Hands Across the Water
Integrated Book Technologies Inc. (IBT Global), a leading U.S. digital book manufacturer, is partnering with Biddles Ltd., one of Great Britain's top book manufacturers. The companies hope pairing their organizations will provide multinational marketing advantages.
The cost of manufacturing and shipping short-run books overseas is around $2.50 per unit, decimating a title's earning potential. And the costs of managing unsold overseas copies make expenses even more onerous, says Mark Tracten, director of American operations for Crown House Publishing Ltd., in the U.K.
Tracten was IBT Global's first customer, when he owned and operated publishing company Brunner/Mazel Inc., in the U.K., a decade ago. Tracten uses digital publishing to speed time to market of new titles.
He believes the IBT/Biddles partnership will further accelerate the global distribution of digitally published works. "Time wise, [digital] saves us three or four weeks," Tracten says. "If you're a medium or small publisher, the cost savings can be significant."
The savings increase as the number of titles and the size of print runs go down, Tracten says. That's because many components of freight-forwarder invoices have minimum changes. When those components are spread over fewer copies, margins crumble.
Digitally printing on multiple continents changes these economics. For example, a publisher with a 1,000 unit run can manufacture 600 copies in Europe, and 400 in the United States. Instead of heavy transatlantic freight charges, IBT/Biddles will charge a small premium for splitting the run.
Instead of printing on U.S. presses, packing books, preparing export paperwork, shipping, then waiting weeks for books to arrive, IBT/Biddles can simply upload content.
A U.S. book can be sent to the U.K. digital presses in minutes. The U.K. plant then prints and distributes the title, using the papers, bindings, and covers best suited to the target market.
But this type of leading-edge service requires greatly expanded printing capacities. That's the motivation behind the IBT/Biddles partnership, says John Paeglow, president of IBT Global, in Troy, N.Y. "It's hard to gauge order volume, even a week ahead," he says.
That makes responsiveness dependent on capacity. Pairing with Biddles triples the volume IBT Global could produce previously, Paeglow says.
Products for North and South American distribution will be manufactured at IBT Global's Troy plant. Titles targeted for the continent will be produced at Biddles' King's Lynn, U.K. facility.
The agreement with IBT is Biddles' first entry into the U.S. market, says Mick Read, Biddles' managing director. Read says the partnership brings together "the most technologically advanced digital printing capabilities on each side of the Atlantic."
That's important, Read says, because the greatest need for digital printing are medium-sized publishers with fairly large quantities, and a presence on one of the two continents.
IBT's Paeglow agrees, and says the long-term goal of the partnership is to jointly develop a global digital printing network. The company plans to use the "distribute and print" model to produce books in the Far East as well.
- Jeff Angus