Archive for the ‘Book Printing’ Category

Eye Books

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Herein a long tale of history, technology, and media change.

Several years ago, one of the community arts organizations I am involved with—the Saratoga Film Forum, an art house movie theater in downtown Saratoga Springs, N.Y.—had on its programming committee a serious film buff. He was, essentially, a veritable walking (or sitting, as the case may be) encyclopedia of cinema. This is, of course, not surprising. What was surprising was that he was almost totally blind, suffering from severe macular degeneration and needing elaborate optics that resembled a wearable Viewmaster to watch movies or read books.

Today, optometrists and ophthalmologists understand macular degeneration thanks in large part to the work of Samuel Thomas von Sömmerring. Von Sömmerring (1755–1830) was a German physician and one of the most renowned anatomists in Germany at the time. Amongst his many contributions to our knowledge of physiology was his discovery of the macula in the retina of the human eye. The macula contains the fovea and foveola. They contain a high density of cones, which, with their partners the rods, are the photoreceptors that allow us to see. Macular degeneration, as you would expect, involves damage to these photoreceptors.

Von Sömmering was, like many men of his age, a bit of a polymath and an inventor. He designed a telescope, among other things, and in 1809 created one of the first electric telegraph systems. Based on a crude earlier design, his system used as many as 35 electrical wires, each of which represented a different letter or number. Thus:

messages could be conveyed electrically up to a few kilometers…with each of the telegraph receiver’s wires immersed in a separate glass tube of acid. An electric current was sequentially applied by the sender through the various wires representing each digit of a message; at the recipient’s end the currents electrolysed the acid in the tubes in sequence, releasing streams of hydrogen bubbles next to each associated letter or numeral (Wikipedia, 2014).

Not the most elegant of designs, but it did trigger off several decades of development to produce an effective working telegraph. The first commercially successful electric telegraph was co-developed by William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone in the UK. In 1838, it was installed by the Great Western Railway between Paddington Station and West Drayton.

Across the pond, Samuel Morse had patented his own version of a telegraph, as well as the eponymous code (the “Morse code” was devised by Morse with his assistant, Alfred Vail). In 1844, the famous “What hath God wrought” telegram was transmitted, and the rest is history.

The legacy of the telegraph is easy to spot today; what is texting, really, but a high-tech version of the telegram? And all those texting abbreviations and emojie are not a million miles removed from the Morse code, although they’re often less comprehensible.

The telegraph did help solve a problem that had briefly plagued U.S. President Andrew Jackson. For the first 125 or so years of U.S. history, mail delivery was literally 24/7. Indeed, the postal service was the only form of communication back then, and few things were more important than the mail. Postmaster General was a Cabinet position, and until 1971, the Postmaster was in the line of Presidential succession. Post offices were also great gathering places, as people socialized, drank, and played cards or what have you while they waited for the mail to arrive (there was no home delivery until after the 1860s).

“The advance of the human race in intelligence, in virtue and religion itself depends in part, upon the speed with which…knowledge…is disseminated,” wrote Colonel Richard M. Johnson, a Kentucky Congressman who served during the Jackson presidency (he was later Martin Van Buren’s veep) (Meacham, 2008). Why did he write this?

The fact that there was mail delivery every day of the week meant, logically, that there was mail delivery on Sunday, aka the Sabbath. This didn’t sit well with some of the more religiously inclined personalities of the time—in particular, one Reverend Ezra Stiles Ely, who was a man on a mission. That mission was to end what he called “the national evil of great magnitude”: mail delivery on Sunday. (The things they worried about back then…) He took it up directly with President Jackson—one of the problems of being a populist like Jackson was that you were constantly being accosted by the public—and even though Jackson had other things to contend with (like, say, nullification), Congressman Johnson was appointed to head a committee to investigate closing the Post Office on Sunday. The committee ultimately decided, “The mail is the chief means by which intellectual light irradiates to the extremes of the republic. Stop it one day in seven, and you retard one-seventh of the advancement of our country” (Meacham, 2008). (Boy, did they have a way with words back then!) So Sunday mail delivery stayed. (Another of Johnson’s arguments was that since some religions celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday, singling out Sunday would give unfair—and unconstitutional—preference to one particular faith.)

After 1844, however, the volume of mail in general—and Sunday mail in particular—started to drop thanks to the telegraph, which became a prominent tool of business communication.

Remember, too, that businesses tended to operate seven days a week back then. Reverend Ely and his successors were still eager to get the Sunday Sabbath free, so by the end of the century, religious leaders formed an alliance with organized labor, which was starting to become an influential force. Both parties, religious leaders and labor leaders, wanted the same basic thing—Sundays off—albeit for different reasons. By the early 20th century, technology had made the issue, as far as the mails were concerned, moot. The telegraph and the railroad made businesspeople less reliant on the mail, so in 1912, when Congress decided to eliminate Sunday mail delivery, a bill which President Taft signed without complaint, there really wasn’t much hue and cry.

As Dr. Joe Webb has pointed out many times, mail volumes have continued to drop thanks to all the communications revolutions of the 20th century—the telephone, radio, television, the Internet, and now all the various mobile and social media. And while debate centers around whether mail delivery should be pared back to five days a week, last year Amazon partnered with the USPS to restore Sunday delivery, if only in selected cities (at first).

One of the things you could have Amazon deliver to you on a Sunday is a new Kindle.

