PW asked the leading printers and manufacturers of paper and components to share a snapshot of their business right now, the technological and business changes they are making, and what they anticipate for the future.
How's business? "All things considered, pretty well," answers Ed Lane, president, Book Solutions Group for R.R. Donnelley.
Following the challenges of 2002, Lane says, the company has enjoyed strong demand in education, both elhi and college, which has propelled it into a good year to date. Its double-digit unit increase in the educational business has been partly due to winning market share, Lane asserts. Among other contributing factors is the ability to use Donnelley's other company assets—such as plants that do high-quality consumer magazines—to respond to publishers' need for speed.
As for the trade business, Lane observes that "the traditional one-color consumer market was pretty weak, especially in March and April—until Mr. Potter came along." Donnelly was one of the major printers of the Harry Potter books this year; it also printed the first Oprah classics book club selection, East of Eden. Lane sees "some slight decline in reprint length of run, but not shocking." "In the religious book sector, sales were down, especially in the area of high-end Bibles. "If you took the 10 top-selling Bibles last year," says Lane, "most were high quality, with a price point of over $30. This year, the top Bible products are at a lower price point, maybe produced in Asia, and we don't have much of that business." Still, Lane's overall assessment is positive: "We are well positioned regarding our customer relationships with industry leaders in every segment. Having these relationships is a real plus to explore industry solutions."
Historically, many printers have played a role in drop-shipping, especially with big releases scheduled for one-day laydowns. Recently, Donnelley has been working with the logistics side of the business, aiming to bundle drop-shipping as part of its services. "As publishing staff declines, there's an opportunity to do it more regularly," says Kevin Spall, director of solutions development. The drop-ship business is growing at a healthy clip, with 50% growth budgeted for next year.
Another relatively recent program is Print Ahead, in which Donnelley works with inventory and production departments at a publisher, looking historically at a title's printing history. By targeting backlist titles with predictable order patterns, Donnelley is able to do group printings of those titles in offpeak periods, to the advantage of both printer and publisher. Sometimes Donnelley will even warehouse the books, says Spall.
He explains, "These initiatives are all trying to bolster customers' supply chain efforts. It came out of a strategic planning process. We noticed we were focusing only on the final stage—printing and binding." Donnelley wants to be a part of the overall process, whether it is playing a part "upstream or downstream." Adds Ron Weir, senior v-p, Book Solutions Group, " We are working to lower the publishers' delivered cost and shorten cycle time."
In the prepress area, the company's Title Assessment Process (TAP) continues to be a hit, enabling the company to test PDFs before sending them through. According to Spall, 90% of the files come in electronically. The company has compiled a database of TAP data, which it shares on a quarterly basis with its customers. For example, if the data shows that when jobs fail, 75% of the time it's due to bad image resolution, the other 25% to bad fonts, then the publisher can target the problem and work it through. "Overall, in the past year, files have gotten much better," says Spall.
Inventory Management Service (IMS), a program to provide shorter-run printing solutions for slow-selling paperback backlist titles, finished up a six-month pilot program in January, according to Spall. "Now we consider it a success, but there was a lot of work to go through. " Currently, IMS has 30 active customers, both big and small publishers; the average run length is 700, and business is growing at 40% month over month in unit volume, according to Spall. Ultimately, the plan is to roll out IMS to two modules in its Harrisonburg, Va., plant, plus one more at a different plant. On the active wish list: Donnelley wants to add a casebound solution, possible toward the end of next year.
BANTA BOOK GROUP
The Banta Book Group generates about 30%, or $310 million, of Banta's $1.32 billion revenues for the fiscal year ending December 2002. Education constitutes about 35% of the Banta Book Group's business, followed by trade (30%), catalogue business (25%), then the tech market (15%). Sales were up about 3.8% in 2002, says Bob Kreider, who became president of the group about a year ago, and "we felt it was a big accomplishment considering the challenges of last year." This year, he says, has been even more challenging: "We've been going after business and we need it."
Jitters in the education market have contributed to the challenge, says Kreider. The state of the general economy is one factor, and the climate for educational purchases another. "With budget uncertainty about state fundings, our publishers don't want to build inventory. Seeing more school districts push off their purchases scared them, and I can't blame them," says Kreider. "We had been hoping that it was a delay in ordering, that in their new fiscal year [July] more schools would start ordering. I can't say we've been deluged with orders, but we did see a little uptick."
