Short runs? Check. Print as needed? Affirmative. Near-offset quality? Absolutely. Personalization? Sure. Seriously, what's not to like about POD (print on demand) and, by extension, digital printing? Ask any publisher that has gone POD, and especially self-published authors, and the answer is, go with it.

“On-demand printing is very much in demand in 2009,” notes David Taylor, president of Lightning Source, the biggest POD supplier around. “The business model, quality and cost structure have matured considerably in recent years. With POD, publishers can better match supply to demand, thus eliminating the risks and costs associated with the book market.” All publishers, regardless of size or specialty, he adds, must take a long, hard look at their business fundamentals and cash flow. “A globally distributed print model, where publishers use the same file to print at multiple locations that are closest to the origins of the orders, has given the book industry a platform to publish smarter. POD is no longer an optional novelty; it is an integral and essential part of the future of publishing.”

Best of all, the POD business model is essentially green. “Offset manufacturing requires a relatively large quantity to be printed in anticipation of sales,” adds Taylor. “Oft-times, the books go unsold and have to be destroyed, usually after being shipped and handled numerous times. In contrast, with POD, even one copy can be printed to fulfill a firm order or a short run made to replenish stock. This one-book-at-a-time manufacturing substantially lessens supply chain waste, reduces greenhouse emissions, cuts pulping and therefore landfill and conserves valuable natural resources.”

For now, digital printing accounts for only 2.5% of North America's total book production. However, “dramatic growth is expected as more publishers come to realize the true benefits of POD. Wiley, an early adopter, for instance, has transferred more than 10,000 titles to the POD model, and that number continues to grow,” says Taylor.

Much of the current POD growth is due to vast improvements in digital technology. The gap between digital and offset printing is closing fast. The newer presses are more reliable, with higher quality and greater speed, becoming more like offset presses. Adds Taylor, “The improvement in digital color book manufacturing is obvious. The HP Indigo presses produce superior color books. And with the business model maturing and manufacturing costs falling, we are set to see a substantial increase in digital color book manufacturing.”

Meanwhile, press manufacturers such as Xerox, HP, Océ, Xeikon, Kodak and Canon are developing newer and better models. The latest from Xerox (iGen4), HP (Indigo 7000) and Océ (CS Tandem series), for instance, tout higher productivity, sturdier build for longer runs, a wider color gamut and more eco-friendly processes (consuming less electricity and ink). Paper mills, meanwhile, are producing “greener” stocks with better toner/ink adhesion for high-quality, vibrant colors. Check out Casa Opaque Digital (a recycled stock from Finch Paper) and Luna Digital (an acid-free and elemental chlorine—free stock from Domtar). Xerox and HP have also jumped onto the bandwagon, coming up with papers that are optimized for their presses.

But talk about POD/digital printing often misses out one crucial party: the people who ready the content file for print, such as codeMantra and those featured in PW's Content Services in India report (Mar. 30). Besides scanning out-of-print titles when electronic files are not available, Philadelphia-based code-Mantra also offers a service called Universal PDF. “It gives publishers of any size the ability to maximize revenue streams and reach every major distribution channel with one simple and economical format. It enables publishers to efficiently and cost-effectively go into e-book and digital publishing. We also host digital assets and workflow management systems for publishers and POD providers. In short, we manage, convert and deliver their files as needed,” says Scott Cook, director of technology, referring to another service, collectionPoint 2.0, which hosts all versions and formats of a publisher's digital assets in one place.

With satellite offices in Connecticut, Ohio, Massachusetts and Indiana as well as three production facilities in India, codeMantra, with 1,500 employees, has been around for seven years. “Our in-depth knowledge of digital content and Web services has enabled us to offer next-generation publishing services that allow our clients to capitalize on the value of long-tail publishing by digitizing backlists for new revenue streams. This, in turn, has increased the demand for POD,” says president and founder Andy Ananth, who has partnered with such major publishers as Oxford University Press as well as digital content aggregators like Google.