It was the Kindle, more than anything, that triggered off the ebook revolution. Electronic books were nothing really new; Project Gutenberg dates back to 1971, after all, and by the turn of the millennium there were at least a dozen companies and platforms jockeying for market share in the nascent ebook space, including such giants as Microsoft and Adobe. The early Palm devices—precursors to today’s smartphones—were highly touted as an ebook platform. (Have you ever read a long novel on a Palm Pilot? It was not fun.) The E Ink approach to “electronic paper”—the reflective electrophoretic technology that essentially made reading a screen as comfortable as reading ink on paper—started to gain traction, and the Sony Reader was the first commercially successful ereader. It debuted first in Japan and was introduced in the U.S. in 2006. It was a modest hit, but it wasn’t until the Amazon Kindle, based on the same E Ink technology, launched in 2007 that the ebook market took off. (The poor Sony Reader; discontinued in 2013, it is alas a mere footnote, albeit an important one, in the history of ebooks.) Although ebook growth has been flat in the past couple of years, in 2013 ebook sales still amounted to $3 billion, which ain’t nothin’. Even if ebooks aren’t exactly cannibalizing print book sales, they are still an important part of the cross media mix.

Ebooks like those available for the Kindle have found favor amongst older readers for a very basic reason: it’s easy to make the type bigger. And thus book lovers who may have failing eyesight—either from basic aging or specific problems like macular degeneration—are still able to read. And Apple’s perhaps aptly named “Retina” displays make even backlit screens easy to read.

Samuel von Sömmerring would approve.



“BookStats: Ebooks Flat in 2013,” DigitalBookWorld, June 26, 2014,

Megan Garber, “The Unlikely Alliance That Ended Sunday Mail Delivery…in 1912,” The Atlantic, November 12, 2013,

Tiffany Hsu, “U.S. Postal Service to deliver Amazon packages on Sundays,” Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2013,

Jon Meacham, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House (New York, 2008), pp. 87–88.

“About Project Gutenberg,”

“Samuel Thomas van Sömmerring,” Wikipedia, modified September 26, 2014, accessed October 29, 2014,ömmerring.

Book Publishing Made Easy with Inkjet Technology

Monday, April 28th, 2014

When we talk about inkjet technology and its benefits, the conversation tends to revolve around transaction (invoices, bills, statements) and promotional (direct mail) pieces. But in this webinar titled Inkjet: Implications for Book Printing Manufacturers and Publishers, InfoTrends’ Group Directors Barbra Pellow and Jim Hamilton bring book printing into the conversation. As they highlight, book printing now makes up roughly 20% of the inkjet marketplace, and is one of the fastest growing sectors towards adopting this technology. The webinar explores why the shift is occurring, defines emerging technologies, and discusses the financial implications of adopting a high-speed inkjet digital business model.

To understand any industry shift, it is important to consider social and financial factors that contribute to the changes in trends. In 2010, Hamilton cites three key conclusions about the changing dynamics of the book publishing industry. These include: “content is king, publishing is becoming more of a service than a product, and the days of high-volume book manufacturing are coming to an end.” By 2014, Hamilton affirms these conclusions are more prevalent than ever before with 1st mode publishing, just-in-time manufacturing, and print-on-demand services. In fact, with the onset of e-delivery, Hamilton proposes that the entire definition of a book is evolving. Now books are also electronic, on-demand, interactive, contain personal content and are delivered via multiple channels.

Although digital channels are rising in popularity, print remains one of the most effective delivery methods. In a recent PEW research study, it was found that 7 out of 10 adults read printed books. Only 4% of readers are ‘e-book only’, where as the majority alternate amongst digital, print, and audio channels. Likewise, print remains a significant source of publishers’ revenue. All of these trends, grounded in research, highlight the need for digital print solutions that can get personalized product to market in order to meet the needs of both publisher and consumer.

Book printers and publishers are realizing that production digital print provides a more effective method of manufacturing. Shifting from offset, the biggest growth opportunity now lies within inkjet color continuous feed technologies. From wharehousing and distribution to the integration with cross-media and interactive components, digital inkjet solutions provide the capacity to fulfill publishers’ demands. Essentially, the digital printer becomes a virtual document wharehouse, in which inventory is produced at the click of a button within a given workflow. And it all comes at a reasonable price with inkjet. The final portion of the webinar lays out the impact of print volume over cost distribution. In the projection, fixed costs like equipment and monthly service fees decrease per unit as volume increases, but the cost component from click charges and ink increase as volume increases. These numerical relationships are important to consider once you’ve determined how ‘long’ your run should be.

“Technology is becoming your friend in the publishing market,” claims Pellow. Inkjet technology in particular seems to provide the highest quality solution and workflow to meet the end goal. For more on cost factors, black versus color printing breakdowns, and the full list of benefits of inkjet, be sure to check out the full webinar here!

Printing Is Easy, Marketing Is Hard

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read. —Groucho Marx

It has been said, by whom, I’m not entirely sure, that everyone has a book inside them (insert your own “Marxist” joke here), or at least everyone thinks they do. I am regularly asked by friends and colleagues, both inside and especially outside the printing industry, about how to self-publish a book. Almost universally, the questions are about the physical production and printing process (“how many pages/words do I need I need to write?” “How expensive is it?”, etc.) or how ebooks work. However, from my experience, the questions one asks about self-publishing should focus less on production and more on marketing—and even whether there is an audience at all for the book you want to write.

There are success stories, of course. The 50 Shades of Gray franchise (to my horror, I discovered too late that it had nothing to do with color management) is perhaps the emblematic example of the self-publishing experiment that was enough of a hit to lead to mainstream publishing success. (Imagine, erotica being a saleable commodity. Who’d’a thunk it?)

