Archive for the ‘Book Printing’ Category

An Economic View from a Different Perspective

Monday, December 6th, 2010

For this post, I’m offering my own unscientific perspectives based on a unique window I get to peek into through – my experience actively consulting with or for organizations of all sizes and in all sectors of the industry. This includes everyone from pulp and paper mills to paper merchants to printers to print brokers and finally, print buyers.

My travels take me from coast to coast and north to south here in North America working with over 100 clients in 200 locations per year. From ten-employee in-plants to billion dollar corporations, there are common themes that seem from my perspective to permeate every facet of the paper and print-space.

Necessity may be the Mother of invention, but it’s also the Mother of reduction, the Mother of consolidation and ultimately, the Mother of efficiency. The past few years of recessionary behavior has proven to be a Petri dish of sorts that prove this hypothesis.

Common to every nearly enterprise is the realization that certain functions have had to be reduced or eliminated in order to survive. On the M&A level this means economy of scale and centralization of management, marketing, accounting and human resource functions. Within the same organization, lower level elimination of redundant or non-value added positions has become the norm. I’ve walked in the door of many a facility where “ring the bell/buzzer/phone” for front desk service is now in force where before, the duty of the receptionist was just that; to receive.

If there is a front desk person it is frequently a CSR or AR/AP employee whose new workspace happens to be visibly at the front door of the establishment. The same goes with many other positions where value is perceived as being intangible and can therefore be eliminated and delegated internally to the wearers of many hats who are any enterprise’s new survivor class.

The other trend I’ve seen is that along with staff reduction coinciding with the amount of work coming through the door, where say a full 3 shift operation has been forced down to 2, a new and interesting problem has arisen. When the workload is steady, which is a lowered expectation these days, the available labor pool is being tailored to be able to handle the volume, however now there seems to be more of an optimistic trend among print buyers and advertisers.

It’s what I call the “loosening of the purse-strings syndrome.” As the economy and consumer confidence levels elevate slightly, print buyers are a bit more confident and optimistic. Over the past six to twelve months, my clients, generically now have the problem of not having labor available for those spikes in volume when they occur. In a way this is a good problem to have, since they now feel like they have weathered the economic storm and are now emerging as a more efficient enterprise through all their tribulations.

In some markets an interesting phenomenon is taking place. Where similar facilities with similar capabilities and equipment have either survived or failed, there is a glut of skilled labor. In some cases these spikes are handled by employees working for more than one company-  not that this hasn’t always happened to some degree. It just seems that now there are a lot more skilled operators willing and/or able to be engaged on-call. The problem here is that this is usually more of a mature labor pool, so with regard to longevity, an arrangement such as this is not self-sustaining. No one seems to want to be so optimistic as to ramp back up to former levels, so this conundrum will continue for the foreseeable future.

I don’t pretend to be an economist. I’ll leave that job to Dr. Joe. That said, I do ask the same basic questions wherever I go. How’s business? Have you had layoffs or reductions in the past year and if so, by how much? Have things stabilized? Are you bringing staff back on? Are your customers a bit more optimistic? Are you?

Of course the answers vary, but on average they are: tolerable; yes; yes; yes; yes; yes. It is encouraging if anything, that there is a pervasive optimism out there. In my book optimism equals confidence. Confidence equals risk-taking, albeit cautiously, risk-taking equals spending. Spending of course raises the economic tide overall, and a rising tide lifts all boats.

So ultimately in the printing industry, especially in the areas of growth such as digital printing and integrated media, I’d like to believe that because of all this spending on infrastructure, equipment and new labor, i.e. emerging skill sets, are about to take a quantum leap based on the demand for printing in our brave new world. A renaissance if you will.

To move forward and be the cause of change, mills, merchants, printers and brokers must again refocus their marketing efforts on a now more optimistic print-buying public, who will have a bit more money to spend as long as they are convinced of the ROI once they have been educated, again, by their vendors of the benefits of print.

So, in the end, you can talk about GDP, unemployment, print shipments and the calculated risks of either doing or not doing something to change the game all day long. All I’m saying to sum this all up is that anecdotally, we seem to collectively be climbing out of a casualty-ridden hole, a bit wiser, a bit stronger, but non-the-less gun-shy. In many cases the casualties have been necessary. It got rid of some of the low-ballers to hopefully create a more level playing field where the survivors can compete fairly on a level playing field, charge a fair price and continue to continue on now that the ball is rolling again.