While Banta has not been spending much on new presses, related services—fulfillment, project management—offered to publishers continue to be a point of pride. "It gives us a little protection," says Kreider, " so we've invested more in these areas." Banta recently acquired a company in Lancaster, Pa., and got a new assembly/ fulfillment and digital printing warehouse in the Northeast in the process. It built and opened a second book distribution facility near Appleton, Wisc., last May, and is currently building another warehouse nearby for assembly and fulfillment.
Banta is also trying to expand its offerings in ancillary printing; it has a sophisticated Web ordering system for "literature management" customers. When it does welcome letters to new customers for another company, for example, Banta prints the generic brochure, holds it, then prints personalized letters to marry up with the brochure. "We get the file at 5 a.m., print the letter, marry it up with the brochure and have it out the door by 3 p.m. People are willing to pay for this kind of service," says Kreider.
Quebecor World's book services division is one of the giants in the industry, with North American sales of $513 million, down from $535 million the year before.
The book services group was combined with the directory services division back in April, a move that "gave us some opportunity to flatten hierarchy and reduce costs," according to John Bertuccini, president, Book & Directory Publishing Services.
Trade is a big part of the company's book sales, and this year, Quebecor World had an enviable run of blockbusters, including Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Hillary Clinton's Living History, Walter Isaacson's Benjamin Franklin and The South Beach Diet. According to Bertuccini, the trade market "is performing best relative to demand." Still, in the world of trade backlist, according to Jerry Allee, executive v-p, book services and president of international sales, "the run lengths are down considerably. I would characterize it as a significant reduction."
While education has had what Bertuccini characterizes as a "soft year," Quebecor World is currently making a $13-million investment in its Dubuque, Iowa, plant, acquired back in 1997, which will become a state-of-the art facility dedicated to the production of hardcover and paperback textbooks. Quebecor World expects the expansion to be operational by the middle of the second quarter of 2004. "It's a significant commitment to our customers," says Bertuccini.
One recent development for the company has been its Digital Book Module, designed to help publishers produce small printings for softcover books economically. According to Allee, the program has "found its niche and is growing, though it's not yet busy seven days a week. There are 14 publishers who are the [main customers], and six who are the enablers. We want more. It's an education process." There have been a few surprises along the way, Allee says. "We thought the average run would be 300—400, but it's 500—600. We've also found that it's getting lots of use for ARCs—bound galleys or manuscripts." Now Quebecor World has a dedicated unit to sell and develop this service.
Asked about overall trends, Allee notes the continuing importance of longer-term contracts. "Due to our strengths, we are fortunate to be able to leverage major deals. Longer-term contracts are now much more important to everyone—publisher and printer. We now have some contracts going out to 2008—2009." Quebecor World's plants in the U.K., Europe and Latin America are a factor in these contracts, says Allee, since they match up well with the publishers' own overseas locations.
"Overall," Bertuccini says, "we're committed to being market-driven and being very cost-efficient to service the customer well. We're making internal changes so we can respond." Quebecor World is beta-testing a software system, Delano, which is like Tambora, designed to make transactions more efficient, but linked to Quebecor World's own system.
Arvato, a division of Bertelsmann Arvato AG, consists of Offset Paperback Manufacturers in Dallas, Pa., a printer of mass market paperbacks, and Berryville Graphics, which now prints hardcovers, softcovers and children's titles.
Last year, Offset generated revenue of some $85 million and printed more than 340 million books. Berryville, also with revenue of $85 million, printed less than 100 million. "Last year  was a huge year for Offset, its biggest ever," says Michael J. Gallagher, president and CEO for both Offset and Berryville. "We knew it was a spike. We planned for it to be less. But this year we are running in low single digits behind two years ago." Similarly, Berryville is also running close to last year, but below plan.
Arvato continues to invest in new technology, specifically two new MAN Roland zero makeready presses at Berryville, one for the 5"x8", the other for 6"x9". "We see the 5"x8" softcover market—mostly fiction—growing. The volume is up, and the print runs are up." This matches up with the publishers need for speed. At Offset, the company is now offering publishers a spectrum beyond the usual runs—from a long short run, say 1,500 trade, to digital long run (500 or so). It is also doing a lot of conversion to digital.