And how can we not mention On Demand Books' patented Espresso Book Machine, which has been installed in 15 locations including the Library of Alexandria in Egypt and Angus & Robertson Bookstore in Australia. This “Book ATM” makes purchasing out-of-print titles as easy as ordering a cup of espresso. Currently, the machine only produces paperbacks with four-color covers, but more options are being brewed.

Right now, the POD supply chain is filled with a sense of urgency for faster, better and cheaper book manufacturing. For single-copy and short runs, nothing can beat POD/digital printing. But will this segment really grow at 16% per annum, as predicted by industry experts?

In the following pages, PW reviews 13 POD suppliers (subjectively and in alphabetical order), highlighting their expertise and experience. Take this snapshot of the industry as the first stop in your quest to find the right POD partner.

360 Digital Books

One of the game changers in the POD industry, says executive v-p Keith Reisinger, is the ability to print 156 lpi on single-color presses: “It makes POD more acceptable to many people because you have halftones that look as good as and, in some cases, even better than what is achievable on offset presses. Most color presses, meanwhile, are capable of delivering consistently high quality throughout a print run and replicate the same quality in subsequent reprints. Additionally, there are single-pocket perfect binders with an excellent milling unit and glue pots like those found on larger binders used in conventional printing. Some newer versions even have in-line scoring, and if you have such binding lines—like we do—the printed products are indistinguishable, in strength and appearance, from offset ones.”

The printer's lineup of two Nuvera 120, two iGen3 and a CP Bourg 3002 binding system has churned out more than 250,000 copies. This relatively new POD entrant, established in June 2007 in Kalamazoo, Mich., specializes in short runs ranging from 25 to 1,000 copies. “We give clients plenty of options. We don't impose limitations on trim size and paper selection. Our objective is simple: to give clients products that closely resemble what they would get from offset printing. It is comforting to clients, enabling them to go from digital to offset, and back, without worrying about drastic changes to the appearance of their titles,” adds Reisinger, whose team recently completed a full-color casebound title measuring 12.5"×7.5" with printed endsheets. After a local offset printer finished with the endsheets (which at more than 25 inches were too long for digital presses), Reisinger's team had to match the color and look for the interior pages. “We pulled off an almost perfect match. I said 'almost' because nothing is perfect. But the end result looked great and our client was very pleased.”


Self-published works have dropped from about 11% of BookMobile's sales in 2007 to 5% in the first quarter of 2009, but that, says founder and CEO Don Leeper, “is because our business from scholarly, literary and trade presses has grown significantly. Overall, full-color hardcover projects have shown the biggest growth in the last couple of years, although they are still a relatively small part of our business. These are usually short-run special titles with unit costs that would be too high for the retail market if offset printed. I think people find it so cool to be able to print just a few copies of a full-color book.” One interesting project, Leeper recalls, was a split run of the paperback and hardcover editions of a title based on a televised documentary series. “We had to deal with a tight deadline, four-color inserts and 30% PCW [post-consumer waste] text paper. Both editions turned out beautifully and on time.” BookMobile, in Minneapolis, Minn., recently reaffirmed its commitment to using recycled paper by making 60-lb. 30% PCW natural its house stock.

Leeper has just commissioned two new monochrome sheetfed digital presses to beef up a machinery list that includes Digimaster 110s and 150s, IBM Infoprint roll-fed printers, Xerox 800 and Phaser 5120, and a Canon 7400W inkjet printer. “We are implementing true POD services in our partnership with the University of Minnesota Press to put their backlist dating to the 1920s back in print. We are also in discussion with a number of other publishers. Meanwhile, we have launched a content management system, BookMobile Editions, to provide our publishing clients with a one-stop service to manage their metadata, print-ready files and e-book content. The best part is that this service is absolutely free for our clients,” says Leeper, who first launched e-book conversion and distribution services in 2000. “We restarted it last year to complement our digital printing services, with the aim of helping publishers negotiate the path to a purely digital future.