What do you think?

Vic Barkin

Digital Inkjet: The Paper Challenge

Monday, October 25th, 2010

By Jack Miller, Principal Consultant, Market-Intell

Jack MillerIn the world of digital print and paper, “nirvana” is a press that is capable of producing offset quality at a competitive cost on the same papers that printers use on their offset presses.

 For the most part, coated and uncoated offset papers run reasonably well with toner-based digital laser printing, but toner is expensive. Now, the next generation is here: low cost, high speed digital ink jet web presses made news at Drupa in 2008, Print09 last year, and IPEX this year. These are the Océ JetStream, the HP T300, and the Kodak Prosper, presses that are capable of commercial production output volumes with variable data.  Xerox also introduced a new production inkjet technology at IPEX, and while this technology is not yet commercial, it is  promising.

 Now, the challenge is paper.

Inkjet inks have high water content, and tend to soak into uncoated papers or sit up on coated papers where they may smear. For uncoated papers, HP and International Paper introduced ColorLok technology for desktop printers. This technology involves a calcium chloride-based chemical that is added at the paper mill and adds minimal cost. With the introduction of the T300 color inkjet web press, HP followed up with ColorPRO, a similar technology for inkjet presses. Abitibi Bowater, Georgia-Pacific and Stora Enso all produce ColorPRO qualified papers. The ColorPRO program requires that mills meet quality standards audited by HP. The HP T300 can also apply a “bonding agent” that enables printing on ordinary uncoated paper.

Coated papers, however, remain a challenge.

The list of available coated papers for ink jet is limited (see Table 1). HP’s ColorPRO technology is not designed for coated papers, nor is the bonding agent (although some coated papers do work better with the bonding agent.) Océ, HP, and Kodak are all working with the leading coated paper manufacturers. Appleton Coated reports that they are jointly developing high-speed inkjet coated media with HP, and the first such product is the Utopia Book Inkjet 45 lb. Matte Text.  Appleton Coated also offers coated papers in matte and dull finishes for direct mail and commercial printing applications. The Utopia Inkjet family, including Utopia Book Inkjet, does not require the use of the bonding agent. Appleton Coated has also worked with Kodak to qualify this grade on the Prosper press.

NewPage is also working on coated inkjet, and is working with glossy papers. I saw some beautiful books printed on NewPage 80 lb. Gloss Inkjet with the HP T300. This sheet is specially formulated for the HP T300 and is available on an inquiry basis. Other weights and finishes will be available as market demand increases.

Table 1 Coated Inkjet Papers

        Brightness
Mill Grade Finish Basis wts D65 GE
           
Appleton Coated Utopia Inkjet web text Matte 60,70 80, 100 93 91
Appleton Coated Utopia Inkjet web text Dull 60.70, 80 93 91
Appleton Coated Utopia Inkjet web cover Matte 65, 80 93 91
Appleton Coated Utopia Inkjet web cover Dull 65,80 93 91
Appleton Coated Utopia Inkjet Book Matte 45 89  
New Page Inquire Gloss 80, inquire inq. inq.

 

 The two market areas that are finding the most immediate traction are books and direct mail. For books, waste factors are high, logistics are expensive and returns remain a major factor. Digital solves these problems, and even though paper costs may be a bit higher, the economics remain favorable. Digital book printing can be a one-off printed by Amazon or by a digital book printer like Lightning Source, but for these “new generation” digital ink jet presses; this is about medium length runs and keeping the printing cost under control, while slashing inventory and logistics costs. For direct mail, the economics are equally compelling. It is much better to print 500,000 copies of personalized, targeted direct mail and get a response rate of 8 to 10 percent than to print a million copies and get a 2 percent return.

For now, the installed base of digital inkjet presses is small, but as the base grows, run lengths at the mills will lengthen and costs will come down. This will provide a stimulus to demand for digital print, and the range of applications will increase. The new presses have been described as “disruptive technology,” i.e. technology that will change the rules of the game. And ultimately, these new rules will mean more digital inkjet papers.

