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Old 01-15-2020, 11:08 AM   #1
Grand Sorcerer
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The immediate future of print

A side effect of the changes in publishing stemming from the online and/or digital disruption is that the print world is evolving. Consolidating, shrinking.

From their side, here are some of their near term issues:


Here I will offer five areas of strategic impact that both publishers and printers need to look at and plan to work with or change their operational models to accommodate.
  1. The retail distribution model is already changing in a dramatic fashion. Brick and mortar is in decline, especially in the big box store model. We see this in trade with Barnes and Noble as well as education with the college book store models. Amazon continues to grow its presence in both trade and higher education. Publishers and printers both need to be planning for the possibility that big box book brick and mortar might fail. How will publishers replace those sales and the bandwidth of all that shelf space? How will printers plan for the reduction in print demand when all the books sitting in stores and warehouses come back to the publishers through the return channel?
  2. Paper continues to be an issue and it is not going to go away. There is no new domestic capacity coming online for uncoated book free sheet or groundwood for the mono books. Coated graphic arts papers of all grades are in short supply for the same reasons. Mills are closing or switching capacity to more profitable and easier to manufacture packaging grades. Publishers can solve part of this problem by reducing waste and number of books they hold in the warehouse, BUT, this would require them to fully embrace and inventory a management model that utilizes what production inkjet can offer.
  3. As publishers work toward reducing turnaround times with tighter SLA's, the printers will need a distribution system that can move product quickly and effectively. The primary method for moving books is by truck. There is a critical shortage of over-the-road truck drivers in the U.S. and the shortage is growing as baby boomers leave the workforce and trucking companies struggle to attract good candidates into the jobs. How will publishers plan for this emerging problem? The platform is out there for a more fully distributed print solution but this will require some significant innovation on the part of both publishers and printers. Next day delivery of books in specific geographies produced within those geographies is an executable strategy today for markets in the East, Midwest, and parts of the Southeast. It can be done for both mono and color. The logistics of this solution are complex, but if we continue to lose capacity in the over-the-road truck fleets, will this become a reality and a significant issue during peak times of the year, such as what happened in the Q4 timeframe this past year?
  4. Offset print plants require skilled craftsman to run one and four color offset presses, as well as high speed soft cover and case binding lines. There is a significant amount of labor required in a medium size and large book plant, especially in the bindery. Many of the markets where these book plants exist today have a shortage of the skills and labor required for these plants to run at full capacity. This is an ongoing issue, which was experienced by many mainstream book printers this past year and will continue as the talent pool who used to fill these jobs find better paying and less demanding jobs. This issue has a compounding effect. It creates capacity shortages caused not by lack of equipment, but rather by the inability to utilize all the theoretically available time on that equipment for lack of operators. This then reduces the potential ROI on those expensive investments in web presses and new and more automated binding lines.
  5. Book manufacturing is in the wrong place. To be a little more direct, the majority of the population growth in the U.S. is in the Southeast, Texas, Nashville area, or in the Northwest. With the exception of Nashville, there are no significant book manufacturing plants in the geographies where populations and jobs are growing. If we know that there is already an issue with over-the-road trucking, printers having to deliver on tighter and tighter SLA's, and publishers needing to embrace inventory management models to deal with the supply chain realities of the book value chain, when are we going to see book plants in geographies where the customers are going? In every instance, Amazon is already there and we know they have been studying the book manufacturing model for a couple of years. Experience by now has taught us that if Amazon has to solve this on their own, the existing value chain is not going to like the outcome.
All 5 of these points are important strategic issues. I have not seen a single webinar or conference agenda focused on any of these issues since the first of the year. In the past few weeks, I have listened to webinars on State of the Book Business that did not address a single strategic issue facing the book business. Looking backwards through a foggy mirror is a tough way to move forward. I also heard a webinar where a 40+ year well-respected veteran was the featured speaker. Here I thought we would get some excellent forward-looking insights. But no, once again tough strategic issues were not brought forward from the moderator. In fact, the moderator spent more time talking and running endless commercials for the webinar sponsor than the featured speaker was allocated to answer the tame questions.

My point here is this. We have some really tough issues facing the book business and the structure of the future book value chain. This is a very conservative industry and the nature and past behavior of the industry as a whole would suggest that movement and change will not take place until crisis is upon us.
More at the source.

Just as changes in digital impact print, changes in the print world impact digital. Especially tradpub digital which huns in lockstep with print.



In higher education, the print decline continues in what many are experiencing as a double-digit rate. The issues for this segment are more dire than K-12. Here the publishers are dealing with a complete repudiation of their product model because of pricing issues by a significant number of their primary adopters, the professors and universities. This is a segment whose current business model may be stuck in a doom loop and, again, here we see four-color printing as one of the area's of manufacturing that will feel the decline, which is why you may see some significant capacity rationalization in the four-color area from all the merger and acquisition activity among printers in the past 12 months.

Last edited by fjtorres; 01-15-2020 at 11:22 AM.
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