To add business for the future? "We are looking at the commercial side of printing. We have never dedicated any sales strength to that, but that's going to change," says Gallagher.
With $202 million in revenues last year, Courier Corp. is one of the larger book manufacturers. Business is spread fairly evenly among education (higher ed and, to a lesser extent, elhi), religious and specialty trade. Peter Tobin, executive vice-president is upbeat: "Business is pretty good. We're seeing convergence in a variety of markets. Higher ed is having a strong year, with sales up and enrollment up; there have been a lot of new titles and series introduced this year." In the world of elhi, Tobin is predicting a flat year. "This year  isn't a huge year for state adoptions anyway, but state monies are very tight, so a lot of decisions that usually take place in the spring were held up until July. Now some of that money has been released."
Religion publishing is a little off this year, with publishers adopting "the same caution that trade publishers did a few years ago," and the Bible sector is soft, says Tobin, offset by growth in niche markets like Costco and Wal-Mart. Courier is also experiencing a decent year in "specialty trade" (which includes niche business development, investment books and travel). A long-term niche market that continues to grow for Courier is the manufacturing of books to accompany video games or computer games.
Courier is investing for the immediate future to meet demand, adding an ultra-high-quality, high-capacity press. This four-color MAN Roland Lithoman IV press will be used in Kendallville, Ind., for four-color text and computer game books. "This press cost more than $10 million, a major investment, but it will give us a lot more muscle starting next spring," says Tobin. In the world of prepress, Courier continues to invest in further refinements. "Online preflighting and online proofing help take a lot of work out of the process," he says.
Courier, which owns Dover Publications, is also doing more distribution for smaller publishers, a business that's growing nicely.
Founded in 1924, Lehigh Press is a graphic arts printer, with four manufacturing facilities, 500 employees and revenue of $135 million. Last month, Von Hoffman Corp. announced a preliminary agreement to buy Lehigh for $110 million in cash (News, Sept. 15); it has said it intends to run Lehigh autonomously.
The publishing components division, headed by John R. DePaul, generates 65% of the company's revenue; in the book sector, 70% comes from education—the division specializes in school book covers—and 30% from trade.
"All things considered, this is a good year, about even with last year," says DePaul. "In a difficult economy, with school budgets being cut, that's not bad at all." Like many of his counterparts, DePaul has noticed delays in purchasing by schools. As a result, "anything that is printed is in a very short time frame, and there is a big focus on profit margins."
"The most dynamic market driver in the school sector today is the development by publishers of state-specific curriculum," says DePaul. "For instance, five years or so, there were just a few states, like California, Texas and Florida, with specific state adoptions. Now there are 16 or 17." In response, Lehigh produces highly differentiated covers for the educational marketplace, and even more for state-specific curriculum, since covers for the same title must differ slightly for, say, North Carolina and South Carolina. As a result, for a single textbook cover, there can be many different versions, with very short runs. With the shorter runs, the inventory challenges for the publisher increase—"It's hard to sell an Indiana book in Illinois," says De Paul. Textbook covers don't just use four or five colors these days, he points out, but six colors plus embossing and stamping and different spot coating.
"Technology integration among publishers and printers and production prepress houses is key, more so than ever, " says DePaul, especially as it relates to state-specific textbooks. As he describes the book files for state-specific curriculum, they sound incredibly complex. A single file can contain pages that are common for all books, while other pages will have material that is intended for one particular state. It makes sense that publishers now hold multivendor forums to work out the consistencies from the get-go.
Lehigh has invested $50 million in the past 40 months in new equipment, with $20 million in expenditures to boost production. There is a new Heidelberg high-speed six- color press, and its third Bobst Foilmaster, with a fourth on the way. "You need capital investment to support changing needs," says DePaul.
With a main plant in Michigan and another in North Carolina, Edwards Brothers' business is focused on elhi, mid-level trade, and some reference and medical, plus a lot of university press business. Its Digital Book Center, which has attracted publisher interest, prints ultra-short runs (five to 300 copies).
President and CEO John Edwards thinks he can foresee where his publisher customers are going, and he's ready to help. The company's web presses print average runs of 5,000—6,000, going up to 25,000; its sheetfed presses have an average run of 2,000 copies; and its digital presses average 75—80 copies. "We're well positioned to take the same file from a 10,000 first printing to a 300-copy reprint, to a third printing of 5,000, to a fourth printing of 50 copies. That's where the publishers are going, even if they don't know it yet." Edwards is so convinced about this future and its applicability to his company that he has registered the phrase "life of title."