 Jack Miller is Principal Consultant, Market-Intell, a supplier of strategic consulting and “Need to Know” market intelligence in paper, print and packaging. He can be contacted at jack.miller@market-intell.com     

Thoughts on Power Consumption in the Golden Age

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

We are truly in the golden age of printing. It’s an exciting time full of technology convergence, disruption and acceleration. Along with all of this is the necessary sorting out true cost/benefit of any technology including the energy used to run it. As the old adage goes, you can’t track what you don’t measure. This writing explores that philosophy as it pertains to power consumption.

It is generally accepted that digital printing costs less to both you and your customers in terms of both time and money in specific situations, and although this can be true, the question here is how does power fit into the equation?

Hybrid printing facilities have a variety of options when it comes to jobs that at the outset seem more efficient through the use of one technology over another. Do you run it offset or digital? Preprint shells and imprint data or run an otherwise black-only variable data color job on a digital color press? Sure, time and cost can be calculated in terms of BHC and necessary turn around, but for each piece of equipment what is the true cost of the power used to run it?

The power it takes to run digital versus offset equipment can and should be measured on an isolated basis. There are many permanent and portable power meters and data-loggers on the market generally ranging from $600 to $3000 for a three-phase-capable unit. This cost can be viewed as a quick payoff investment to get a true picture of how much power is consumed by each piece of equipment in the shop for a specified duration, either under load, idle or “off”, provided the results are utilized to proper advantage.

For instance, platesetters, digital presses, cutters &c. all are under idle power when not in use. By calculating the idle time power draw and then isolating a production run under full load, a true picture of the actual cost can be achieved. Now how about warm-up time? Obviously a cutter doesn’t have much of one, while a digital press does. Most shops have these machines powered up all day long, idle or not. How much money could be saved by turning off idle devices when not in use? Of course the same can be said for idle workstations, lighting and climate control, but that’s not the focus here.

On the other hand, offset presses, with the exception of associated compressors, chillers, agitators, recirculators, UV units, thermal oxidizers… well, you get the point, along with folders, stitchers and some types of packaging equipment do not draw active power when not in use. They do however draw at the very least phantom power. In all cases, the question comes down to whether there’s a warm-up time, and how much power that activity consumes and whether or not a lockout device should be employed to completely power down when it would otherwise be “turned off”.

Once the true power consumption costs are calculated for any given piece of equipment how could this play into your organization’s strategy? Here are some thoughts:

1. Benchmark costs for power used for jobs on specific equipment;
2. Track unused idle time and phantom power draw, and find ways to eliminate the same;
3. Report on isolated power consumption as part of a formal Life Cycle Analysis (LCA);
4. Use power consumption as an evaluation tool to cost one technology over another;
5. Integrate power isolation metrics into upper management’s continuous improvement dashboard;
6. Incentivize and empower employees to reduce energy use;
7. Empower customers to make the choice of technologies partially based on energy use;
8. Integrate a power reduction strategy into the organization’s sustainability reporting;
9. Normalize power conservation into the organization’s DNA;
10. Become a champion and tell your story to the masses.

What other ideas can you come up with?

Baker & Taylor’s Inks Digital Printing Deals

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Baker & Taylor has announced a number of deals in the last week for the company’s TextStream digital book printing service . On February 4th B&T announced a partnership with PublishAmerica to provide print on-demand and order fulfillment for PublishAmerica’s 40,000+ titles.

“We chose Baker & Taylor because of its extensive distribution network, its incredible ability to manage the logistics of shipping and handling a large number of small orders to multiple locations, and the completeness of its printing package,” said Willem Meiners, PublishAmerica co-founder.

On Monday B&T inked deals with Fordham University Press, University of North Carolina Press and Penn State Press to provide print–on–demand services.

The TextStream digital printing service was announced on October 13, 2009 at last year’s Frankfurt Book Fair. Baker & Taylor partnered with RR Donnelley which provides printing and finishing for the service.

