Turn End-of-Life Titles into Profit
Life was good for The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group. The company had grown to become one of the largest independent publishers and distributors in North America. It employed hundreds of people in seven locations. And, it had printed more than 20,000 new books in its 29 years. But, life was about to get even better—as the company tapped a new, multimillion-dollar revenue stream.
THE RELATIONSHIP BUSINESS
James E. Lyons, Rowman & Littlefield president and publisher, had shared a concern of many modern-day publishers: excess inventory. The company typically ordered offset print runs that would last two years, but, occasionally, more books were printed than the company needed. Inventory was sometimes idle for long periods of time, if not wasted entirely.
So, Lyons mulled over possible solutions, including making a move to digital books and printing them on-demand. The printer that prints most of Rowman & Littlefield's books and journals, Edwards Brothers Inc., even had a Digital Book Center, but Lyons was concerned about shipping costs and logistics for transferring books from the Digital Book Center to his company's distribution facilities. He was also unsure if hard-copy books could be converted to digital and then printed quickly enough to make the effort worthwhile.
It has been said that printing in today's market is a relationship business, and that printers today aim to provide solutions, not just printing services; when Lyons mentioned his concern to John J. Edwards, CEO and president of Edwards Brothers, both of these theories gained new support. Lyons had been one of Edwards Brothers' largest and most loyal customers (the two companies have worked together for almost 25 years), and Edwards was eager to find a solution.
He mapped out an entirely new business model that included locating a digital book printing operation at Rowman & Littlefield's distribution warehouse in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.
Essentially, Rowman & Littlefield pays for each book printed, with a yearly minimum number of books (40,000 to start) to be printed. The new business model eliminated packing and shipping costs from the printing facility to the distribution warehouse, and promised to print book runs of 100 or fewer cost-effectively.
The facility has two Xerox Nuvera 100s, which recently replaced two DocuTech 6100s, for printing book blocks; a Xerox DocuColor 12 for printing covers; and an in-line Borg perfect binder. An entire book is printed in one fell swoop.
At the outset, the facility also housed a DigiPath scanner, but Rowman & Littlefield staff soon found it challenging to convert hard copy books to digital fast enough, so Edwards Brothers staff in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Hutchinson, Kan., now assist with scanning and deliver scanned images via FTP sites.
Once printed copies are scanned, they are converted from a TIFF file to a PostScript or PDF using proprietary software and the DigiPath Scan and Make Ready Module, which is part of the Xerox FreeFlow Digital Workflow Collection. The scanned files are then stored on CD for future printing.
MORE THAN INVENTORY MANAGEMENT
The whole operation was orchestrated to complement long offset runs to avoid initial overprinting. But, the facility also provided Rowman & Littlefield with an opportunity that had not been available before—one that would cause quite a lift in revenue. The print-on-demand operation provides "end-of-life" services—when a book would normally be "out of print," the company can now print additional copies as they are ordered, adding significantly to a book's revenue-generating life.
In the first year of operation of the in-house digital book printing center, Rowman & Littlefield put more than 500 titles back into print and generated more than $1 million in revenue for books that would have otherwise been dead.
"Digital printing on demand has allowed Rowman & Littlefield to capture revenue we used to walk away from due to the economies of traditional manufacturing," says Lyons. "Now, [a book] is never out of print, and we can fill any order."