Edwards says business overall is about the same as last year. "It's getting tough out there. Our price is down a little, but the units are up." Edwards finds that the library and reference markets are doing poorly—forced to choose between cutting people or book budgets, libraries are choosing to keep the people, not buying single monographs, he says, although there is still some interest in multivolume reference books. The company's trade business has been pretty flat, with lower print runs, although Edwards Brothers did print 600,000— 700,000 copies of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The elhi and college market remains steady, and books for nursing school students are very strong. The only drawback to growth in this market is used books, he says, but custom publishing is an answer, and Edwards Brothers is in that business, too.
To be cost-effective, Edwards Brothers is trying to buy the best technology. This year, it added three sheet-fed MAN Roland presses in North Carolina, two in Ann Arbor, and a Timson Press, which is arriving soon. (Timson makes only 10 presses a year," points out Edwards, "so you've got to get in line."). "We're building flexibility so we can flex up when we need to," he says. "You don't want to tell the customer no. Our goal: We want to be more important to fewer people." The company has also upgraded its whole computer-to-plate technology in the last six months.
Currently the Digital Book Center is running three models for ultra-short-run publishing: print to order; print to a minimum; and print to order and ship directly to the consumer. At the Roman & Littlefield warehouse in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., the model is print to order. Edwards Brothers has set up a mini-shop that sits in a small, 1,500-square-foot space. Edwards employees run the shop, and the publisher is billed monthly. There are 2,000 titles in the system, and the average run is 12 copies. At the University of Chicago warehouses, the model is print to a minimum, currently at 15, with an average run of 20.
This past spring, Edwards set up a new business model with MIT Press, interfacing with its Web site to handle deep backlist titles direct to consumer. MIT and Edwards Brothers have targeted 1,700 titles to be available under this arrangement; currently it's 600 and going up every month.
Malloy Lithograph, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., is a major niche printer in elhi and college books, university press and trade books, with revenue of about $40 million. It is also widely recognized as a pioneer in electronic prepress and shorter-run printing.
This year, Malloy's business is up about 5% over last year, reports Bill Upton, its president and CEO. "We saw a falloff from '01 to '02 now rebounding a little bit. All the sectors—adult trade, elhi, religion—are up a little, though none hugely." Print runs? "We see them going up, but that may be peculiar to us."
Upton's customers continue to emphasize cost-cutting, though some of those initiatives can lead to other problems. "With digital prepress, there is a lot more graphic intensity these days, so if you go to a very much cheaper paper, the fiber will pull off more easily, and it's harder to get a clean image. This is ironic, since the price of 50-pound white paper is as low as it's been in the last 20 years," Upton notes.
In addition to cutting costs, the desire to cut time out of the printing cycle is also keen, and here Malloy is doing something that Upton says was "unthinkable five years ago." Malloy and many of its customers are working toward a workflow where proofs are not needed, and Upton reports that 15%—20% of the business is now going through without proofs. This is true for new titles and reprints alike, with regular customers whose templates are very consistent. "They post the files to our FTP site, and we download the file and print. It requires a fair amount of familiarity with your customers and how they set up their files," says Upton. Malloy has other customers softproofing and working to get to the no-proof stage. There's a clear advantage, Upton adds: "It can knock three days out of a 15-day work schedule. It also indicates the electronic work flow is maturing, nowhere near as buggy as it was five years ago."
Upton predicts that the price breakthrough for print-on-demand is still in the future. "Your choice is still either buy expensive automated equipment [Oce, DocuTech, IBM], so the costs are high but the maintenance low or buy inexpensive equipment [HP Imagesetter] and incur high operating costs. It's hard to recap on ultra short runs since it drives up the unit cost." Malloy continues to focus its attention on very short runs (100—300 copies). "We're trying to streamline the front end of our process so that we can offer the kind of unit cost publishers require without making compromises in the quality of the book," Upton says.
MAPLE-VAIL BOOK MANUFACTURING
At Maple-Vail Book Manufacturing, a full-service book manufacturing company with revenue of $90 million, reprint orders are up, but the run lengths are down 5%—10%, and the units are down, too, according to Bill Long, v-p sales and marketing. Business is much like last year, with a growth rate of 3%—5%, but it's "still not what we want," he says.
