Travel restrictions and shelter-in-place advisories at the start of the pandemic dried up orders from clients in the travel books and maps segment very quickly. “But now that travel has become possible again,” says Howard Musk, president and CEO of print management company Imago, “we are seeing these publishers placing orders for new and backlist titles. There is clearly a lot of pent-up market demand to meet.”

This demand is in addition to the demand Musk is currently experiencing for all other types of books, especially educational titles and cookbooks as well as stationery items such as journals and jigsaw puzzles. “We have always produced puzzles but now the orders have increased significantly,” says Musk. “We see publishers repurposing illustrations to create new puzzles and new companies entering this segment with more modern designs aimed at the younger adult audience.”

Meanwhile, the growing interest in manufacturing outside of China—largely driven by tariffs and content censorship—has propelled Musk to expand his operations in Korea. “We have brought in Chris Kim, who has extensive experience in the Korean book printing industry, to manage our production there,” Musk says. “He is overseeing production quality and scheduling as well as developing our supplier network so that we can expand both the capacity and the product range in Korea that we can offer to clients.”

But Musk says, “China remains a great resource for handwork projects and book-plus products where a multitude of accessories and components are required. The variety of materials and finishing, in addition to the pricing and quality, will keep China a key part of the publishing supply chain.” For stationery items such as journals, which carry a 25% tariffs when manufactured in China, Imago offers production in Korea, Malaysia, or Thailand as an economical alternative.

This year, Imago is introducing an option for carbon-neutral printing with leading climate-protection-solutions provider
ClimatePartner. “By using a print industry-specific tool, we can calculate the emissions of individual print projects based on raw materials, production processes, and logistics,” Musk says. “Publishers can then offset these emissions by supporting a range of certified and audited carbon-offset projects via ClimatePartner.”

Work on ensuring that the papers used in all Imago projects come from sustainable sources is ongoing. “We also assess suppliers’ environmental awareness in order to help reduce our industry’s contribution to the climate change,” says Musk, whose team started working on replacing plastic components in their projects and testing the use of biodegradable shrink-wrap and Hybrid U-V printing in 2019. “This is an ongoing initiative and we are looking at all the ways possible to go green.”