vice president of production for Harry N. Abrams Inc., was also scheduled to present, but was unable to make it to the event.)
Sue Cole started off the presentations while guild members finished off their dinner and drinks. "There are good and bad points of doing offshore work. We'd like to manufacture in the U.S., but we can't afford to do it," she said. "I think there are also great, great things about [manufacturing] overseas. … You have to look at the big picture and position things where they're best-suited."
While many of Disney's children's books are produced overseas, including the Baby Einstein imprint, which will now be printed entirely offshore, Cole noted that 63 percent of Disney's books are manufactured in the United States.
Cole also outlined factors that would determine whether a book was a candidate for manufacturing. "If a book is more than 200 pages, or has more than a 75,000 print run, it's more cost-effective for you to do it here [in the U.S.] because of the weight of the book, the cost of shipping …" She added that she compares numbers side-by-side to determine a book's destination for production.
Rick Willett stepped up to the podium next, addressing Sterling's children's, novelty, trade, bargain and custom publishing books. "We do most four-color work offshore, and almost all one-color work domestically," he said. "Our goal is to bring in the best book at the most aggressive price."
Willett pinpointed the key factors he uses to determine where a book gets manufactured:
• The retail price.
• Is it on the right press?
• Is it being printed on the right paper?
• Is it a kit? Does it require sourcing to produce disparate elements?
Willett also addressed what is on the minds of many production executives faced with the same challenges he has of managing cost and quality: "Offshoring is a dirty word today, but it is necessary in terms of the constraints we have to deal with."
Members of the audience, from both publishers and printers alike, questioned other aspects of offshoring, such as human rights concerns and environmental standards. Cole addressed the issue of human rights first, explaining that Disney Publishing addresses this concern by sending auditors to overseas facilities: "We have a program of social compliance. If The Walt Disney Co. finds some issue with how they treat employees, they pull their business."
While the auditing practice ensures that Disney isn't supporting a company engaged in substandard human rights practices, Cole adds, "I would love to see an organization or committee of publishing organizations [be formed] to solve any [human rights] issues that are found and fix them."
The Master of All Production Decisions
Questions from the audience led the discussion through many different areas of offshoring and book production. One audience member asked whether the speakers would sacrifice quality for price "Quality is the master of the day. It's irresponsible to manufacture a book that doesn't look good as a sacrifice to low manufacturing price," Willett explained.
As the hour approached half-past nine, talks winded down and members filtered back out into the rainy New York night. Dunkiel said he thought the night was a success, and he explained that the Jan. 11 meeting was one typical of the guild's relatively new approach to serving its members. "The Bookbinders' Guild of New York has tried and we have been successful in taking a different approach to our dinner meetings. Over the past year or two, we have presented case studies that assist our membership to understand the changing technologies, print offerings and production innovations."