While Maple-Vail saw some increased assignments this past spring from publishers who knew that Maple-Vail was not printing any Harry Potter, overall, there was very little effect. To Long, that's just another sign of excess capacity out there. Among the company's initiatives: Maple-Vail is continuing to work on investments that focus on cost-savings, not capacity expansion. Offering softproofing to publishers has been very popular, he says, and the company also upgraded its FTP sites to make file transmission easier and even faster. It also made changes to its Web site, expanding the scope and functionality of what it offers customers. "Now customers can get real-time information on all aspects of the job—job status, estimates, invoices and inventories—and it's all password-protected," says Long.
In addition to printing hardcover and softcover books, Maple-Vail also distributes for some university presses and book clubs, which Long says is " an excellent complement" to the business, one the company intends to continue to expand.
"This year is a real challenge for us, as it is for anyone in this part of the business," says Charles W. Nason, president and CEO. Headquartered in Stevens Point, Wisc., Worzalla, 100% employee-owned, is a major printer of four-color children's books. "For our last fiscal year closed in March, we were down 13% in sales for the year, yet we are still making money and holding our own, making a profit. There is significant volume going to Asia, which has made competition really strong."
Nason has spent a lot of time researching American manufacturing losses to Asia, and addressed the Book Manufacturing Institute conference on that topic last spring. "Manufacturing is where the rubber hits the road," says Nason. To keep profitable, Worzalla has had to downsize its workforce, going from 625 employees two years ago to 370 now. Nason also looked hard at costs, buying the building across the street and turning it into a warehouse, enabling him to divest two rental warehouses while boosting efficiency. "We can't afford the luxury of doing things the same way," says Nason.
To keep pace, Worzalla is refocusing its business a little. "We are taking more stock of the single-color children's marketplace," says Nason." There are blocks of work that fit our business pretty well, where we can compete very well. We are moving from being a four-color children's printer to a four-color and single-color children's book printer." Worzalla also does distribution for sample copies for a major school and library publisher.
Still the largest of the print-on-demand players, Lightning Source just printed its 10th-millionth copy in October. In fact, says president and CEO J. Kirby Best proudly, "this past September we printed as many—411,000—as we printed in all of 1999. The average run is two copies per title, and the presses are rolling 24 hours a day, except for a six-hour break on Christmas Day." The company is growing at 40% over last year in dollars and units. Still, Best acknowledges, Lightning Source is now seeing competitors—"and they are good for us. They give suppliers more incentive to develop new and better equipment."
Lightning Source now has more than 200,000 POD titles in its libraries, and it's adding 100 new publishers every month, says Best; the majority of them mom-and-pop publishers. He points to one shining example, My Extra Special Brother by Carly Heyman. The publisher is Fragile X Association of Georgia. " We have printed 2,500 copies in the last six months, one at a time," says Best.
Lightning Source offers three different business models to its customers. In the distribution model, all orders are routed to Lightning, which prints and ships directly to the customer. Lightning then sends the publisher a check. In the drop-ship model, Lightning prints and ships according to the publisher's instructions. The third is a short-run model, in which Lightning prints and ships the books to the publisher's warehouse. The distribution model is clearly popular: Best writes checks for a combined $1.2 million to publishers every single month.
While the Lightning Source model is a hardcover or softcover with one-color interior, the company is now experimenting with full-color books. It could be any size, but Best says they're concentrating on 8 1/2"x11". "This is in the experimental stage right now," he says.
Best envisions a future in which Lightning Source can play a role throughout the publishing process, not just at the end of a title's life. "We would like publishers to give us the file from the outset, so we can fill in as needed," says Best. "We would like to take care of the advance reads and the emergency reprints. It costs almost nothing to keep it in the system."
The popularity of the U.K. office and print facility for clients like Oxford University Press and Cambridge, opened two years ago, has raised some interesting issues. "It's a great thing to have orders coming in from everywhere, and we want to ship everywhere, but the publisher has to be conscious of rights issues," says Best. "Undoubtedly there will be mistakes."
