Project-wise, Imago is now approaching pre-pandemic levels, says president and CEO Howard Musk. “There is currently a lull after the book-buying boom of the pandemic years, and we are seeing publishers taking a cautious approach in setting print quantities,” Musk says. “However, in recent months, we have received last-minute requests to increase quantities or for quick reprints, which are, hopefully, signs of stabilization and growth in the industry.”

Certain segments are even doing better than in previous years. “For instance, the demand for travel books, now that border closures and shutdowns are things of the past, has bounced back, and tarot decks continue to do well,” says Musk, whose team has also completed more educational titles and calendar projects.

“We continue to see increased demands for elaborate deluxe editions with intricate foil stamping, die cutting, cloth covers, and clamshell boxes,” Musk says. “Sometimes, art prints—and even a set of white gloves—are added to the package. Several projects also included large lenticulars on the cover or box. It is no longer uncommon for the publisher to produce a simpler trade edition and an oversize deluxe edition with all the bells and whistles at the same time.” Recent projects from the Imago team include Nancy Sinatra: One For Your Dreams for Nailor Wills Publishing and Judge Dredd: The Complete Brian Bolland (Apex Edition) for 2000 AD/Rebellion; the latter, Musk adds, was printed on uncoated wood-free paper using a UV press to obtain the best results.

Interest in LED UV-cured printing is increasing, Musk says. “From the technical perspective, instant curing speeds up the production process without the worries of potential set-off, offers better print results on uncoated stock, and has the ability to print on plastics. It also emits extremely low VOCs. We have produced some projects on such presses, but the issue is the cost. In Asia, UV inks cost much more than standard inks, and this has held back its wider adoption on print-manufacturing floors.”

As for the usage of FSC-certified papers, the demand continues to grow. “Last year, about 60% of our projects used FSC-certified papers,” Musk says. “So this is now the norm, not the exception. And if FSC-certified papers are not being used, then we utilize the sustainability guidelines developed by the Book Chain Project and use papers that they graded 3-star.”

The Imago team has done a lot of work around carbon emissions in the last couple of years. “We are benchmarking our own emissions and implementing reductions in line with the United Nations carbon targets,” says Musk, who is also working with climate-protection-solutions provider ClimatePartner. “This effort also enables us to provide our clients with data for their own book manufacturing with us."

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