The major book printers reported a mixed first quarter, ended March 31, and noted that the print field in general still faces overcapacity and pricing issues.
The best performance was turned in by Banta Corp., which reported a 6% increase in its printing and digital imaging segment, to $246.5 million. Within the group, Banta CEO Stephanie Streeter said the book division had a "nice start." Sales in the educational printing segment improved over the comparable period last year, driven by higher-than-expected reprint activity, while trade book printing was also up. Streeter said that despite the encouraging start, the company was still forecasting sales in educational printing to be even with last year, due to tight state budgets and fewer textbook adoptions.
QuebecorWorld reported that volume in its North American book printing business was flat in the quarter. According to Quebecor's David Boles, gains in trade and religious printing were offset by weakness in educational printing. To help confront the overcapacity problem, Boles said, Quebecor is consolidating its digital book printing facilities in two plants.
Book sales were weak at R.R. Donnelley, falling $9.8 million in the quarter, which the printer attributed to soft demand in the religious and education categories. The company was not optimistic about a turnaround any time soon. Continued soft demand in the education market in conjunction with continued pricing pressure caused by excess capacity in the industry and increasing international competition will likely hurt future net sales in the book business, the company reported.