“Hectic” describes the past two years at Imago. “Our publishing clients saw strong demand for print books, particularly last year, and that was great for us,” says Howard Musk, president and CEO of the print management company, who adds that the first half of 2022 was a little slower than the record 2021.
“There is increasing interest in printing one-color hardcovers overseas, mostly because of the potentially longer lead times in the U.S., but such orders tend to be in higher volumes,” says Musk, pointing out that books with complex finishing are still heading offshore. “Graphic novels and comic books, which are doing well, often require creative use of foils and varnishes, and there is a continuing trend toward issuing collected editions as well as deluxe versions in slipcases or clamshell boxes with additional print inserts. Journals and planners remain popular, which we often produce in Southeast Asia or Korea, as there is a 25% tariff if these are manufactured in China.”
Travel books regained popularity as restrictions began to ease, and the demand, says Musk, “is picking up with more frequent reprints. Calendars, both wall and the boxed daily type, are popular, and these are much more likely to have board easel stands than plastic ones, which reflects the rising focus on reducing plastic consumption.”
Many clients are talking about using less plastic and more biodegradable alternatives, Musk says. “But one needs to fully understand the makeup of biodegradable plastic and how it degrades. For instance, oxo-biodegradable plastics are still plastics with special bio-additives that degrade only under the right conditions. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission would not allow them to be advertised as biodegradable, and some European countries have restricted their use.”
The Imago team is currently testing biodegradable alternatives that use polylactic acid (PLA) derived from renewable and organic sources such as cornstarch or sugarcane. “These may be suitable for wrapping pallets and taping cartons,” says Musk. “It is harder to find a suitable replacement for book shrink-wrap, as PLA plastic does not shrink neatly.” Meanwhile, his team is starting to use more paper-based tapes on cartons.
Imago continues to offer carbon offsetting for individual projects through its association with ClimatePartner. “This has been expanded to include providing carbon emissions data to clients for the projects they print with us so that they can track their own total emissions,” says Musk, whose company was recently rated by EcoVadis among the top 5% for corporate responsibility and sustainable procurement. “It is very important to our clients that the factories we work with are audited for social and environmental responsibility, and we have a robust system for managing this.”