Espresso Book Machine in the News

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

The Espresso Book Machine which we have written about on Digital Nirvana made news this week when Xerox announced a joint sales and marketing agreement with On Demand Books:

Yesterday, Xerox announced a joint sales and marketing agreement with On Demand Books wherein the Xerox 4112 Copier/Printer will be integrated with the Espresso Book Machine – a fully integrated solution that prints, binds and trims books with full color covers on demand in retail locations and libraries. The Espresso Book Machine can produce paperbacks in variable combinations of trim sizes between 4.5″ x 5.0″ and 8.25″ x 10.5″ for a production cost less than one cent per page and can produce a 300 page book in about 4 minutes.

If you watch this video released last September by Google you will notice the EBM has the Xerox 4112 print engine.

While the Espresso Book Machine has the potential to be a game changer, one Australian bookstore has taken the machine off its store floor to make room for traditional book merchandise. Print21 reports the EBM at Angus & Robertson in Melbourne, Australia failed to engage customers:

Patrick Gaskin, business development director at RedGroup Retail said that the decision to take the machine out of the store was due to logistics. “Space is at a premium in that store so the EBM was removed to make room for Christmas trade,” he said.

Staff from the Bourke Street store said that the machine had been moved to a warehouse. Currently, there is no option for anyone wanting to purchase or print any of the 100-plus books previously offered by Angus & Robertson.

Print21 cites low print and finishing quality of a sample they had printed at the Angus & Robertson:

The quality of the books printed, however, was disappointing. After paying $30 for one title, Print21 received a book with a chipped spine, off-centre titles and text that was almost too faint to read. A problem with the EBM also meant that the book had to be printed twice.

The EBM was originally configured with a lower end machine from Kyocera when it first came on the market.

Courier Acquires Highcrest Media

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Courier Corporation, a leading book manufacturer and specialty publisher announced that it has acquired Highcrest Media, a provider of software and solutions that streamline the production of customized textbooks for use in colleges, universities and businesses.

“College professors around the country are flocking to this new technology,” said Courier Chairman and Chief Executive Officer James F. Conway III. “Using Highcrest’s software, they can create a textbook that contains only the information they want to teach from–eliminating waste and reducing costs. By bringing Highcrest Media to Courier, we are placing ourselves at the forefront of this trend as a strategic resource for a key customer base. Highcrest’s expertise fits perfectly into our vision and portfolio.”

In an article at WhatTheyThink Andy Tribute writes that the world of publishing has hardly been impacted by developments in digital printing. Almost all the developments have been aimed at short-run commercial printing, variable data printing, and web to print operations. It would appear that this year will see the start of a change as book publishers look to digital printing to change their business models to reduce their capital tied up in inventory. In the article Tribute asks “Is 2010 the Year for Digital Printing for Publishers?

The biggest impact digital printing has brought to publishing is the ability to support mass customization of printed products. A lack of workflow applications has hindered the ability of print providers to offer mass customization to publishing clients. The Courier acquisition is a perfect example of a need to provide workflow to drive mass customization and digital printing applications.

Google Books in Print

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Last week Google announced a content access deal with On Demand Books, LLC the company behind the Espresso Book Machine. The deal provides On Demand Books with access to over two million public-domain titles in the Google Books archive.

Google has published a video for those unfamiliar with on-demand book production.

The Wired.com article on the partnership included a quote from Dane Neller, On Demand Books CEO about adding Web-to-print functionality to Google Books, “Neller said he’d love to see the day when Google Book Searchers can press a button next to a search result and find the closest local printer, but Google says that’s a long way off.”

I’m not surprised Google isn’t planning on providing local printing just yet, but where is the option to have a book printed and shipped? Lighting Source does this for thousands of titles on Amazon.com everyday. The IT practices are place and the print factories are built. What’s taking so long? Is Google waiting for the dust to settle around its settlement with publishers before it provides access to printed copies of books?

Brand building and PRINT 09: Océ’s Inkjet Evolution, Part 5

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Last time we talked about ways Océ is helping customers build business with inkjet technology and how market acceptance of digital print quality has changed. Today, in the final installment of this interview, Mal Baboyian talks about how Océ is changing the way it presents itself to the market at big venues like PRINT 09 and gives us a glimpse of what the company will have on display in Chicago.

NW: Océ used to show only its high speed production presses at shows like PRINT or Graph Expo, but at recent shows you often have one or two wide format machines on hand. Why the shift?