CPI Antony Rowe

POD adoption came very early at Antony Rowe: in 1991, it was the first U.K. printer to use a Xerox DocuTech for short-run book printing. Currently, the company prints more than 1,000 individual titles daily, and last year its production tally from two manufacturing facilities (in Chippenham and Eastbourne) exceeded seven million copies. Its lineup of 10 Xerox, five Océ and three Heidelberg perfectors gives it both digital and offset printing capabilities. “Today, given the considerable improvement in digital printing and binding technologies, it is not easy to spot the difference between digital and litho products,” says CEO Ralph Bell. “The market is no longer just serving academic publishers that aim to reduce their inventory and print to meet firm sales. We're now seeing trade publishers adding POD to their strategic plan, along with significant demand from vanity publishers.”

The biggest challenge, Bell says, lies in taking POD to the trade book market, a segment that usually retails at much lower price points than the academic market. “At Antony Rowe, we are able to offer a publisher POD for any print run—from one to one million copies—something that I think no other printer in Europe is doing. Also, we are not restricted by trim size or substrate. We are able to match the traditionally printed product 99% of the time.” Currently, about 99.9% of its production is book related. But since books come in various formats and specifications, adds Bell, it translates into a wide-ranging segment. “About 15% of our production is for export, and going forward I see this as a growth area.”

Asked if conventional equipment suppliers would come up with some sort of hybrid printing solution in answer to digital printing/POD, Bell says, “It is difficult to see an alternative emerging in the short term, but I'm positive there will be some responses, probably for full-color rather than just black-and-white printing.”

Digital Print Australia

Established in 1973 as a typesetting and graphic design company, DPA started offering POD services about nine years ago. Armed with iGen4 and Océ 6160 presses, it has since produced some 1,700 new titles. “Books and journals represent approximately 30% of our annual turnover,” says principal Stephen Lewis, whose firm has won several Australian print awards. Lewis's favorite title is gold award winner The Hill Stations and Other Glorious Gardens of the Macedon Ranges, a 14"×11" photographic essay. “Since the publisher was located 500 miles away from us here in Adelaide, much negotiation and proofing were required before she was confident that we could accomplish the job,” recalls Lewis, who went on to produce 250 individually numbered copies, which were sold out at one book launch. Another title, the 300-plus-page multicolored John Gould and the Fauna of Southern Australia, entailed laborious scanning in reproducing original illustrations by Australia's famed ornithologist. “We printed two editions with alternate covers simultaneously,” says Lewis. “However, prior to printing the second edition, the author required two immediate copies to show a potential client. We were able to print and bind the copies within an hour, and subsequently produced 200 additional copies for distribution in Tasmania.” This success has seen DPA printing facsimile editions of out-of-print works for the State Library of South Australia.

For Lewis, POD projects often create their own challenges. “This is especially true when dealing with first-time authors,” Lewis says. “Many didn't contact us beforehand and subsequently presented us with poorly compiled manuscripts. A simple phone call or site visit could have saved us many hours of recompilation.” Digital technology, he observes, has brought publishing to the masses. “Now we have self-publishing software and digital print shops that offer semiprofessional publishing services. It seems to me that everybody wants to write a book.”

Edwards Brothers

In 2008, more than 10% of Edwards Brothers' sales came from digital printing. “Increasingly, publishers are focused on the total cost of doing business instead of just looking at the unit cost of a print run. In fact, chasing lower unit cost may lure publishers into a false sense of fiscal soundness by enticing them to print more. I have read that for every $14 spent on printing, publishers put in another $96 for activities such as warehousing, administration and pulping obsolete stocks,” says president and CEO John Edwards, whose company handles more than 100,000 digital projects annually.

