When asked what single biggest trend R.R. Donnelley has noticed among its book-publishing clients of late, President of Publishing Services, Rick Marceaux answers, “We have seen a broader set of publishers’ priorities grow with regard to what they look for…across the breadth of the supply chain.” Even as the volume of traditionally manufactured books (defined as off-set printed and traditionally bound) decreases, the variety of services demanded of book manufacturers has (ironically) never been greater. Everyone in both publishing and printing is quick to emphasize that the printed book is still a huge part of business, and, in fact, has learned some new tricks of its own in the form of variousdigital printing technologies. But in an effort to keep up with clients’ need to “manufacture” ebooks and apps as well, many traditional printers are trying to add these services to their repertoire. While shrinking print volume is a concern, perhaps even more significant is the question of what it will take to keep up with the growing variety of ways one can “make a book” in 2012 and beyond.
The industry being what it is, very few book printers don’t make some mention of the ebook services—or even app development—that they offer or will offer soon. But, points out Tim McGuire, VP, Production at W.W. Norton, ebook conversion simply does not bring in as much revenue as print book manufacture, whether off-set or digital. So even if an enterprising printer were to whip together a fully functional, high-volume ebook conversion and development department and manage to take in as many man-hours of ebook conversion as were lost in print operation, this still wouldn’t bring in as much money as is being lost in declining print income.
There is also growing recognition that ebook production needs to start shortly after acquisition. Without a dramatic overhaul ofboth their own internal structures and workflows and how they interact with clients, most printers are too far removed from this initial point to offer all the ebook services publishers need. Enzo Reale, Regional VP of Sales at Quad/Graphics, emphasizes this point, but also believes that, no matter what services a printer is providing, the manufacturing process has to be viewed as being “multi-channel, from the very start of the process.” In order to help printers do this, Ricoh Production Print Solutions (a manufacturer of both printing equipment and software) held its first book-industry focused summit for printers in Denver this past March. Joe Caruso, Global Business Development Manager at Ricoh, says that in addition to the summit (more of which are in the works, including one in Europe this autumn), Ricoh is also teaming with BISG on several studies about workflow. The aim is to help clarify publishers’ multi-channel needs for printers so that they can better understand where they fit in. Fortunately, a printer’s stakes in the non-printing sectors of book manufacture needn’t be all or nothing. Quad/Graphics currently handles front-end ebook development for a few clients, and Courier Printing is taking advantage of the fact that, at the moment, publishers’ backlists usually exist only as print files—creating a significant demand for scanning and conversion services.