Preparing to Print Books (part one)
Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, said, “The will to win isn’t as important as the will to prepare to win.” This is especially true for printers considering entering the book printing market. If you do not prepare properly before you enter the market, book printing could be highly unprofitable, even disastrous, for your business.
Preparation is required in three key areas: equipment, systems and people. No one area is more important than the other two, and all three must be ready before entering into book printing. What’s more, the key areas need to be addressed in the order presented: equipment, systems and people. Most printers are equipment freaks. They buy the necessary equipment and think they are ready to print books. This is similar to “Field of Dreams” thinking—buy it and they (the customers) will come. By neglecting the other two areas, systems and people, the equipment-minded printer may disappoint his book publishing customers.
The right equipment is the first step to establishing a successful book printing operation. Beginning in pre-press, one must have the latest pre-press computers and Raster Image Processors (RIPs). The new digital printing equipment, both black & white and color, makes printing short-run, digital books possible. In-house perfect binding and coating equipment are necessary. Most publishers today prefer a film laminate coating to an aqueous or UV coating, so a film laminator is preferred. As book printing grows within a business, one of the next upgrades is to move from a single-pocket perfect binder to a multiple-pocket perfect binder. In my business, we used a Müeller-Martini Amigo, 4-pocket, perfect binder. Finally, a packing system, such as a tunnel shrink wrapping machine, is necessary.
There are so many different systems to consider before beginning book printing, that it requires a separate discussion to adequately address them all. Please see the March 22, 2005 entry for the details.
People considerations begin with a commitment from the leadership team to book printing. Once that is established, qualified, trained and knowledgeable Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are a requirement. It is my experience that publishers like dealing with dedicated CSRs for the book trade instead of CSRs that deal with stationary one minute and books the next. Competent pre-press employees are key to a book printer’s success. I don’t necessarily mean talented graphic artists, but rather pre-press operators who can process digital files quickly and can solve problems when they occur. Finally, a position key to a book printer’s success is the bindery operator. This individual must have knowledge to operate the equipment and to solve problems and to make minor adjustments to the cover or text pages to make the book look professional when it’s completed.