Edwards Brothers' dual capability in offset and digital printing has been advantageous. In a recent order of 5,000 copies, “the bulk was required within three weeks, but 500 had to be delivered in four days. We did the short run digitally, but the following week our client required another 500. Using a combination of digital and offset printing, we were able to turn around the project quickly and cost-effectively. It was a reversal of the usual pattern where initial runs were by offset followed by digital reprints.” The company's Life of Titleprogram (using web, sheetfed and digital presses) controls inventory and associated costs by printing more closely to the client's actual demand. “The result is the maximization of a title's revenue and profit from cradle to grave.”

Edwards recently installed an on-site POD unit at Perseus's distribution center in Tennessee. “Not many publishers would acquire their own POD system. We have had many publishers visiting us who were considering running their own print shop, but they soon changed their minds. The fact is digital printing is a capital-intensive operation with fast-changing technology and level-loading challenges,” adds Edwards, whose company, headquartered in Ann Arbor, Mich., has been around for 116 years. As for conventional printing—equipment suppliers' response to the growing popularity of digital printing, Edwards points out that web press manufacturer Timsons has begun working with HP to develop a digital inkjet system for short- and medium-run book production.

IBT Global

Ever-shorter first runs are becoming trendy, says president John Paeglow. “Publishers are also opting for POD earlier in a book's life cycle, and ordering bigger quantities. Now that we can manufacture books that are identical to, or better than, those printed conventionally, many publishers who shied away from POD during its early days are rethinking their position. Most realize that using POD to minimize inventory and reduce related costs makes great business sense.” At the higher end of digital manufacturing, notes Paeglow, the average run is about 750 copies compared to 300 or 400 copies a year ago.

Going forward, POD suppliers will be judged based on their ability to handle increasing volume and provide a seamless client—supplier workflow, says Paeglow. “The definition of POD is shifting as we speak. At IBT, we have technical publishers doing first printings of 50 to 100 copies and continue using POD for subsequent orders. Soon, printing of 2,500 copies and above will be affordable for both black-and-white and full-color products.” For better quality and a faster workflow, publishers should fix common file problems such as low-resolution images and incorrect color space: “If the text is set in RGB, it may be converted and printed as a percentage of black, producing a screened effect,” he warns.

Headquartered in Troy, N.Y., IBT has printed 24.5 million copies using cut-sheet and web presses (including one five-color HP Indigo 7000 and two Océ VarioStream 7650cx). Another 500,000 copies are manufactured by its London plant in the U.K. “Last November, we started offering a scalable cell-based manufacturing platform for both paperback and hardcover books that enables true on-site POD operations,” says Paeglow, whose first installation (consisting of two Océ presses and a CP Bourg 3002 binding line) was at Books International in Dulles, Va., where more than 100,000 titles are warehoused and distributed. “Such warehouses will become the norm for some product lines in the next five years.”

King Printing

The 32-year-old King Printing was the first on the East Coast to install a Xerox DocuTech way back in 1989 and the first in the U.S. to put in a Screen Truepress Jet520 inkjet web press in May 2008. “We have the capability for digital printing from one- to five-color in addition to conventional printing using Heidelberg sheetfed and Variquik web presses. These are supported by a Kodak Magnus CtP system—that followed our Creo 3244, which was installed in 1995—and a complete bindery line for all mechanical binding styles. In short, we have everything that a publisher needs under one roof,” says managing director Adi Chinai, whose team capitalized on the extensive machinery lineup to produce large- format projects, such as a 14"×18" hardcover spiral-bound teacher's edition. “We do not offer digital printing as a different workflow but as part of a complete solution in which a title can be printed digitally first, then offset, and then digitally again.” The Screen Truepress, adds Chinai, “is used predominantly for educational and trade titles. We enjoy using it and have now gained significant experience with this type of inkjet technology.”

Needless to say, King Printing, in Lowell, Mass., believes in combining the best of digital and offset printing. “I believe that printing technology has come a long way and now is the time to hybridize to capitalize on their different strengths,” says Chinai. “Toner technology, I think, is maturing at a faster rate than anticipated, and this will allow a number of inkjet devices to gain a bigger market share. Over the next five to eight years, I believe that print runs will go down further and digital technology will surpass litho techniques.”

