IT Strategies VP Marco Boer: My 10 Takeaways From the Digital Book Printing Conference
Editor’s Note: The following is a recap of the 2014 Digital Book Printing Conference. The conference will return this year on October 27th at the New York City Union League. Join keynote speaker Marco Boer, Printing Impressions, and Book Business for insights on the latest digital printing technology and unparalleled networking opportunities with leaders from all levels of the book supply chain. Register for the 2015 Digital Book Printing Conference here.
Book publishing and manufacturing are dynamic industries, under accelerating change. A trio of factors is driving excitement, challenges, and opportunity in these industries. They are: changes in volumes, changes in velocity, and changes in variety. Print volumes per title continue to systemically decline, a trend dating back to the early 1900s. The number of titles, and the velocity at which those titles are coming to market, is accelerating. And most disruptive of all, the variety of competition for our attention is putting pressure on the publishing industry to be more marketing oriented -- editorial merit alone is no longer sufficient.
At the Digital Book Printing Conference held at the Marriott Marquis in New York City in November, a rich agenda of content provided the contrasting views of publishers, book manufacturers, and retailers on the future outlook of the industry and ways to positively impact this dynamic and culturally important industry. While there was no lack of opinions and nuances in views of the industry, 10 big takeaways stood out:
- A sobering perspective: The overall number of books required is likely to continue to decline as demand shifts to other entertainment habits.
- The backbone of the publishing industry is storytelling. Storytelling never goes out of fashion.
- Consumers want any title, in any format, any time -- and they want it quickly.
- The economic turndown in 2008 fueled publishers' understanding of the efficiency role and need for digital print.
- Efficiency is not just about print -- it is also about upgrading all other aspects of how business is done from inventorying to order taking and processing.
- Inkjet production printer productivity gave publishers the confidence to migrate to a made-to-order business model.
- "Culture eats strategy for breakfast": it is no good changing a part of the process unless all levels of the process and management buy in.
- The book manufacturing industry needs to reposition its terminology in regard to digital printing: it is not on-demand printing, but rather inventory-less publishing.
- Digital printing has made on-shoring of run lengths under 2,500 books viable, well on its way to becoming a requirement towards meeting the needs of point 3.
- Independent bookstores were decimated by not just online retailers, but also by change in financial terms driven by publishers to the big box retailers. Remaining independent bookstores have revived sales in the last 12-18 months by turning stores into experience centers.
In the end, the future health of the book publishing industry is deeply rooted in the success of enabling print to become more efficient. Ebooks play an important role, but growth rates of ebook sales have slowed in North America and indicate a trend towards maturity. Print still matters. Digital print technology -- both toner and inkjet production printing - is the enabler that will help publishers free up millions of dollars in working capital still tied up in inventory due to the old offset printing model. These capital dollars are critically needed to help promote new authors and content, as the window of opportunity and attention span for content is narrower than ever before. Internet retailers, while large and efficient, have little stake in the future of the book industry. They are efficient at moving goods, but are poorly suited to telling stories. The publishers, book manufacturers, and retailers are co-dependent: it is up to all three parties to assume a leadership role in keeping books in the hearts, minds, and wallets of consumers. Digital print is one tool to help lead.