Regular WhatTheyThink readers may know (or be in denial about the fact that) that Dr. Joe Webb and I have co-written and self-published almost half a dozen books (see in particular here, as well as here, here, here, and here), and the half-dozenth is on the drawing board—and, no, will not be called 128 Levels of Gray and will not chronicle the erotic adventures of a prepress department manager. The one thing that we have learned in our self-publishing adventures is that production, printing, and even writing all comprise the easy part of the self-publishing process. Today’s digital and on-demand printing technologies make it easy and inexpensive to publish your own books, and services like Amazon and Lulu, to name two that we have used, handle both the physical production and offer an online storefront for a book. But that is, again, only the smallest of first steps.

Some serious questions and considerations to ponder before even setting finger to keyboard include:

  • What is the real market for the book? Be honest. What is the competition like? Do your due diligence. Search Amazon, Barnes & Noble—even venture to the nearest physical bookstore to see what books may exist on your topic. You may very well be entering a very crowded or even saturated market—even if you have a unique take on a well-trodden topic—and being self-published is one major strike against you if your closest competition is from an established publishing company.
  • Is there a lot of free competition? Our recent book is The Home Office That Works!, about setting up a productive home office, and while there are few published titles (that we found) that cover the topic the way we did (most are about launching a specific home business), but we discovered after the fact that there are a lot of blogs and online articles about various aspects of running a home office. It’s strewn piecemeal all over the Internet, but a challenge is getting people to buy something they can probably search out and get for free. If I were to write a book offering tips for prospective self-publishers, I would be in trouble because of blogposts like this one.
  • Do you have a promotional/marketing apparatus already in place? That is, are you a fairly well-known speaker in your industry and can use speaking gigs as marketing tools for the book (and/or vice versa)? When we published Disrupting the Future in 2010, it hit enough of a nerve in the industry that it led to Joe and I getting speaking gigs that, in turn, promoted the book. It helped that we were known quantities (for better or worse) in the industry.
  • How popular are you on social media? I’ll get in trouble for saying this, but I think social media has become vastly overrated as a marketing and publicity tool, but that’s not to say it is not without value. Are you active enough in these areas or do you—like me, I hasten to add—have to be dragged kicking and screaming into social media? If you are like me (and my thoughts and prayers go out to you), do you know someone who can do your social media stuff for you?

Self-publishing is not as looked down upon as the old vanity publishers of yore, but there is still a stigma attached to it, as in “you couldn’t get a real publisher, could you”—even though all the questions you should ask yourself before self-publishing are the same as you should ask before seeking out any publisher.

Digital printing technology has truly enabled the small, independent, or self-publisher—but that really is only the beginning of the process.

New Tech Takes Print Books Into New Directions

Monday, January 13th, 2014

For the second year in a row, a critical mass of friends and colleagues reported that they received a Kindle or the like for Christmas. (My policy for the past couple of years has been to only give people print books as gifts.) Still, recent trends in ebook sales show a slowdown, which is actually being greeted as somewhat good news by an industry that never was all that enthused by ebooks to begin with. And Forbes tells us that last year hardcover sales rebounded and outpaced ebook sales.

So it doesn’t appear that books need anything in particular to breathe new life into them. Still, new printing technologies—or creative approaches to printing—can make books exciting in new ways. Two recent titles show that you don’t really need electronic media to make books interactive. One was a bestseller last fall, a novel conceived by J.J. Abrams, creator of Lost, Fringe, and the Star Trek reboots (don’t get me started…), among many other projects for screens both large and small, and written by Doug Dorst. The result of their collaboration, S., is an elaborate “story within a story” that masquerades as a well-thumbed old library book, a surreal literary novel called Ship of Theseus, ostensibly authored by the fictional V.M. Straka and purportedly published in 1949. The plot of Ship of Theseus is somewhat beside the point, as the real story of S. is told in the margins—literally—as two avid Straka readers meet within the pages of the book and strike up a relationship that starts off intellectual and soon becomes romantic. The colors of the ink they use become an important means of following their timeline. A seemingly low-tech effect, but not that long ago having color throughout a book for such a “prosaic” (pun intended) purpose would have been prohibitively expensive and impractical.

In addition to the marginal notes, the two characters also pass other items back and forth to each other—maps, letters, postcards, photographs, a kind of code wheel, even a page from their school newspaper—that are physically inserted at relevant points in the book. As a result, the book has become loathed by librarians: it’s easy for these items to fall out of the book and get lost or damaged. (Actually, at times reading S. brought back memories of reading magazines and having blow-in cards fall out in my lap. Annoying at the time but rather quaint these days.)

Another recent title is what is said to have the first 3D-printed book cover—or, more correctly, slipcover. Chang-rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea, published by Riverhead Books, is available in two print editions: the everyday hardcover, which retails for $27.95, and one featuring the 3D-printed slipcase, which is a steal at $150.

The idea is to turn books into “art objects”—or objets d’art, if you want to sound pretentious about it—which is not a new concept; actually it predates the printed book; remember all those illuminated manuscripts from the Middle Ages? Admittedly, both these strategies seem like gimmicks, and they are, but the gimmick used in S. functions as part of the narrative itself, offering a unique way to tell a story. The 3D cover is really just plumage. Plumage is fine, of course; after all, book covers have long boasted spot varnishes, embossing, foil stamping and other effects to stand out on a crowded bookshelf. Even a hardcover itself (vs. a paperback) is more art than necessity. But these days maybe we could all use a bit more art in our lives.