Chinai advises those interested in digital printing not to buy based on price. ”Look for companies that are forward-looking and innovative. Anybody can install a digital press, but only a few out there can make a good book.”

Lightning Source

The numbers will make your jaw drop: since its inception 12 years ago, Lightning Source has printed more than 70 million copies for over 8,000 publishers worldwide. Its three manufacturing facilities (LaVergne, Tenn., and Allentown, Pa., in the U.S. and Milton Keynes in the U.K.) boast state-of-the-art presses (Océ 9200s and HP Indigo 5500s, 3250s and 3050s) and finishing equipment from Duplo, Heidelberg and Horauf. Approximately 1.4 million books pass through its manufacturing plants on any given month.

Lightning Source (and its business model) has become synonymous with the best of POD services and innovation. Presently, the company prints books digitally in preset trim sizes and binding types. “For trim sizes that fall outside our standard range and for larger orders, we offer offset services, where various endsheet, cover, laminate types, etc., can be specified. Our offset solutions complement our POD services by offering publishers a full life-cycle opportunity for their titles,” says president David Taylor. In the near future, he adds, additional trim sizes will be introduced to give publishers even greater flexibility with the types of books that they can manufacture by POD. Talking of flexibility, Taylor has launched an Espresso Book Machine pilot program for a select group of publishers to make their titles available at point-of-sale EBM stations. “The goal is to provide our clients with another channel to distribute their titles with minimal effort.”

Lightning Source, says Taylor, “concentrates on what we do best: printing the best quality books and distributing them faster than a book can be picked off a shelf.” Another focus is the environment. To build upon POD's already green process, he and his team are now actively pursuing chain-of-custody certification from SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative), FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and PEFC (Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification). The audit is expected to take several months, but the end result, he declares, “will permit us to complete the custody chain from the tree stump to the mill to the paper, and finally to the finished book.”


Personalized books and calendars are the business of five-year-old Penwizard. “When we first started, it was difficult to find a printer experienced in variable printing with suitable digital presses, technology and postpress equipment such as perfect binding for producing a single copy,” recalls director Richard Adey, whose firm subcontracts all its printing and finishing processes. “Last year, we tested various digital printing technologies for My Magical Book—our joint venture with HarperCollins U.K.—to create personalized Noddy books, and we were amazed by the quality improvement of digital printing. The cost for high-quality full-color production, however, is still high, but it is starting to come down.”

These personalized Noddy books won Penwizard the 2008 British Book Design Award (digital printing category). Topping its bestsellers list that year were The Christmas Adventure and The Princess Adventure, each selling about 10,000 copies. Says Adey, “We have printed about 200,000 personalized books. We have the unique ability to collect, manage and print over 300 variables within a book or a calendar. For the Noddy books, we created a child character who could join Noddy in the stories and visit Toyland. That character can be changed to look like any child, and the child's name is incorporated into the story line. This personalization technology is also used for Roary the Racing Car and Fifi and the Flower Tots.”

Adey is now busy rebuilding the company's Web site into a personalized publishing platform. “One of our biggest challenges is in integrating our Web site with other publishers' or retailers' to capture customer data for personalization. We need to capture complex customer data quickly and accurately to avoid losing the customer during the purchasing process and to make sure the final book has accurate data. Unfortunately, many personalization software applications are designed for direct marketing purposes and are not good at handling complex products such as books.” Although Penwizard's workflow is designed with multilingual capabilities, Adey and his team already have their hands full catering to their U.K. clients.


Its booth at the recent London Book Fair was hard to miss. Centered around one of its recent projects—a landscape A4 casebound book featuring stills from old Laurel and Hardy films—the display even incorporated comic look-alikes. “We were apprehensive before starting on this book because the material is more than 50 years old. But the final product is absolutely stunning, so we decided to showcase it at the fair. Everyone who saw the book, even die-hard litho lovers, was amazed,” says managing director Andrew Cork.

