Reach for the Top
As the world turns, so does the book manufacturing industry. International affairs brought both pessimism and hope to an industry still in the throes of a sputtering global economy.
On the upside: a new Harry Potter title and Hillary Clinton's memoirs have legions of readers shelling out cash at bookstores nationwide.
Indeed, the Association of American Publishers, Washington, reports U.S. book sales rose 5.5% in 2002, to $27 billion—proving once again that, no matter how bad things seem, you can't keep a good book down.
Or a good book manufacturer. Despite competitive market conditions, high unemployment, war in the Middle East, a dearth of runaway best sellers, and a New York Times credibility scandal, the vendors we surveyed managed, in general, to hold their ground.
Twenty four of the manufacturers surveyed appeared in Booktech's 2001 ranking last August. Some among them managed substantial revenue increases, up 87% in one case. Others lost ground, off 2% to a staggering 40%.
Total book-related revenues among these 24 vendors slipped 5%, from $3.6 billion in 2001 to $3.4 billion in 2002, a decline of $162 million. When averaged, however, revenues for the group are up 1%.
Top-ranked R.R. Donnelly held its ground over last year, with $705 million in sales, compared to $708 million last year. That was enough to clinch the top spot on this year's Booktech survey, and bump rival Quebecor World to first runner-up.
Quebecor World, Montreal, reported total book-related revenue of $513 million, down from the $718 million reported on the company's 2001 annual report.
"If you're looking at sales, it's pretty much flat year over year," says Ed Lane, president of R.R. Donnelley's book publishing services business. "While we would have loved to have higher revenues, we're satisfied with our growth and value-added revenue year over year."
Lane credits strong customer relationships in education and trade book markets for helping the company maintain its sales levels. "We're winning in the marketplace by focusing on customers' needs," Lane says. "In doing so, we provide superior value."
The biggest revenue drop among vendors surveyed in '01 and '02 was experienced by Solisco Printers, Scott, Quebec. Management there saw sales decline 40%, to $11.9 million, over 12 months.
Big dips were also recorded by sixth-ranked Courier Corp., N. Chelmsford, Mass., off 20%; McNaughton & Gunn Inc., Saline, Mich., down 15%; and no. 2 ranked Quebecor World, down 34%. Quebecor World declined to comment.
NPC Inc., Claysburg, Pa., scored the largest gains, with reported sales up an astounding 87% over last year, to $27.6 million. That rocketed NPC up to the no. 20 position, up a full 10 slots over last year's ranking.
NPC's president Mark Kelly says a stronger working relationship with print brokers, distributors, and other printers was responsible for the growth. NPC's primary book printing products are one- and two-color web offset, augmented by a full-service bindery.
Other big gainers: Hess Management Co., Austin, Tex., up 41% to $120 million; and Arvato Print USA (formerly Bertelsmann Arvato), Dallas, Pa., up 31%, to $252 million. That was enough to take the no. 5 spot away from Courier Corp.
Other changes among vendors at the top of Booktech's annual ranking: Von Hoffmann Corp., St. Louis, returned to the no. 3 position, passing Banta Corp., Menasha, Wis., on the way.
Von Hoffmann reported book revenue of $372 million, up $54 million over last year. Banta slid to the no. 4 spot, reporting book revenue of $362 million. That compares to $330 million last year.
In all, Booktech contacted 74 printers with book manufacturing facilities in the United States and Canada, and asked them for their total revenues and total book manufacturing revenues for 2002. (See page 33 for the complete list.)
Among those who didn't respond to our inquiries were Sheridan Books Inc., and Webcom Ltd., numbers 14 and 26, respectively, from last year's survey.
- Warren Chiara