The Full 360 on Digital
Booktech: Are we talking about full color printing?
Bauer: Even though [digital] started in the one-color arena first, it's now starting to occur in the four-color side.
Booktech: Are publishers getting requests for digital printing from traditional offset customers?
Bauer: There's been a tremendous amount of experimenting with it over the last few years. There have been pockets of success. It really depends on the publisher's inventory management and titles strategies. If a trade publisher believes the bigger their book listing is, the more intellectual property they have, and therefore the more valuable their publishing arm is, then keeping things in print forever makes sense. But when a publisher is focused on delivering a percentage of gross margin as gross profit, sometimes keeping books in print, even with less costly print-on-demand technology, it is not making a great contribution to their margin. As a matter of fact, some can point to where it's actually hurting their margin.
Booktech: So sometimes keeping books in print is not advantageous even though there is market demand?
Bauer: Exactly. You still have to consider all the other costs that conduct the transaction. You have to factor in returns. Granted, they'll be lower, but they're still going to occur, and there's overhead associated with processing them. You have to factor in fulfillment and distribution and handling. When you weigh all the costs for a run of one or 20 books, and you still have to pass a discount to the store, it's hard to make a profitable contribution to the larger business.
Craig Bauer (Craig.Bauer@RRD.com) is director of business development at R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. in New York.