Industry Pundit Predicts Short-Run Book Printing in 1999
Charles Pesko, Jr. writes in “Print On Demand Business” magazine, “For on-demand print providers wishing to add book printing to their range of offerings, this is a great time to enter the market.” He goes on to say, “…today’s on-demand printing technologies also change the dynamics of the book printing industry. For printed books, book-on demand solutions, such as Lightning Print (sic), allow printing in quantities as small as one. …books never need to go out of print. The good news for printers is that market potential for on-demand book printing is huge. In many cases, this opportunity is limited only by the unwillingness of publishers and printers to change old workflow or traditional work patterns.”
What makes Mr. Pesko’s comments so interesting is that he wrote this in 1999!
Since then, book print runs have been getting progressively shorter. Fewer books are selling as many copies (see the April 14, 2006 post for 2004 Book Scan sales figures).
Despite this, there have been few changes in the book printing landscape in the United States. The same players dominate the market for book printing. There have been some changes to be sure. Phoenix Color, for instance, has returned to being a components manufacturer instead of a full-service book printer. Few national chains, however, have stepped up to capitalize the changing dynamic. Individually, certain franchise printers, such as Sir Speedy Whittier and Sir Speedy of Scottsdale, have embraced this change. Even these franchises, however, are limited to their geographic locality, for the most part, because books are heavy and expensive to ship. No chain has developed a way to overcome the tyranny of geography when it comes to printing books. Even the 700 lb. gorilla in the market, FedEXKinko’s, has not leveraged its leadership role to include short-run, digital book printing.
Now, Charlie Pesko’s market potential predications may be changing, again. At this year’s Book Expo of America, the buzz on the floor was about e-books. When the market leaders in publishing begin to embrace this technology, the dynamics of book publishing will change again.
Does this mean there is no longer a need for a printed book? Of course not. The printed book legitimizes information in a way an e-book cannot. The adage, “off-line is where the trusted information is” still applies. So printed books will always have a place in the publishing pantheon.
What it does mean, though, is that print runs for books will continue to shrink. E-books may gain in importance, but the e-book is still based on the actual digital files used in printing. Hence the book printers can capitalize on creating the e-books in addition to the p-books (printed books).
Seven years later, the market is once again moving towards the short-run, digital printers. Unlike in years past, the question remains, who will rise up to meet this challenge?
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