MB: Océ has one of the broadest product lines in the industry covering the office, wide format, display graphics, and production printing. But even customers in these segments weren’t always aware of our other offerings and capabilities and didn’t necessarily think of Océ when they needed a different type of equipment. Having a wider range of equipment at shows strengthens our brand by showing the full scope of our offerings and helps position Océ as a leader in more segments of the printing market. We also share some technologies across the different divisions of the company and are always looking for ways to leverage what we know. As I mentioned, our inkjet experience in wide format aided us in developing the JetStream family. Many of our customers had no knowledge of Océ’s breadth of solutions in the office, production printing and wide format segments. And many of them have needs in more than one segment .
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Springer launches Platform to Print eBooks on-demand

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Springer Science+Business Media the publisher of science, technology and medicine books, manuals and journals has announced its eBook catalog is now available in print at participating libraries in North America that have have purchased Springer eBook Collection. According to the company, “All registered library patrons will be able to order a softcover copy of a Springer eBook for their personal use the Springer platform www.springerlink.com..” The books format is perfect bound with a color cover and monochrome interior.

“We tested and evaluated market acceptance. The test phase was a complete success, as the libraries and their patrons confirmed,” said Dr. Olaf Ernst, President of eProduct Management & Innovation at Springer. “The order processing, rapid delivery and attractive price of the books convinced library users that this is a good deal. The logical decision for Springer was to offer MyCopy as an extended service for our library customers and their users. It makes the steadily growing eBook range even more attractive to the science and research market.”

The print production for the MyCopy service will be handled by Lighting Source, a unit of Ingram Content Group. Ingram Content Group comprised of Ingram Book Group, Lightning Source and Ingram Digital was recently formed.

Baker & Taylor (with Donnelley’s help) takes on LightningSource

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Baker & Taylor, Ingram’s main competitor in book distribution, has announced a book-on-demand operation of its own, scheduled to launch in September. I talked to a B&T spokesperson, who made it clear that like LightningSource (which is owned by Ingram), the B&T service is designed for true run-length-of-one POD book printing. The actual production will be handled by R.R. Donnelley using equipment that RRD is setting up inside B&T’s distribution facility in Momence, Illinois.

This announcement is probably good news for publishers (since the service is likely to give LightningSource some needed competition) but not so good for digital book printers (apart from Donnelley) who may lose a chunk of business to the new operation.

The B&T press release is here

Print on-Demand Book Growth

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Last week Bowker released its annual statistics on book publishing in the U.S. for 2008. Using its Books In Print database the company projects a decrease in U.S title output by 3.2% or 275,232 new titles and editions. It reported a small increase last year.

In 2008 Bowker also reported “On Demand” Publishing More than doubled: “Bowker projects that 285,394 On Demand books were produced last year, a staggering 132% increase over last year’s final total of 123,276 titles. This is the second consecutive year of triple-digit growth in the On Demand segment, which in 2008 was 462% above levels seen as recently as 2006.”

Is the ‘printernet’ a useful idea?

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been playing with the notion that a good way to think about the global print industry is using the word “printernet” to capture what might be going on.

Yesterday, I got a chance to test it out in a more public venue in a column at PBS.org/mediashift. The title, chosen by the editor, is ‘Printernet’ Vision Brings Custom Print Publications to Masses”

The general tenor over there is that Print is Dead, newspapers have to go online, and other internet bedazzled visions of the future of journalism. I’m posting here in the hope of getting some feedback from my esteemed colleagues in Print, where I don’t have to take a defensive stance proving that the sky is not falling and print is not dead.

From a PR point of view the notion is “Now that the internet is in place, the printernet is ready to emerge.’ That’s for the kids in school to get them to be excited about Print.

From the professional point of view,”. . . this so-called “printernet” can have the same benefits as the Internet — massive parallel manufacturing with standards-based interfaces, real time production information and easy access for everyone. Each printer — the combination of the machinery and the intelligence that manages the machinery — is a print output node.”

My hypothesis is that one of the things that has kept us from seeing the emerging role for Print, is that we’ve been using old thought models that don’t capture a new environment. The facts on the ground are that the Eurocentric era of the global economy is coming to close and that new value in the form of previously impossible customer experiences are enabled by the network, not by stand alone printing companies.

