12 May 2010
Book printing near digital “tipping point” say experts
TORONTO—Digital book printing is emerging as one of the hotspots for growth in the printing industry—but expect to learn entirely new skills to fulfill its promise, say trade experts.
 

L-R: Gilles Biscos, president, Interquest, Ltd.; John Lacagnina,
president and CEO, ColorCentric Corp.; Mike Collinge, president and
CEO, Webcom Inc.; Martin Cournoyer, sales director book market team,
Transcontinental; Jim Robinson, VP operations and administration, Harlequin



“This is a double-digit growth market,” said Gilles Biscos, president of research firm Interquest, at the 2010 Toronto Digital Printing Forum held at Ryerson University last week. His research suggests digital book printing will grow by more than 20% annually through 2015.
 
Trends driving this growth include the need for book publishers to reduce inventory and return costs for unsold books, improved digital printing and finishing technology, and the explosion in self-publishing through web-based services such as Lulu.com and Blurb. Biscos cited 169% growth in the number of self-published books in 2009.
 
Among the North American book printers his company surveyed, 64% said they would be investing in new digital equipment in the next 18 months. It seems the opportunity is enormous: only 4.3% of books printed in North America are produced on a digital press, with the balance produced by offset.
 
Forum speaker Mike Collinge, president and CEO of Toronto-based  book printer Webcom Inc., said the industry is approaching another “tipping point” in digital’s favour, with rapid advances in quality, substrate choices, finishing options and speed. But he said challenges remain, including high costs for printers and thus high prices for publishers. He blamed click-charges as one impediment, but said recent trends towards more traditional cost structures are promising.
 
Transcontinental’s Martin Cournoyer, sales director for the book market team, noted digital machines require more maintenance calls than offset, and must be amortized much faster. Still, Transcontinental, Canada’s largest book printer with three plants, produces 35% of its book volume digitally, thanks largely to an Océ ColorStream 10000 purchased last year.
 
Representing the new breed of digital book printers was John Lacagnina, president and CEO of ColorCentric Corp., established in 2003 in Rochester, NY. His all-digital book operations print about three million books a year, and 75% of those titles have a print run of one. He company serves the burgeoning world of online self-publishing services that contract out printing to his network of plants, using HP, Kodak, Xeikon and Xerox technology.
 
“We don’t have a single trained printer in the company,” he noted, saying his model uses engineers to assemble automated workflows. “We’re in a disruptive period right now, and we think that’s good for us.”
 
The Digital Print Forum, produced by Interquest, also offered research and presentations on transactional printing, where the trend is towards transpromo printing that combines statements with personalized marketing messages for improved response.

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