Longfellow’s celebration of the forest primeval finds its echo today in the green revolution taking place along the supply chain of the paper industry. Although—as I learned from interviewing people who prefer not be quoted on the subject—good intentions are ahead of actual practice, it is a harbinger nonetheless of the revolutionary transformations taking place in the paper industry’s business practices.
Which brings me to the subject of this column: a snapshot of the globally transforming paper industry, the state of book-paper supply, and how the present outlook shapes your paper usage and purchasing strategies.
As long as print products are foundational to the publishing industry’s revenue base, it will be the state of the forest-products industry and print-manufacturing technologies that shape our economics of survival. I hate to say it, but it’s very much analogous to the relationship of energy sources to styling and performance in the auto industry. Dwindling energy supplies or skyrocketing prices can severely limit automobile use.
The word from industry watchers might be summed up as, “Don’t worry more than is already the case.” There doesn’t seem to be any likelihood that there will be a medium- or long-term crisis in supply, notwithstanding North American plant closings, mergers and acquisitions, and excepting blips in the spot markets for coated and specialty papers.
You may ask, what about those estimable stalwarts that have disappeared or transformed in recent years, such as Warren, Mead, Westvaco, Champion, James River, Howard, Simpson and others? The names may have changed, replaced by the likes of Domtar, NewPage Corp., UPM and Stora Enso (whose North American operations have just been acquired by NewPage), but the mills, machines and forests have a life of their own—passing through other hands. And it bears mentioning that still very much with us are firms such as Sappi, International Paper, Glatfelter, Weyerhaeuser, the newly merged AbitibiBowater, and Mohawk Fine Papers (now home also to the old Strathmore and Beckett brands).
Eugene G. Schwartz is editor at large for ForeWord Reviews, an industry observer and an occasional columnist for Book Business magazine. In an earlier career, he was in the printing business and held production management positions at Random House, Prentice-Hall/Goodyear and CRM Books/Psychology Today. A former PMA (IBPA) board member, he has headed his own publishing consultancy, Consortium House. He is also Co-Founder of Worthy Shorts Inc., a development stage online private press and publication service for professionals as well as an online back office publication service for publishers and associations. He is on the Publishing Business Conference and Expo Advisory Board.