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BW Businessworld

The Printing Revolution

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While walking on the Kovalam beach last week, I spotted a tourist reclining under an umbrella, reading a Kindle. He had the best of all worlds—peace, quiet, the sea, a good book to read, excellent infrastructure and connectivity to download an e-version of the book. The publishing eco-system has always consisted of publishers, authors, and printers. But today, it is going through a massive churning internationally. It is within this context that the opportunities and challenges in printing and publishing were the central points of discussion at the first National Book Printer's Conference held during 17-19 November 2011 in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. It was organised by book maker and binder Welbound Worldwide and printing industry publication PrintWeek. Some of the statistics that emerged were that the size of the Indian publishing and printing industry is estimated to be of $1.9 billion or about 9,500 crore and $ 25 billion (about Rs 1,25,000 crore), respectively.

According to a recent survey by US-based consultancy firm Pira International, the size of Indian book printing is about Rs 7,000 crore. This is predicted to reach Rs 10,000 crore by 2016. Furthermore, India is also fast becoming a hub for the outsourcing of publishing and printing services. In the case of business process outsourcing services in publishing, analysts believe globally the value of the industry will be $1.2 billion in 2012. Currently, India has a share of 60 per cent of global publishing outsourcing. The main areas of work are colour management, image editing, traditional typesetting services and page layouts. A fact corroborated by legendary publisher, Andre Schriffin when he was visiting India earlier this month. According to him, the global publishing industry has been working with Indian printers for a long time now (read an interview with Schiffrin here).

New Vistas
The publisher's panel that I chaired at the conference included Thomas Abraham, managing director of Hachette India; Subhasis Ganguli, vice-president of production at Pearson Group and Dr Euler, Managing Director of Wohlenberg Bookbinding Systems, Germany and Leonard Fernandes, Cinnamon Teal. It was the first constructive dialogue between different stakeholders of the publishing eco-system. An important point raised was the necessity of a smoother and better co-ordinated workflow between the different publishing departments and with the printers to make book production cost-effective with efficient turnaround time. Abraham made fascinating comparisons between the printing industry of China and India. The delegates present at the conference were keen to figure out how to substantially increase book printing exports from India by 2017 and given that the biggest competitor is China today, Abraham had sought views from his colleagues heading production departments in Hachette across various continents on the China versus India topic.

"The feedback wasn't surprising," said Abraham. He presented the views: India is more preoccupied with the domestic market, whereas China has focused attention on export market ever since they established their special economic zones as they were not licensed for domestic production. The four-colour printing in India is 15 per cent more expensive than in China. This may be because paper is 30 per cent more expensive. We have been concentrating on mono-colour printing while China has focused on four-colour printing where the quality requirements are high. China holds running stocks of paper for series or fast moving titles. This saves around a week's time. Abraham added: "Straight monochrome is around 70 per cent. Monochrome is a huge opportunity if you can manage well."

The potential for book printing is tremendous as is vouched for by Indranil Mukherjee, general manager for exports at Thomson Press, one of the country's biggest printing presses. But he, too, agrees that the disconnection between those who conceptualise, edit, design and print the book. In fact, he says, more often than not, an overseas client will inevitably have the proofs for new titles checked by the editorial team and depending upon the criticality of the title and/or the eminence of the author maybe several editors. It is not necessary that a production person will be sent. This attention to detail and getting a seamless workflow is critical in value-adding to the publishing eco-system at a global and domestic level. Some of the other details that emerged and need to be addressed in the future are paying attention to providing a world-class printing service; providing environmentally accredited paper/materials; being able to provide fewer copies, more often (but not always); and being able to process print-on-demand requests.

The 700 Per Cent Growth
These little details will help in the long run especially in the face of the growing debate between digital versus print publishing. Earlier this week the Barnes & Noble chief executive, William Lynch, said his company expects the size of the print book market in the US to decrease by a third by 2015, while the e-book market grows by 700 per cent. Lynch expects his company will sell $1.8 billion, about Rs 9,300 crore of digital content in fiscal year 2012—now the fastest-growing area of the company's digital business.

In spite of the print market reaching supposedly saturation levels in the more developed economies there has been a tremendous boost in the sales of books in the non-traditional or self-publishing sector as is being mapped in US. So the potential growth of traditional paper printing is still worth watching as newer markets emerge, especially globally. Having said that, in India both digital and print, have healthy growth rates, so we do not necessarily have these fears to address at the moment. But the publishing community globally does need to be prepared for the future, when both forms of publishing will co-exist, and readers will and want to migrate effortlessly from one format to the next, irrespective of language.

Jaya Bhattacharji Rose is an international publishing consultant and critic
She can be contacted on [email protected] Follow Jaya on Twitter @JBhattacharji