I contrast these titles with an elaborate graphic novel that the publisher sent a while ago called Anomaly, which implemented the latest in augmented reality (AR) to bring some of the pages alive. I was more impressed with the print edition—it’s an all-full-color, hardcover, coffee-table-esque book—than the AR components, which required downloading an iPhone app, going to a Web page to find out what pages had AR content, and adjusting the ambient lighting and camera angle meticulously to get the AR to work. I like the idea but, like QR codes, I await a more elegant, seamless solution (which already exists).

Intermingling print with electronic content can enhance the reading experience, and it really doesn’t need to be anything especially exotic. As a Christopher Moore fan, I found the author’s blog posts (delivered via a smartphone app) that complemented his last novel, Sacre Bleu, provided interesting behind-the-scenes info and added content that would have bogged down the book’s narrative, but functioned rather like those “deleted scenes” or “making of” features on movie DVDs.

Still, I find the best “bonus features” of books to be those that are self-contained within the book itself. And that means “print.” And it means unleashing the imaginations of authors, designers, publishers, and printers—and even equipment manufacturers. And that’s always a good thing.

Crystal Ball, Anyone??

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

“It is not the strongest or most intelligent species that survive, but the ones who are most willing to adapt.”  ~Charles Darwin

I like this quote because it removes the idea that survival and success are based on natural selection, but are based on intelligence and strategy and looking at how to adapt for future circumstances – an idea that seems especially relevant for the print industry today. At one time in history, we could have said that “print changed the world” and most would agree. But recent technological innovations, shifts towards digital communications and away from paper communications, have many printers working to keep up with the rapidly transforming industry. I suspect this is where Darwin’s idea of adaptation comes into play. Printers need to anticipate the future and prepare themselves accordingly. The same way of doing business will not stand, but you don’t need me to tell you this.

Lucky for printers, they don’t have to anticipate the future on their own. A group of young, bright, and well-educated students from RIT have already done the heavy lifting. Together they researched, wrote, and published a book entitled “Print changed the world – now the world is changing print.” They imagine the print industry landscape all the way to 2022 and address a number of sectors including books, packaging, signage, technical documents, direct mail, and more.

Here are the cliff notes…

Good News for:

  • Mobile devices which enable digital distribution
  • Packaging
  • Industrial printing
  • Signage

Bad News for:

  • The Postal Service
  • Circulars and inserts
  • Periodicals

Aside from the above, there are a number of categories in which the future is mixed – certain aspects will decline while some will rise. For example, authors suspect that self-publishing and yearbook printing will be the primary mode of book printing while traditional novels and textbooks will decline. The Security sector is another mixed bag.

If you read my last blog post, you’ll see that some predictions and research contradict what is in this report. I suppose no one owns a crystal ball so predicting the future is never easy. But nonetheless, it’s best to be informed and anticipate how expected trends will impact your business. So check out the full booklet here! (Made available by Printing Impressions)

David Mamet Takes the Self-Publishing Route

Friday, April 19th, 2013

David Mamet, the award-winning American playwright, essayist, screenwriter, and film director, has said goodbye to the traditional publishing model with his latest book, a combination of a novella and two short stories about war, and has chosen to self-publish instead.

Mamet is a formidable force in literature, playwriting, and screenwriting, so this is big news. As a playwright, Mamet won a Pulitzer Prize and received Tony nominations for “Glengarry Glen Ross” (1984) and “Speed-the-Plow” (1988). As a screenwriter, he received Oscar nominations for “The Verdict”(1982) and “Wag the Dog” (1997). (Source: Wikipedia) He has also written numerous books and written and directed many movies familiar to us all.

It’s not that print-on-demand production is better or less expensive. It’s that it offers freedom — freedom to market the way Mamet wants and freedom to earn substantially more than through the traditional royalties-based model.

The New York Times report doesn’t indicate whether Mamet will be using POD, but it’s certain that after the period of the highest volume sales has passed, he will . . . just like tens of thousands of other authors and publishers.

Self-publishing and POD have been around a long time, but the word that came to mind when I read the report was legitimacy.  A few authors have used self-publishing to rocket themselves to bestselling fame, but to date, most self-published authors are either using the model to feed their own highly targeted customer bases (corporations, nonprofits, ministries) or for their own personal use.

For someone like David Mamet to choose the self-publishing route, and consequently long-term POD, adds significant legitimacy to this approach and takes another cut at the knees of the traditional book publishing model.

Kindle is not for everyone…

Monday, February 25th, 2013

We all know that e-readers are everywhere these days and, in only a few years, have become a commonplace way to consumer your favorite literature. But as the title of this blog suggests, an e-reader is not for everyone. Not everyone has the tech-savvy desire or budget for an e-reader and some people just flat out do not want to read books electronically. For some, there is still the allure of being able to physically turn the page of the book he or she is reading. I am one of those people. Even though I’m addicted to my iPhone, iPad, iShuffle and laptop, I still prefer to read my books in print. Perhaps it’s because I am employed by the printing industry, but I like to think it’s the experience of an actual book versus another one of the many tech products we all seem to own now. Maybe I’m just a hipster and like books because they are not the “in” item.

Regardless, books have been around for a long time and they will likely not disappear for good. Therefore, print will continue to play an important role in the book publishing industry, albeit in a somewhat different manner. Most publishers are looking for the ability to print shorter runs and print-on-demand. To do this, offset is not answer; digital printing is. Offset certainly still has its place. But for those of us who did not come up with The Hunger Games or 50 Shade of Grey, it can be hard to justify the high quantities of offset printing. Digital printing offers a flexible solution for printers to be able to print what they want, where they want, when they want, and in whatever quantity they want.

