The Book Manufacturers’ Institute’s first “Book Manufacturing Mastered” seminar drew about 150 people to New York City on February 10–11. The aim of the event was to help publishers get a better feel for the production process as well as to provide them with an opportunity to discuss various issues with printers. As BMI executive director Matt Baehr noted in brief remarks on the opening day, the better publishers understand what printers can do for them, the more efficient the manufacturing process can be.

Printers would like publishers to get them involved early in the creative process and form a true partnership with them; printers would also like publishers to realize that the more complex a book is to produce, the more time and money it will take to manufacture, and to recognize that the better they understand the manufacturing process, the more opportunities there will be to reduce costs.

Other issues that had attendees talking were the continued uncertainty over paper supplies and challenges related to labor—both the difficulty of finding qualified workers and the higher costs of hiring talent. There was also a lot of speculation about who will buy Quad’s book manufacturing business, which the company put up for sale last year.

Debating the status of POD

The first panel of BMM was held in conjunction with the Book Industry Study Group and discussed the status of print on demand. The panelists all had a favorable view of POD, with the discussion generally centered on the progress the printing process has made over the years.

Larry Mallach, head of inventory planning at Hachette Book Group, observed that while the quality of books produced by POD has improved immensely, there remains “a quality stigma for some publishers.” He added, “The key is getting publishers comfortable with POD,” noting that publishers should see POD as a viable strategy to publish a book profitably. He acknowledged, though, that not every book is right for POD.

Moderator David Hetherington, chief marketing officer of KNK, pointed to “pockets of resistance” to POD in such areas as children’s books and illustrated titles but added that in the higher education market, students care more about the price of books than how they are manufactured.

Shandra Holman, U.S. manufacturing manager at Oxford University Press, said that though POD is useful in lowering inventory levels while keeping books in stock, she faces some “major hurdles” in convincing editors and publishers to sign on to POD. “We need to get in front of them to show that POD images can meet their expectations,” she added.

Matt Mullin, senior key accounts sales manager at Ingram Content Group, noted that one trend favoring greater use of POD is that many authors, and not just those that self-publish, are comfortable with POD.

While the environmental impact of publishing is not top of mind for many U.S. houses, it is for U.K. publishers. “Sustainability is returning as an issue in the U.K.,” said BISG executive director Brian O’Leary.

In addition to helping to lower returns, the use of POD can cut the amount of “book miles” that a book travels from a printing plant to a store, said Michelle Weir, publishing innovation manager at Hewlett-Packard. She added that HP has developed tools that can help publishers “print locally,” thereby lowering the cost of transportation and reducing their carbon footprint.

Holman noted that determining the “total costs” of producing a book is a hot topic for OUP executives, who are examining the feasibility of producing books locally. The second day of the seminar featured the panels “Planning: Keeping in Mind the Total Cost of the Lifecycle of the Book” and “Paper is Money,” among others. BMI’s Baehr said the group is hoping to do a similar seminar next year, though details have yet to be worked out.