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Printing in Asia, Year 2000
Sally Taylor -- 6/26/00
Prices may be higher, but the quality and range of services has never been better
Last year, we predicted that it was never going to get any better for publishers printing in Asia. A year later, we have to say we were right. Increases in material costs are putting pressure on everyone, and while the quality and range of services in Asia are better than ever, prices are being forced up and margins are being squeezed.
That still leaves Asia a great place to do printing. PW hardly met a supplier this year without new equipment and other improvements. Hong Kong particularly stands out with the widest range of services, including all kinds of juvenile and novelty book-plus products, at the lowest prices.
This report, a kind of "Who's Who" of Asian printing services, is offered each year because manufacturing in Asia still requires skills you cannot learn at home. It is not as simple as coming to Hong Kong, for example, looking in the phone book and finding someone to do the work. It is not even as simple as choosing several of the companies in our listings and going for the lowest price.
As the needs of publishers have expanded beyond conventional books alone, these listings have also expanded. Readers should note carefully our descriptions of the various suppliers.
Though computer and communication systems are identical to the latest you will find in the U.S., communicating is not always so easy. English has been the lingua franca of Asia since World War II, but the complexities of high-quality printing are daunting to explain in any language. If you are unfamiliar with international currencies and laws, and U.S. customs requirements, you will have further difficulties printing in Asia.
If this is your first time working abroad, use one of the many brokers or reps listed later in this report.
The wide range of book-related products, which we call book-plus, requires all sorts of special skills unavailable in the U.S., the primary one being efficient hand-labor. But the creation of unusual packaging materials and the sourcing of a wide range of components are also important parts of many book-plus projects, and these leave U.S. suppliers in the dust.
As PW has reported (March 1, 1999) toy fairs have become as important as book fairs for selling book-plus products, especially beyond the bookstore. This new market brings toy manufacturers and book people together as never before. It also brings them all to Asia.
In recent years, publicity about poor working conditions, especially in China, where the vast majority of this work is done, has fueled concern among publishers that their products were being made by slave or prison labor. Today, the major international players--Disney, Hallmark and Mattel--set the highest international labor lifestyle standards, and police their suppliers to make sure those standards are met. To the best of our knowledge, none of the establishments in the listings that follow use shops with substandard working conditions.
This guide covers the full range of Asian services, from high tech to hand assembly. Our listings are free, but we try to screen each one for quality, experience and reliability, visiting many of the plants personally and talking to scores of printers and representatives each year.
While the face of printing services in Asia evolves along with the technology and the demands of American book publishers, the need for reliable service suppliers d s not. We hope this supplement will provide a concise overview of the current printing scene, and offer useful advice about where to find the best services.
Asian Printing Reps in the U.S.
Direct contacts for Far East manufacturers
Also, check out our feature article, Hong Kong: Still King of the Heap
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