Ultimately, digital printing technology offers numerous benefits for printers. For one, it reduces the risk of having to forecast demand. Printers can now print only what is ordered, thereby eliminating warehousing needs and waste. Digital print also offers blazing fast turnaround times with some book printers being able to fulfill an order within 24 hours of receiving it. Finally, digital print allows for anyone to be a publisher. With no minimums to meet, books can be published in small quantities. Digital also allows for increased creativity through customization and personalization. All while creating a real life book that someone can hold!

The bottom line is that books are not a thing of the past, and by implementing digital printing technology, printers are able to stay in the game and are better equipped to deal with whatever trends may come their way. They can have greater turnover, new revenue opportunities, and improved profitability. And these business benefits are not just limited to book printers! Photo book sellers, self-publishers, non-profits, and corporations can all benefit from the publishing revolution through digital printing technology. The question is… how can you benefit from it?

QR Adoption Is NOT Sloth-Like!

Friday, November 9th, 2012

I’m getting tired of technology pundits complaining about “slow” QR code adoption.  I just updated my report “QR Codes: What You Need to Know,” and as part of that effort, I scrapped all of the old data and scoured the industry for the most recent data on QR code adoption and use.

In the process, I found some great stuff. I also found some irritating stuff. One of the irritants came from Mashable Business, where QR codes were referred to as being adopted at “a sloth-like pace.

Although the concept is smart, is it worth the effort, especially given the sloth-like pace QR codes have been adopted in the U.S. and other western countries? About 14 million U.S. cellphone owners — about 4.5% of the country’s population — scanned a QR code last month, according to comScore. [1]

Sloth-like pace? That’s funny because I see QR codes everywhere — from electronics to watermelons. It seems that I cannot go a single day without tripping over one, and I’m not out and about much because I seem to live in my home office. The irony is that, before reading that post, I had just written these paragraphs in the QR code report:

In December of 2011, 20% of smartphone users in the United States (which amount to about 42% to 53% of all U.S. mobile phone subscribers depending on whose data you use) had scanned a QR code.  (ComScore MobiLens April 2012)

In addition, Nellymoser found that readers of national magazines scan QR codes, Microsoft Tags, digital watermarks and other mobile action codes at an average rate of 6.4%. This compares to 4.4% for direct mail, according to the Direct Marketing Association. [2]

So depending on which data you use, QR code scanning is either at pace or above that of direct mail response rates overall. That’s not exactly sloth-like.

The other irony is that I clicked through the Mashable author’s link to that data, and while she says “last month,” what she really means is a year and one month ago — her write-up was posted on Mashable in July 2012, but the comScore data she cites is from June 2011. So comparing her June 2011 comScore data to the more recent comScore data, the percentage of consumers who have scanned QR codes has risen from 4.5% of the U.S. population to 20% of smartphone users (or roughly 10% of the U.S. population) in just about a year.

Even going back to the June 2011 numbers, that’s still not a bad percentage. I think people forget that QR codes are just a response mechanism like any other. I haven’t mailed in a BRE or called an 800 number in years. That doesn’t mean those response mechanisms don’t work. They just aren’t the right response mechanisms for me. Or, um, maybe I’m just not interest in the product.

After being eyeball deep in QR and other 2d code data this week, I can assure this Mashable author that, regardless of which year’s data she is using, mobile barcodes are part of the fabric both of marketing and consumer lives.  If readers are scanning them at rates equal to or higher than the average direct mail piece, in my book, that’s pretty darn good.

LIVE from Graph Expo 2012!

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

Graph Expo 2012 has officially begun. Months of preparation on the part of exhibitors has paid off to create a lively and stimulating environment. I’m always amazed at how exhibitors transform an enormous hall into a series of inviting showcases. As usual, exhibitors compete with each other to drive traffic to their booths.

Stages are big this year. I remember two years ago when Xerox had the biggest stage. But this year, Océ /Canon and HP clearly take the prize. HP has an impressive stage set up that delivers engaging sales pitches on steroids. But if you are looking for a more enlightening experience, be sure to stop by the Canon Live Theater where Canon and Océ partnered with WhatTheyThink to host informative sessions throughout the show. Topics will include: Affordable Sustainability, Supply Chain Optimization, the Changing Face of Publishing, and What to look for in a business partner. I caught today’s first session on Digital Packaging Trends which featured a real customer speaking about his operations and how digital printing and print-on-demand allowed him to keep up with industry change and manage his printed inventories better. The list of live sessions can be found here including a link to watch everything streaming live. Xerox does have a new idea this year – improv session. I’ll have to check one out Monday. As I walked around the show floor more, I noticed numerous other presentations and mini-stages set up… so it certainly is a popular way to reach show attendees!

Like every other year, posters are also quite popular this year, as evidenced by the crowds of people walking around with poster bags. The leading poster providers seem to be Komori, KBA, and Scodix. Gunther smartly realized that so many people walk around carrying their loot and decided to brand wheeling storage units that people can cart with them. Free stuff galore!

