Reader's Digest Association
Indian service providers for typesetting, e-book, copy-editing and other production services are an established fact and part of virtually every major publisher's workflow.
To be sure, the business process outsourcing (BPO) of publishing services is a growth business, forecast to reach $1.2 billion in 2012 (according to a report by research and intelligence organization ValueNotes, "Offshoring in the Publishing Vertical: 2009"), including outsourcing for book, magazine and newspaper publishing—with 60 percent of these revenues being directed to Indian providers.
That said, it appears that we may be on the verge of a new addition to the existing Indian business model—an initiative that the Indian book manufacturing community has named Book City—Vision 2017.
Short-run digital printing is unquestionably a technology whose time has arrived. Its quality and capabilities are improving steadily, and inline/near-line binding solutions promise to make an already capable technology even more so. Many digital printers' equipment and skills have improved to where we have moved away from the Henry Ford Model A approach to substrates ("any paper you want as long as it is (50) uncoated offset") to manufacturing of case-bound, four-color textbooks printed on (60) gloss coated stock.
In previous columns, I've explored the strategic reasons to consider outsourcing distribution operations and the request for proposal (RFP) process for outsourced distribution partners. Now, let's assume that you have evaluated all the third-party proposals and selected the finalist among the various bids.
It's well-known that reference books generally have been suffering lately, another facet of the industry that has been affected by the Internet and consumers' easy access to free information. "For 2009, revenue-wise, … we estimated reference book sales would fall much [more] than that of the other categories we expected to do poorly this year …," says Michael Norris, senior analyst at Simba Information, a market research and consulting firm in Stamford, Conn. "The simple reason is that consumers have a different relationship with reference-book content than they do with, say, a great work of fiction or an engaging biography. They mostly just need a snippet of information here and there, and being that the Web houses a lot of what a consumer thinks he or she needs, few are bothering to buy traditional reference books."