Strategically Speaking: Is Digital Printing 'Ready for Prime Time'?
7. Regional manufacturing. In a global economy moving at Internet speed, there's a lot to be said for replacing the long-standing tradition of manufacturing in the country of original publication (there goes that obsession with unit manufacturing cost again) with exporting to international markets with a policy of local manufacturing—as close to the customer as manufacturing capabilities permit. If we take a total cost perspective—defined here as printing, shipping and handling, customs clearance, inventory carrying costs (including obsolescence and the risk of lost sales created by not having the inventory immediately available to meet customer demand)—the case for local manufacturing is hard to dismiss. While all this is good news for the publisher's bottom line, it's unlikely to bode well for country-of-origin print orders.
8. Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA). Effective in July, any institution of higher education receiving funding from the federal government must, "to the maximum extent practicable," provide students with early notice of the texts required for the courses in which they are enrolled to give them ample time to examine alternatives for sourcing their course material.
To quote from a summary of the HEOA created by the National Association of College Stores, the legislation "encourages institutions of higher education to disseminate information to students on campus-based initiatives to reduce costs such as used books, guaranteed buyback, rental programs, e-books, print-on-demand, etc." I am not suggesting that this legislation is in any way inappropriate or unnecessary; however, it is difficult to understand how it will make forecasting inventory requirements any easier for college publishers.
What does all of this mean in practical terms? I am not predicting the demise of the printed book. It will be around for a long time to come and, in one fashion or another, will always be indispensable.