Judging from Day 1, there are a few hot topics this year that numerous exhibitors are demonstrating their capabilities in. Inkjet Printing is big this year and is being covered by live sessions on both the Océ/Canon stage and on the HP stage. Automation and software seem to also be a popular topics as print providers today are striving for more streamlined end-to-end solutions. We’re talking automation at the beginning (with feeders) and automation at the end (like envelope inserting). Print-on-demand is yet another key topic. In-RoomPlus described today in the Digital Packaging Trends session at Canon Live Theater how they are able to quickly reprint catalogs as their prices change and how they can print small batches of product mock-ups to use as aids with customers during the sales process. Print-on-demand is so big now in the publishing world that Océ will help launch Daydream Alchemy Press – a publisher inspired by bringing projects to life using today’s print technologies – during Graph Expo.

All in all, there is a lot to see and do at Graph Expo 2012. It will surely be a busy, yet exciting, few days!

A Whole New World For Book Publishing (Part 2)

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Books… From Analog to Digital

InfoTrends recently completed its 2010–2015U.S. Digital Production Printing Application Forecast. Print is driven by applications, and digital production printing is no exception. Demand for specific applications changes over time for a number of different reasons, including growth in usage, electronic replacement, and shorter runs. This study explored 28 specific application segments and measured digitally printed application volume changes in A4 (U.S. letter-sized) equivalent impressions.

The top three production digital print applications in theU.S.will be direct mail, books, and bills and statements. Combined volumes for these applications are expected to exceed 270 billion impressions. Book printing is expected to account for a 16.6% share by the end of the forecast period (94.5 billion impressions).

In terms of pure pages, the book market is expected to show the biggest gain. Its share is expected to experience a compound annual growth rate of 14.2% between 2010 and 2015, representing over 45 billion pages by the end of the forecast period.

Inkjet and digital printing will aggressively begin to displace analog offset printing of books. Improvements in continuous-feed inkjet printers will fuel the shift to digital printing within the book market. Every aspect of inkjet – speed, quality, and format – will see significant leaps in performance during 2012.

Publishers Will Respond!
Digital printing is destined to grow in volume at the expense of conventional printing for the book market. In an uncertain market, publishers are beginning to embrace digital because it enables shorter runs. Shorter runs reduce the amount of unsold books, reduce storage costs, allow reprinting in smaller batches, and offer the opportunity to print specialty books for niche markets, including self-published books.

There is much confusion about how consumers want their content delivered, but digital printing will provide the answer. Publishers understand the value proposition, and everything links to dollars and cents.

The Bottom Line
Technology keeps changing and publishers, authors, and printers are feeling the effects. Although print isn’t going away, ebooks are here to stay. Publishers need partners with technology and service offerings that will help content move seamlessly between traditional book printing, on-demand digital printing, and electronic distribution.

A Whole New World For Book Publishing (Part 1)

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

It truly is a whole new world for book publishing. No matter where you are – at the beach, on an airplane, or in the subway – you will see people with their Kindles or iPads. There are headlines in every magazine and newspaper about Google’s Publishing platform, tools from Apple that threaten the text book market, Amazon’s success with ebooks, and predictions of the demise of the publishing industry as we know it.

While the transition to digital is not moving at the same rate for all publishing segments (Trade, K–12, Higher Education, Professional, and Scholarly), it is generally believed that ebook sales will account for a substantial portion of trade revenues within the next five years. Just a few years ago, traditional companies were more frightened of this transformation than excited about the opportunity. Today, this has reversed. Printers, publishers, booksellers, distributors, and agents have embraced the new technologies and are retooling their businesses to accommodate a world of digital and printed books.

The Good News… Book Sales Are Up!
In August 2011, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) released the U.S. BookStats. This is considered one of the most comprehensive statistical surveys conducted in the modern publishing industry. It is focused on capturing size, scope, revenue, and expansion across multi-platform content and sales distribution channels. Net sales for publishers increased to $27.94 billion in 2010, representing a 5.6% increase over 2008. Publishers sold 2.57 billion net units in 2010, marking a 5.6% increase over 2008. Growth hit all segments. Higher education was up 18.7%, with sales reaching $4.55 billion in 2010.Sale of trade books grew 5.8% to $13.9 billion, partly fueled by ebooks. One of the strongest growth areas was adult fiction, which saw a revenue increase of 8.8%. While ebooks represented only .6% of the total market in 2008, this share had risen to 6.4% by 2010. A September 2011 Harris Poll indicates that one in six Americans (15%) currently uses an eReader, while another 15% plan to purchase one in the next six months. At the same time, however, this also implies that 70% of the market does not own an eReader and has no near-term plans to acquire one.

The key message is that eReaders are definitely here to stay, so the printing and publishing worlds must change with the times. There will always be a place for hardcover and paperback books, but recent developments will demand a huge transition for book printers and publishers alike. How businesses adapt will determine who is left standing five years from now.

Check back next week for Part 2 of this post!


Encyclopedia Britannica Ceases Print Edition After 244 Years

Friday, March 16th, 2012

The Encyclopedia Britannica made headlines earlier this week when it announced that it was “stopping the presses” and ceasing publication of its print edition after a strong 244-year run. From a business standpoint, one can understand why this inevitably needed to happen: Encyclopedia Britannica Inc. has sold just 8,000 sets of its latest 32-volume, $1,395 print edition released in 2010, with another 4,000 sitting in a warehouse waiting to be ordered. When the last set is shipped, that will be that. Sales of Britannica’s print edition peaked around 1990 at 120,000 sets, with significant decreases in volume through the 1990’s and into the 2000’s. For the company itself, the print edition represented only a small portion of revenue, with the majority derived from selling curriculum products to schools, as well as online subscriptions and other digital versions of its content.

