Q&A with Edwards Brothers Malloy CEO John Edwards
How are you working with publishers differently now in light of this shift?
The trend that I'm seeing is that larger publishers are consolidating their vendors. As publishers consolidate, electronic integration becomes a more viable opportunity. That means a printer's system is integrated with the publishers so that orders become automated processes. No one needs to touch the order once it comes in. There is a ton of money there for both sides. It's an automatic replenishment model. A few publishers are doing this now but not very many.
Do you think that will be the norm in the future?
I think it has to be. If you quantify the transaction costs for typical print orders they are quite high. But in an automated scenario, where the printer manages new orders as they come in, suddenly that entire infrastructure that manages reprints is gone. If you have corrections it gets a little more complicated, so maybe start with the deep backlist stuff, which is basically what a POD program does.
How has the evolution and growth of digital book printing affected the industry?
We've been in digital printing since the mid-90s. Initially there were legitimate quality concerns but today it is hard to distinguish between offset, inkjet, and digital. There are subtle differences in the colors. Really it's about the cost savings though. You don't get savings initially, but you save on the backend. Say you have a title that is three or four years old and you use digital printing, you'll make up the money you spend with cut inventory costs and quicker turnarounds.
The publishing community lives and dies by the last reprint decision they make, and they're always wrong. They either print too many or not enough. I think you're going to see more hybrid models. You can start of with offset, and as sales level off you can switch to digital to meet the demand as it comes in. You minimize the damage of being wrong. It's a very different model because publishers are fixated on price point rather than the whole supply chain cost, and it's when you look at the whole supply chain costs that digital starts making sense.