13 December 2013
Ricoh sees 'silver lining' in book printing
TORONTO—Ricoh has released study results on the state of the book industry, saying that while production of printed books is declining, it remains a large segment of the print market.

"The sentiment issue, related to the physical attributes of books, resonates strongly with consumers, lending credence to the projection that printed books will not disappear during our lifetimes. Printed books often express who we are, what we believe and what we like," reads the study.

Printed books are down but won't disappear
anytime soon, according to a new study

Called The Evolution of the Book Industry, the white paper examines research by IT Strategies in partnership with the University of Colorado, commissioned by Ricoh. Four publishers, five book manufacturers and 10 consumers were interviewed by phone, and 800 consumers responded to an email survey.

According to the study, the book industry has weathered a number of disruptions since the 1980s including the rise of mass retailers, the mainstreaming of the internet, the shift to self-publishing and the introduction of e-books. A fifth disruption, declining print run lengths and high setup costs, is the industry's latest monkey wrench.

Control of the value chain is increasingly shifting to the hands of authors and retail outlets, which means demand for printed books can prove unpredictable. Digital inkjet technology, however, has been able to address this new status quo, and the study concludes that the changing distribution environment will spur the adoption of more automated and flexible book printing and manufacturing systems.

Among the study's findings:
  • Digital printing has made shorter and shorter runs possible, enabling book printers to supply at levels much more in line with actual demand
  • Publishers are using digital printing to place 1 or 2 test books per retailer, softening the impact of storage fees before ordering larger runs via offset or digital
  • For strong titles, publishers are using digital printing to supplement first runs produced on offset  
  • College students still prefer printed textbooks over e-books, citing the many distractions of digital devices
  • Thanks in part to the rise of independent authors and small publishers, more titles are being printed despite the decline in massive best-sellers
  • Even the largest publishers make no more than 20-30% of their revenue from e-books
  • At the end of 2012, more than 25 manufacturers in the U.S. combined were running more than 50 production inkjet machines; I.T. Strategies estimates those units printed more than 10% of all book pages that year
For more from The Evolution of the Book Industry, click here to download a PDF copy.
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