In my view, this move is not revolutionary, but it is certainly evolutionary. It serves as a reflection point on multiple fronts, including the transformation occurring in the publishing industry and in education; it also highlights the true impact that the Internet and digital media continue to have in the way we learn, work, and play.

Is the sunsetting of Encyclopedia Britannica’s printed set just another death knell for the demise of the printed book or other printed publications? No… BUT… it does serve as a reminder that it is imperative for publishers to have a digital media strategy. Luckily for Encyclopedia Britannica, the company has been working to publish its vast repository of the world’s facts and figures to digital channels since the 1980’s. It released the first CD-ROM (remember those?) of Britannica in 1989. It put its collection online in 1994, which was seven years before Jimmy Wales launched Wikipedia in 2001.

Encyclopedia Britannica was actually ahead of its time in its digital publishing efforts, and ensured that it built up a strong digital business before deciding to end its print edition. The company reports having 500,000 subscribers to its $69.95/year premium Britannica Online service, which users can access via the Web and also through its iPad application. Think about that: what was once a 129-pound set of books now fits on a device of just over 1 pound… and it’s searchable, browsable, interactive, and constantly updated.

Some are of the opinion that more searchable and hyperlinked content, while efficient, takes away some of the serendipitous nature of perusing through a printed encyclopedia or other printed publications. Apparently those people have never gone on a Wikipedia bender, letting the hours melt away while clicking through dozens (or hundreds) of interconnected articles. Of course, there is definitely something about looking through a tome like Encyclopedia Britannica that is hard to replicate in the digital world, but the reality is that in today’s world, efficiency is paramount. Furthermore, I believe that information is power, and limiting that type of high-quality, trusted reference information to the confines of a fixed-length format is, in the end, inhibitive.

Another thing this news made me really reflect on is the impact of technology on education. While print is going to continue to play an important role in education well into the future, digital media can be used in conjunction or even on its own to more effectively help students learn new concepts and expand their knowledge. A lighthouse example of how digital media can be used as an effective teaching tool is Khan Academy, whose mission is “to provide a free world-class education to anyone anywhere.” Now that is revolutionary.

Through short, instructive video lessons often taught by the site’s founder, Sal Khan, students can work their way from the basics of a particular subject all the way through to the most complex applications. While the information is freely available online, the not-for-profit is piloting programs in 23 schools with its math curriculum, where the video lessons are their primary instructor and teachers are used in more of a support role. Students’ progress is tied back to analytics that help pinpoint where they are having problems and in what subject. Sal Khan and his team may have cracked the code for how to effectively use the Web and digital media to enhance learning.

In the 60 Minutes piece on Khan Academy from this past weekend, Sal Khan was asked how he approaches learning about a topic he is going to create a video for. His answer? Textbooks. “If I’m doing something that I haven’t visited for a long time, you know, since high school I’ll go buy five textbooks in it. And I’ll try to read every textbook,” says Khan. He, of course, also uses the Internet. Clearly there is still value in trustworthy, authoritative reference information, and print is a symbol of that trust. Digital media, however, is becoming just as trustworthy, and its use along with other technology can help optimize the learning experience like never before.

What do you think? Are you lamenting the loss of Encyclopedia Britannica’s print edition or is it inconsequential?

Opportunities in Photo Publishing

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Digital printing is now mainstream for print production, and as such, print service providers and other companies are continuously looking for new opportunities to exploit the technology. A growing area where providers are looking to deliver differentiated offerings enabled through digital printing is photo publishing and, more broadly, photo merchandise.

InfoTrends actually has a service within our Consumer Imaging group that tracks trends within photo publishing and photo merchandise. Applications within photo publishing and photo merchandise (at least by InfoTrends’ definition) include photo cards, photo books, photo calendars, and specialty photo prints. These applications are typically sold in a physical or digital retail environment, targeted toward consumers. We expect that by 2014, the total U.S. market for photo merchandise will reach over $2 billion.

A number of service providers from small to large have gotten in the photo publishing and merchandise game over the past few years, creating a more competitive marketplace. Nonetheless, there are a number of areas that service providers can look at to find success and grab their piece of the billion-dollar photo publishing pie.

  • Licensed Content: According to research firm EPM Communications, consumers worldwide spend over $100 billion annually on licensed merchandise. That’s a huge market, and fits well within many of the applications in photo publishing and merchandise. Some photo publishers are forging partnerships and deals with major brands, sports organizations, and other companies to blend personal photo content with licensed content. One great example is Josten’s OurHubBub photo book business unit, which has a relationship with NASCAR to create custom photo books that blend fans’ photos with official NASCAR imagery.
  • Social Media Integration: Between Facebook and the variety of photo hosting sites like Flickr and Picasa, there are hundreds of millions of users and billions of photos that can be turned into valuable photo products. Many of these services have APIs and development kits to “plug in” or build applications to leverage users’ photos to flow them into photo publishing applications. Companies like MixBook and HotPrints can ingest photos from social networks to create high-quality photo merchandise.
  • Focus on Ease-of-use: While price and quality are the top considerations when choosing a company to purchase photo merchandise from, ease of designing and ordering those products can make or break the user’s choice of completing their product and submitting their credit card info. In addition, InfoTrends research has found that once consumers buy a photo book for the first time, it is very likely they will buy another one in the next year. Making your process as easy-to-use as possible can set your offering apart from the rest.

Photo publishing and merchandise presents a tremendous opportunity for service providers to enter adjacent markets with significant revenue potential… if the offering is strong, well thought out, and differentiated. Licensed content, social media integration, and ease-of-use are three opportunities that service providers should be actively exploring.