Fast turnarounds for four-color trade books and high-end coffee-table books is the forte of Inland Press in Menomenee Falls, Wisc. Inland generated $18 million in revenue last year. According to president James Lacy, "The last couple of years have been tough for business. I feel we have turned the corner—this year is far better than 2001 and 2002. We are also seeing an upsurge in the elhi market, which is surprising, considering state budgets. "
Talk to Lacy about publishing trends, and you're immediately pitched into a good conversation about supply-chain management. "Sometimes publishers are too focused on the cheap unit price rather than the overall inventory management, but supply chain is where the cost savings are. The biggest risk to the publisher is returns," says Lacy. Further, he asks rhetorically, "How much does it cost to wait two or three months and not be in the marketplace?"
By concentrating on offering fast cycles, the company's special niche, Inland thinks it can offer the best value. "My experience is that midsize publishers understand this well," he says. Inland prides itself on a 15-day (or less) turnaround from receipt of purchase order to books shipped out. This past year, Lacy says, publishers are doing more reprints, maybe not going with 50,000 on the first print, but doing four printings of 15,000 each.
On the technical side, Lacy is very excited about Inland's participation this past year as a beta site for ICS's Remote Director, a display-based contract proofing system, the first SWOP-certified softproofing system. The software has just been released and Inland is now offering this color proofing service to all customers.
This seemingly new entry in the printing business is best known as the publisher for the Chicken Soup franchise. However, all along, HCI has manufactured its own books at a 120,000-square-foot production facility in Deerfield Beach, Fla., where the company is headquartered. In addition, says Terry Burke, v-p sales and marketing, the company has recently been generating $1.2 million a year by printing and binding books for others. "We've never put a major effort into it, but we are actively seeking more customers now," says Burke. The company is targeting small to medium-size publishers from Florida to Tennessee, and offers distribution and order fulfillment as well.
HCI's printing plant includes five sheetfed presses, a 40" Timson web press, and a Muller Martini perfect bindery retrofitted to do a process called Otabind that makes flexible paperbacks that can lay flat. The company has added a Kolbus case binding line to do hardcovers, and it has started to do library bindings as well. While HCI can handle many different sizes, Burke says, its printing operation is most efficient for books with one-color text and four-color covers, with sizes of 5 1/2"x8 1/2" or 6"x9", with runs as low as 5,000 copies and as high as 100,000 to 200,000. HCI offers softproofing and is in the process of installing an FTP site.
Phoenix Color, one of the largest component printers, finished 2002 with revenues of $138 million, about 70% in book components, and about 30% in printing. It experienced big increases at its book printing plants, especially in one- and two-color jobs. Says Louis LaSorsa, chairman, CEO and president of Phoenix, "We are enthusiastic about our business and industry. We are placing a great emphasis on selling, territory management and marketing, a department we are expanding. Phoenix Color is also placing a great emphasis on customer service, providing greater benefits to our customers and increasing the quality of our products."
Phoenix Color's newest innovation, Phoenix Asia, has met with initial success. The program, which teams Phoenix with an Asian printer, offers customers the option of manufacturing a book overseas or domestically, on a printing-by-printing basis. So far, 52 titles have gone through the Phoenix Asia program.
Phoenix Color is also investing in new technology to meet the customer demand for speed. "Meeting schedules is the name of the game," says Phoenix Color marketing manager Kelly Hartman. Its Book Technology Park in Hagerstown, Md., will be getting in a new Timson web press shortly, which will bring the total to five. In the component sector, a new 8-color Heidelberg UV press is being installed, and a new 40" Bobst for stamping and embossing is on order.
"Inventory control is very important for our customers, as is quick turnaround, so these zero make-ready presses really help," says Hartman. She also points with pride to the company's prepress expertise, saying Phoenix Color "can really tear apart a PDF and make changes on the spot, rather than send it back to the customer." Its normal software can do that as long as the customer's PDF is created properly (the customer can download the company's specs from the Web site), and Phoenix Color is encouraging customers to use a software program called Swing, from a French company, Dalim, available from Zenplex. "It automatically sets the customer's files to our perfect printing specs," explains Hartman, "and it saves us all time."
As president and CEO for both Coral Graphic Services, and its smaller parent, Dynamic Graphic Finishing, Dave Liess is pretty happy this year. Both businesses are up in a down year, especially Coral Graphics, with projected revenue of $89 million, compared to $79 million last year. Dynamic Graphic is expected to come in around $28 million, up 8%. "To do $89 million in a down market is great," says Liess. "The publishers are calling the shots and give you no time to get things done—but those who do get the job."
