For most businesses in 2020, things have hit hard times. But the one industry that has been going strong? The book manufacturing industry.
Since most people nowadays are not going out as often because of the pandemic, reading has re-surged. But that does not mean that book manufacturers were completely unharmed with LSC Communications (a prominent printing company that is filing for bankruptcy) and the selling off of book plants owned by the Quad/Graphics company (making capacity for more books to be published nearly unavailable).
Capacity and supply for new books to be printed is becoming a serious concern for the publishers. Besides the drop in demand and postponing of prints starting around March 2020, the business has steadily started moving ahead. Todd Roth, the VP of Core Publishing Solutions based out of Eagan, Minnesota, stated that their company has “made multi-million dollar capital investments in 2020” which included a significant increase in their capacity for digital printing and an extra potential of four billion digital pages for 2021. The most popular genres of books being printed during this time have been US politics, self-help, and children’s books.
The customer’s, AKA the publishers, expectations have changed as well. Fetherston, CEO and president of Worzalla in Steven’s Point, Wisconsin, states that speedy turnarounds are becoming a “must-have” for the company’s customers. So, having more national than international manufacturing companies helps the printers to put the books on shelves quicker and allows publishers to handle orders easier, which is less wasteful on production. Scheduling when books are to be released is also a bigger concern. Due to the fact that society has become more sensory overload than before, keeping people’s attention has become harder. Key publishers, most likely those within the “Big Five,” have pushed for “tighter deadlines, shorter run lengths,” and faster production rates depending on book sales. Because of this, most books do not have long run times as they used to, making advertising more important for grabbing the audience’s attention.
McFarland, president and board chairman for McNaughton and Gunn out of Saline, Michigan, sees the most growth within digital printing. Though they are still a small percentage of sales, “they represent a quarter to a third of the jobs they do.” It helps for the replenishment of books that quickly sell out and help both the publisher and printing companies to gain profit faster as well.
Digital enhancements for publishers has become an attractive option for printing companies. This has helped to increase the quality of digital prints and increase its usage as well from just quicker manufacturing into a part of the production itself, without replacing the process of traditional book printing. It has also helped to create versatility for a variety of generations that work within the printing industry and entice potential employees to be a part of the assembly of, literally, bringing a book to life.