Paper Legality Laws; Coming to a Continent near You

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Over the past few years, discussions surrounding how legal paper sourcing decisions are made by print buyers have received less and less attention from the press. This doesn’t mean that the issue has melted away; it merely means normalization of the process has relegated it to the board room and to the senate committee. However that could change based on worldwide activities of a similar fashion. In other words, the race is on.

In a mere 22 months if you print on paper anywhere in the European Union (EU), there will no longer be a choice. Verified legal timber product sourcing, including pulp and paper, will become law.

Regulation (EU) No 995/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 October 2010 lays down the obligations of operators who place timber and timber products on the market – also known as the (Illegal) Timber Regulation counters the trade in illegally harvested timber and timber products through three key obligations:

1. It prohibits the placing on the EU market for the first time of illegally harvested timber and products derived from such timber;
2. It requires EU traders who place timber products on the EU market for the first time to exercise ‘due diligence';
3. Keep records of their suppliers and customers.

The Regulation covers a broad range of timber products including solid wood products, flooring, plywood, pulp and paper. Interestingly though, not included among a few other products such as rattan and bamboo are recycled products and printed papers such as books, magazines and newspapers.

The EU has chosen their battles just as the US has with the now familiar US Lacey Act. By excluding printed matter (for now) but including pulp and paper, the EU’s Timber Regulation leapfrogs Lacey in that European printers will no longer be at will to purchase paper without regard for legal harvests, specifically aimed at imports as of March 2013.

The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill 2011 is still in the consultation phase, but is written so vaguely that if passed in its present form, is sure to create a (common) wealth of issues. For now, we have to take a wait and see approach. Taking their Bill with a grain of Aussie salt, I wouldn’t expect to see it passed anytime soon.

As a side note in its “Comments from the Government of Canada on Australia’s Draft Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill 2011”, the Canadian government is not amused. On May 6, 2011 the Secretary of the Senate Standing Committees on Rural Affairs and Transport wrote; “In particular, Canada is concerned that the Bill may lead to a requirement (whether explicitly stated or implied) for Australian importers to conduct risk assessments (or the ‘timber industry certifiers’ to do so on their behalf) on any unprocessed or processed timber products imported into Australia. Such a requirement would be particularly onerous for complex processed products made of timber sourced from multiple suppliers…” (like paper merchants and printers).

Which brings us back to the Lacey Act and its implications in the paper and printing industry here in the US. For the time being it seems like no movement on implementation pertaining to US-based paper mills and printers is imminent. That said, with all of the activity on other continents, one has to wonder.

Yurchak – Taking Care of “Book Business”

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Yurchak Printing, Inc. was founded in 1998 in the heart of Amish country (Landisville, Pennsylvania). Its goal was to offer high-quality, short-run digital book manufacturing services to the publishing industry, manufacturing and service companies, professional associations, government agencies, and colleges and universities. The company sought to provide a service portfolio that managed the document lifecycle and extended the value of publications.

Yurchak Printing’s service offerings were created to fulfill a need brought about by the digital age. By creating innovative solutions, Founder and CEO John Yurchak, Jr. has built an organization that is a leader in digital short-run book manufacturing. The company specializes in solutions for the production of directories, periodicals, journals, reference books, fine edition books, illustrated books, bibles, children’s books, bound galleys, and university press books. Yurchak Printing deals with run lengths from 1 to 1,500.

It Starts with a Vision

With over 40 years of observing the marketplace, John Yurchak had great intuition about market trends. He notes, “beginning in the mid-1980s, I saw that print runs were getting shorter and shorter. As volumes got smaller, the equipment I used – along with the associated plates, negatives, presses, and high labor and finishing costs – got to be very cumbersome. With the advent of digital printing in the 1990s, I saw a new opportunity to compete with short-run offset work. I saw a new market opening in short-run book publishing.”

Keeping Up with the Changing Market

End-users of hardcopy reference materials include colleges, universities, accounting firms, attorneys, and the medical field. Publishers want to print smaller quantities on demand to eliminate costly storage. There is also intense pressure to keep content up-to-date, requiring continual content modifications and driving shorter runs. According to Yurchak, “Even with all the information available on the Internet, there is a niche market for quantities ranging from 10 to 1,000 that require a short turnaround time. People want loose-leaf, hard-bound, and perfect bound reference materials.”

Lightweight Stocks with Blazing Speed

Yurchak went on to say, “We partnered with Océ for a number of reasons. With our focus on reference materials, printing on lightweight paper has become our specialty. For continuous printing on lightweight paper, Océ was the unquestionable choice.”

A flexible and powerful workflow was key for the quick delivery of a variety of jobs. Océ automated the book production software capabilities, providing Yurchak with a more hands-free, lower-cost approach. This translated into fewer errors, less manual handling, greater service consistency, and more accurate monitoring.

 The best print quality is critical for Yurchak customers. The company uses a variety of Océ devices, including the ColorStream 10000 Flex with Hunkeler Finishing, VarioPrint 6250, and VarioStream 9230 with Hunkeler Finishing. Yurchak explained, “Charts and graphs are important for scientific materials, but math books require clear images for formulas. We need quality without compromise, and Océ has delivered.”

 John Yurchak, Jr. had a tremendous vision when digital print was still in its infancy, but Océ has helped his company move to the next level. He concludes, “Océ hardware and software solutions have helped us create an exceptional business in the highly competitive world of digital publishing.”

Learn more about Yurchak, Printing Inc. by watching the video below!