Technical Director Jean-François Lyet on How Hachette Livre Is Capitalizing on Digital Printing
In March, I attended the Ricoh Publishing Executive Symposium to learn about digital book printing and its evolving role within the book industry. The event gathered a number of book manufacturers and publishers in order to discuss the latest innovations in digital printing technology and how those innovations are reshaping the business. According to printing consultant Sean Smyth, who spoke at the Symposium, inkjet and print-on-demand are reshaping how we distribute books and driving greater profits for the entire book supply chain.
During the Symposium, I spoke with a number of book publishing leaders in attendance about the challenges and opportunities of digital print. One of the executives I spoke with was Jean-François Lyet, technical director at Hachette Livre in Paris. Lyet noted that digital book printing is a significant part of Hachette Livre’s business and will continue to be in the future. Today the majority of Hachette Livre’s print runs are digital, said Lyet. He added that, in terms of book volume, about 20% of the French publisher’s books are printed digitally. Most of these digitally printed titles are monochrome trade books and academic titles. Lyet anticipates that as inkjet becomes more affordable on a per unit basis, four-color books will also enter the digital printing mix.
Following is the complete interview with Lyet in which he shares how digital printing is helping Hachette Livre anticipate market needs and reduce inventory costs.
How is Hachette Livre utilizing digital book printing right now? Is it a significant part of your business?
Yes, in fact, this is a major part of the business for two segments. We mainly print with digital technology for the monochrome trade market and also the monochrome university/academic segment.
Are you doing new trade releases digitally or doing backlist for trade?
We mainly do digital printing for the backlist. Just to give you a rough idea in term of our print runs, we now do more print jobs digitally for the trade market than with the traditional analog technology. In terms of volume, that’s completely different. Up to now, we print roughly 20% of the trade volumes with digital and 80% with traditional offset technology.
Are you doing a mix of digital toner and inkjet?
Yes, for the very small print runs like print-on-demand, we use sheet-fed, toner technology. As the print runs increase, we move to web press toner technology, and then we move to web press inkjet technology. We can reach up to, for the monochrome business, 3,000-5,000 copies per print run with the inkjet web press.
What are some of the opportunities digital printing opens up for Hachette?
The main opportunity that we have with digital technology, including inkjet, is that we are now able to reduce drastically the print runs and to print only what we need. This is really the main advantage for us. We can reduce the runs; we can reduce the inventory; we can increase the cash. That’s a great opportunity for us.
What are the barriers to more widespread adoption of digital printing at Hachette Livre?
What we expect for the future is that we can also use digital technology for four-color books. But up to now we can do that only for very short print runs, due to the fact that unit costs are still too high with inkjet. We expect in the future, thanks to volumes increases, thanks to technology development, we will be able to move more volumes to inkjet for the four-color business.
As Hachette Livre reduces its inventory will it close its warehouses as well?
We are very far from closing our warehouses. I cannot imagine that we will be able to use digital technology for the bestsellers. For the books where we sell more than 10,000 or 20,000 copies per year, it doesn’t make sense to use the inkjet or digital technologies.
How will Hachette Livre’s use of digital printing technology evolve over the next three to five years?
What I expect is that as we move the monochrome business to the inkjet technology, we will also move a significant part of the four-color business, mainly for two segments -- the educational front and the university/academic front. Those will be the main two targets within next few years.
Book Business will be hosting the 2017 Digital Book Printing Conference in NYC. Stay tuned for more information and registration details.