The Magic Number of One
Sponsored by HP
In the past 10 years, the time required to produce a hardcover book has shrunk from six to eight weeks to as little as seven days. While major efficiency improvements have occurred in the world of offset printing, most of this astonishing contraction in time and cost has occurred thanks to digital printing technology.
Up until recently, no matter the size of the order, printing plates had to be created and make-readys (quality checks) done on the press, leading to huge amounts of wasted paper and high costs for equipment set-up. Now, publishers have the option of low cost, quick turnaround digital printing. While large print jobs are still economical on sheetfed and web presses, smaller volume and back order print jobs are rapidly shifting to digital.
Digital printing options have enabled a revolution in book manufacturing, abetted by the growth of self-publishing and other short-run publishing models. The ability to print books economically in very small quantities, or even one book at a time (“print on demand”), has allowed publishers to slash inventories, create personalized editions and take maximum advantage of the “long tail” market in backlist titles. According to a recent report from R. R. Bowker, production of on-demand titles increased 132 percent from 2008 to 2009, the second year of triple digit growth in this segment.
Fred Daubert, President of The Riverside Group and Book One, has witnessed this transition first hand. Though he oversees one of the largest binderies on the East Coast, a large focus of his business is now on digital printing- a direct response to customer demand.
“In 2004 we started to receive calls on a regular basis to do short run, quick turn hard and softcover books, and we were passing on those opportunities like crazy,” he recalls. “When we started to see the demand grow, we realized we need to get on board with this and figure out how to make money on extremely short run products.”