Asked about trends, Liess refers immediately to smaller initial printings as well as cycle compression. "We see shorter first printings with more frequent and rushed reprints. The publishers can't predict, and we can't either." Statistics tell the story. "For the calendar year 2003 through August, we had 25% more jobs than the year before. From January through August 2002, we averaged 4,000 sheets per job. This year for the same period, we are averaging 2,250 sheets per job." Liess is also seeing an increase in decorative covers and special effects, even in a cost-reduction atmosphere. Mass market trade, even the sports trading cards business, is coming back. Yu-Gi-Oh entertainment cards continue to be popular.
Coral Graphic has recently obtained exclusive rights to what Liess terms "a proprietary technology that will be a major revolution in the way we do proofs."
Coral Graphic opened a 40,000-square-foot plant in Erlanger, Ky., last year, giving it a footprint closer to its Midwestern customers. Although not yet 24/7, Liess is pleased with progress at the plant and its ability to handle any overflow from Coral Graphic's other main offices in Hicksville, N.Y., and Winchester, Va. It also plans to open a 25,000-square-foot plant in North Carolina next spring to help gain entry to and service the DVD and CD packaging business. "We want to keep ourselves diversified," he says.
Brady Palmer Printing Co., which entered the book business about six years ago, now derives most of its business from printing covers, jackets and inserts for book publishers. According to president John Morris, business is flat this year compared to last, with no particular segment showing an uptick. Morris observes that publishers are ordering fewer quantities on the initial order these days, but they still need to make a splash in the marketplace, so extra touches like spot coating are of special interest. Recent covers range from mass-market paperback fiction to Frommer's Belgium, Holland & Luxembourg and one of the Wiley Self-Teaching guides, Astronomy.
JAGUAR ADVANCED GRAPHICS
Jaguar Advanced Graphics now boasts annual revenue of $26 million and a staff of 135. Book publishing drives 95% of the business, says cofounder Ronald LaVerde.
This year, Jaguar's sales are up, the result of a lot of new accounts acquired after the company resolved last year to sell its way out of a lumbering economy. In addition to adding more salespeople, Jaguar is adding some firepower. At its 70,000-square-foot facility in Bethpage, Long Island, the company has added two new laminators, another foil stamper and embosser, a new prepress system and a digital contract proofer. The latter gives a good-quality, cost-effective proof, at about half the cost of a Kodak proof.
What's new in covers? "Enhancement colors, like a bump color—a double hit of cyan to give more intensity," says LaVerde. "Everyone's working on six-color presses, but usually use just four colors; now they're using more of the fifth and sixth colors." The late winter release of the Jaguar Creative Guide will encourage more special effects, as it showcases all the printing and finishing effects available, from Hexachrome printing to a selection of film laminations and UV laminations—spot and overall, glow-in-the-dark, glitter UV, embossing and foil stamping.
These days, Jaguar does little film work—it's all PDFs, "almost to a point of rip and run," says LaVerde.
After a series of strategic acquisitions, including Georgia Pacific pulp and paper in 2001, Domtar is now the third largest producer of uncoated freesheet paper in North America and a leading manufacturer of business papers, commercial printing and publication papers, and technical and specialty papers. Its publication papers division, which provides paper for catalogues, magazines, trade books and elhi textbooks, accounts for about 12% or $300 million of the company's revenue.
According to Dominic (Doc) Maiorino, v-p sales, for Domtar publication papers, "This past year has been a difficult one. We haven't been able to take advantage of the so-called recovery because we haven't seen it. We've done okay, but not to the levels we enjoyed before the dot-com bubble burst or before the economic downturn." Still, by the end of the year, he predicts the division will show a modest gain.
Domtar was one of a number of companies that benefited from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. "We were very fortunate to be one of the core suppliers for the initial print and for some of the reprints." Before that, Domtar had done only a few of the reprints for the fourth Harry Potter. In fact, until the Georgia Pacific acquisition in 2001, Domtar didn't have the assets to enable it to go after big trade book business. Maiorino points out that the company has been positioning itself very strategically and that it is now triple the size it was five years ago, before its acquisition of E.B. Eddy.
Paper prices have been flat to declining over the last couple of years, with more paper available right now than demand. "The goal is to bring the right products to market and get the right value," says Maiorino. The overall company, not necessarily publication papers, has curtailed paper production several times over the past year to adjust production to customer demand.