By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief
“We are living in a blended reality type of world where we need to make print relevant in a digital world,” says Francois Martin Worldwide Marketing Director for Graphics Solutions Business, at HP, a sponsor of the Scientific Publishing Innovation Day at the London Book Fair on April 13, 2015.
“When it comes to HP, you have two types of innovation: innovation that is relevant for publishers and printers, and innovation that is relevant for consumers. If we consider the first category, this is about cost reduction and a reduction in inventories, as well as new revenue generation.”
Publishers have been struggling over the last years, but, says Martin “our digital innovation is helping them better cope with print-on-demand (POD), short runs, and many things they were dreaming about are now available.”
Consumers, naturally, benefit too, now that they can print short-run books whenever they want. For example, if a professor wants to produce a unique book for their classroom, this can now be done — and affordably.
Focusing on STM and Education
In fact, it is the STM and education market where HP is focusing much of its effort.
Why? “What we see is that there are two facts. First, there are many studies that have been conducted across continents that demonstrate that you are learning better if you are using printed documents. That is a fact. We were uncertain about it before, but it is confirmed now.”
Second, “At the same time, digital content is everywhere, it is pervasive. What a lot of publishers and teachers want to do is mix online and published content, and what people want is to move existing digital content into print when you need it.”
In fact, we are now living in a world where digital content can take any shape, any size, anywhere. If you want to have it purely online, because consuming it online is more convenient, you can — but if you want to have it printed, there is no reason you should not have it. Printers exist that can produce single copies, if need be.
“We have a customer in the Netherlands who has zero inventory in books, but is doing all of them POD — in print runs from 1 to 500, and the average order size of 1.6 copies,” confirms Martin, who cites Printforce.nl as the supplier. “It goes to show that you can have whatever you want, without having any inventory. Everything is automated through specific workflow processes, and today you can do this for photo books and textbooks, too. This is valued by both publishers and users.”
Let’s face it, no one likes maintaining huge inventories of titles, which is both inefficient and expensive. “In the past it was a nightmare,” confirms Martin. But now that is changing. “One of our customers is a mid-sized Italian publisher specializing in STM. Three years ago the customer had almost 1 million books in inventory in 3 different warehouses, until the CEO made the decision to move to digital. Out of 110 titles he’s managing, he decided to do 100 digitally. He has now reduced inventory to 350,000, made additional revenues and saved money on the warehousing.”
Customization is Valued
Where you’re likely to see real innovation is in customization, particularly in the education market. “Education is growing and continues to be a huge market for books. Going back to my earlier point, it has been proven that when you are less than 12 years old, you are learning better using printed books. Where we come in is by offering a solution for customized education textbooks, books which allow a teacher to decide what a child should be reading. This market for customized education textbooks is growing at 15% per year, according to Outsell — it is a $3 billion market, just in the US.”
Many of these titles have been printed on HP Inkjet Web Presses. “We have installed more than 160 of these machines and they have printed more 50 billion pages, mainly in publishing, either for black and white trade, or for color and black and white education books.” It is, says Martin, a market that needs to be transformed.
“A book that is 10 or 15 years old may not be relevant any longer — the kids, society and teachers are evolving. Now it is possible to print education titles every year for all the students. Then, when the year is done you throw the book away or, even better, recycle it.”
During this year’s Scientific Publishing Innovation Day at the London Book Fair, several issues are likely to be raised, not the least of which is how to take content, print it when you need, and do it again the next year.
As for HP, the answer may already be here. “HP is working on workflow and print capabilities,” he says. “We just announced earlier this year ago a High Density Nozzle Architecture Inkjet which can print much higher quality using inkjet, almost as good at offset, and at very high speed. This is going to help book publishers print almost anything at the highest quality.”
Offset printing is almost 200 years old, while digital printing is still nascent. “Now we can do the same without plates, waste or inventory,” says Martin. “Publishers don’t need to worry any more about the printing process and only need to focus on the content and distribution. It can be managed well [and] cost effectively.”
Now that is the very definition of innovation if I have ever heard one.