The State of the Industry
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Bruce W. Smith on book manufacturing
Bruce W. Smith is the executive vice president of the Book Manufacturers Institute, a 71-year-old trade organization for U.S. book manufacturers and their suppliers. He formerly was senior
vice president of manufacturing for
RR Donnelley, which ranked as the second largest book manufacturer in North America in BookTech Magazine's 2004 "Top 30 Book Manufacturers" listing. Smith retired from RR Donnelley in late 2002, after 35 years with the company.
Can you provide a 'state-of-the-industry' look at the book manufacturing industry?
Looking back, overall, 2004 was probably a so-so year for book manufacturers. It varied with some of the market segments, but I don't think anyone was dancing in the streets with total joy.
One of the exceptions was that the education/el-hi market was a little stronger than people anticipated. …
Overall, there was a lot of pricing pressure, as manufacturers tried to fill their capacity or best utilize their capacity, so prices took a hit last year. And the trade market was really dependent on a handful of big books that filtered out during the year.
Most manufacturers are more optimistic coming into 2005 than they were in 2004, particularly on the education side. [This year] should be a very strong year for the el-hi market because of some adoptions in key states such as California, Texas and Florida. So the manufacturers involved in those markets are looking forward to a strong year, and I think capacity will be very tight in that market.
It also looks like we're going to have a "Harry Potter" this year, which is always a good thing on the trade side. It's good for not only those who manufacture the "Harry Potter" books, but those books take so much capacity that other work has to be placed with the non-"Harry Potter" manufacturers. So they will benefit, too, as they get some of the runoff.