by Nicole Tomassi, Marketing & Conference Manager
On Tuesday, March 2, the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) hosted the webinar, “Book Printing in the U.S. Market: An Update. BISG Executive Director Brian O’Leary moderated the session, which shared updates from the Book Manufacturing Institute’s (BMI) Executive Director, Matt Baehr, and Versa Press Executive Sales Director, Matthew Kennell.
Matt Baehr noted several ways that businesses were impacted in 2020 by the pandemic, from extended lead times in getting both raw and finished materials from overseas, the higher costs and delays associated with sourcing these products, to increased run lengths for certain product lines, particularly cookbooks, and content that focused on politics and social justice issues.
As a result, capacity issues were a dominant factor throughout last year and this has persisted into 2021. This has led to increased interest for publishers seeking to shift more of their printing needs onshore, however, that presents other issues due to the consolidation in that space during the last several years. As discussed in our Publishing Now webinar last summer, print on demand is a solution that can help address this challenge, and Matt noted in his presentation that the quality is steadily improving in comparison to offset. He shared that publishers are utilizing print on demand for backlist titles in their catalog, reducing the need to maintain significant physical inventory. To supplement the increased interest in POD, some book manufacturers are expanding into “POD lite” services, offering a blended product with a digital component to augment the physical print run.
Another area of concern are the challenges that manufacturers are experiencing with maintaining full employment to meet higher demand. The workforce in this sector tends to be older, where the concerns of the pandemic have a more pronounced effect. Many of these facilities are located in more rural areas of the country, making it difficult to draw in younger workers who tend to live in more populated regions. Through their affiliation with the National Association of Manufacturers and other industry associations, BMI is looking to generate higher awareness and interest for careers in manufacturing during 2021.
Matthew Kennell, confirmed that Verhttps://bisg.org/events/EventDetails.aspx?id=1465835&group=sa Press has experienced several of the trends referenced by Matt Baehr, including lead times that have grown to about six weeks for a paperback run compared to the more typical lead time of 3 to 4 weeks. At the beginning of 2020, Versa was already in the process of ordering printing equipment for planned expansions. Some of these presses will arrive at the facility and come online during the summer of 2021. According to Matthew, the fourth-generation family-owned and operated business takes a long-term approach with its growth strategy. They diversify by serving publishers who are in various market segments, and Versa Press’ overall outlook for the next few years is positive due to the longstanding relationships they have cultivated with many of their clients.
Though challenges remain in various parts of the supply chain, there’s plenty of reason for optimism in the publishing industry as we move forward through 2021. BISG offers periodic webinars that address various aspects of the industry, along with committees that employees of member companies can participate in. Visit the BISG website to learn more about upcoming programming, view previous content or become a member.
Sign up here for BISG’s next webinar on Tuesday, March 16 – The Paper Market for Books: An Update.