While I was researching the column I came across pediapress.com in Germany. They’ve released Open Source software to automatically go from wikipedia pages to PDF,ODF, and XML. They are monetizing their invention by selling Wikipedia Printed books through their website. Just recently they’ve expanded from German to the other major European languages.

I think wikis have become the platform of choice for organizing content on the web. PBwiki.com, a start-up, says they are doing enterprise content management for over 200,000 businesses and 100′s of thousands of schools. Meanwhile, Newspapers and physical communities are organizing their content in wikis.

Given that my focus is high school education in the States, I think I’m seeing textbooks being replaced by WikiBooks and WikiNewspapers. The new experience will be cheaper, faster and much more effective in getting students to learn to love to learn.

I keep turning it over and over, and I can’t see why it wouldn’t work.

Any thoughts?

Finally, book printing in the bookstore is becoming reality

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

For at least two decades, people have been talking about putting book printing right in the bookstore. The approach has the potential to solve a lot of problems: the bookstore (and its customers) can select from a very deep inventory, without having to have all those books (and multiple copies of many of them) on hand. Returns are essentially eliminated. There’s no warehousing, and no shipping costs. The main problems have been: creating reliable hardware and systems that are easy to use but produce high-quality books, convincing publishers to go along with the scheme, and making it sufficiently economical to buy and run the equipment.
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There’s Something About a Book

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Hot on the heels of its $125 million dollar settlement with book publishers over the company’s plan to scan out-of-print books and add them to its online search capability, Google now wants to be the place people go to read. The book-scanning project is being expanded to include in-print books with the links to buy them. Google expects it to go live sometime in 2009. The catch is that the books can only be read on a computer. This puts them into competition with Amazon which also envisions people curling up with their laptop to read the latest from a favored author.

I suppose there are those who will think this is marvelous, and who will enjoy the instant gratification of buying a book online and being able to enjoy it immediately, but I think it really changes the experience of reading and overcomplicates what is really a simple process. Books are totally portable, can be read anywhere there is a reasonable light source, and don’t depend on batteries (unless you read by flashlight). Books can be passed along to friends and family, and when placed in a bookcase are a monument to the curiosity and interests of the reader. Then there is the tactility of a book, the turning of the pages, and yes, the lack of technology required to simply read. Many of us already spend more time than we’d like staring at a computer screen and I question how many will want to do their personal reading –which is often a time of escape from the day-to-day– just a click away from the distractions of emails and the internet.

Some years back Frank Romano famously pointed out that printed books will survive because of the Three Bs: Bedroom, Bathroom and Beach. He wasn’t wrong then and his insight holds true today.

Digital Book Printing, More Publishers Waking Up to the Benefits

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Book Business Magazine has an article in this month’s issue on digital book printing and print on-demand (available online here).

The article points out the success PublicAffairs, an imprint of The Perseus Books Group had with moving one its fast selling books to a print on-demand model at Lighting Source:

Demand went vertical, and there was a period of time when orders were coming in and they [didn’t have] any copies … [available] anywhere,” says Lightning Source President David Taylor. “So John Ingram said to Peter Osnos, ‘Look, give us the file, and we’ll set it up as an on-demand model, and we’ll fulfill at least some of those orders.’ ”

The problem for Perseus became an opportunity for Ingram to show the world the value of on-demand digital printing.

“We got the file from them on the Monday morning after BookExpo America, and we were printing the first books that afternoon,” Taylor recounts. “We actually moved over our entire casebook production to just that book for a period of 48 hours. We printed several thousand copies, and those were orders that otherwise would have just [been lost] or would have not been fulfilled. When the offset order came back in, we switched it off.”

An interesting comment from Edwards Brothers CEO John Edwards on not using digital to describe the printing process:

“I’m trying to not call it digital anymore,” he says. “It’s short-run. I don’t want to have to differentiate anymore [between digital and offset]. We’re focusing on making it seamless for the publishing community as far as how [a book is] made.”

This makes a lot of sense. There are still a lot of print buyers in the industry that perceive digital as inferior. Something that is easily debunked by showing printed product samples.

Read the whole article at Book Business.