Based in Peterborough, U.K., PrintonDemand-Worldwide is housed in a 14,000-square-foot BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) compliant facility that boasts efficient temperature management, good use of natural light and many other environment-friendly features. “We even put our used tea bags into a wormery,” adds Cork, who also has a carbon-offsetting policy in place. “Our Eco Book initiative allows clients to directly offset the carbon associated with their project by contributing, usually a small sum, to tree replanting. Every customer that subscribes to the initiative receives an e-certificate confirming the amount of carbon that was offset on their behalf, and the sum contributed is added to the project's invoice.” In operations, the company has partnered with American and Australian on-demand printers since 2006 to offer POD on three continents. “We have lost track of the number of books that we have printed since we started 15 years ago. At this moment, we produce around 2,500 titles a day. About 10% of our projects are full-color, although many monochrome books have color inserts,” adds Cork, whose facility is populated by Xerox presses. Self-publishers represent a big chunk of his clientele, and their most common problem deals with file preparation. “We do not rely purely on our online ordering system. We have real people to advise clients in jargon-free terms.” Furthermore, a calculator on the company's Web site allows clients to experiment with different specifications and quantities to suit their budget.

Publishers' Graphics

“We have been offering POD services that are truly a book-of-one production for the past four years,” says v-p Kathleen Marada-Lewis, whose most high-profile project must be the printing and leather binding of 10 copies of The Gift of Peace for Pope John Paul II in 1999. Now, she is taking her Book of One service a step further. “We are placing an on-site production facility equipped with our DataStream Distribution System at a customer's warehouses. It will allow their clients to place orders directly and put titles through the production, manufacturing, shipping and billing processes automatically.” The system, she adds, will minimize human intervention and increase productivity. “Publishers, on the other hand, will save on carton, fuel and shipping costs. Much of the follow-up and paperwork will also be eliminated, thus reducing labor costs. And with the rise of environmental consciousness, this model offers publishers a great way to reduce their carbon footprint.”

Says Marada-Lewis, whose business, located in Carol Stream, Ill., comes largely from the educational/SSTM/journal market, “POD clients no longer have to sacrifice quality when they choose to print one copy at a time or in short runs. My advice to those considering POD is to request samples, and if the samples do not meet your expectations, keep searching for the right vendor.” Her team provides clients on-screen PDF proofs for review before printing a title for the first time. The approved file, adds Lewis, is the only one stored at the facility for reprints. As for some file issues to be aware of, sometimes clients supply cover files that have different dimensions from the text files and black-and-white text files prepared using color profiles.

For Marada-Lewis, whose company motto is “Changing your business, one book at a time,” this is an exciting time in the POD industry. “Seeing the technology, marketplace and social forces working together to realize book-of-one production is most satisfying.”

Total Printing Systems

A pioneer in using an inkjet web press for book manufacturing, Total Printing Systems (TPS) installed its first Kodak Versamark press back in 2001 and added a second unit four years later. “Versamark is a great low-cost solution for monochrome books and it really helped to distinguish us from the competition. We were able to handle run lengths that were too long for toner-based systems and those too short for most offset printers, i.e., 300 to 2,000 copies. This is still our main target market, although the range has narrowed somewhat as both toner and offset printing have become more competitive,” says president Richard Lindemann, who replaced the original Versamark with a Screen Truepress Jet 520 press three months ago. “This new press allows our clients to print four-color pages anywhere in their books. They no longer have to gather the color pages into signatures or pay for color that is not being printed.”

Team TPS is currently working on a case-bound children's title replete with variable data. Says Lindemann, “The client, a relatively new publishing house, came to us because they were told that what they were asking for could not be done. We are now in the midst of the first production run.”

TPS, in Newton, Ill., printed more than 360 million monochrome pages last year, but short-run color books are its fastest growing segment. “Since the cost of color printing has continued to fall, publishers are able to cost-effectively add color and value to titles that would have been monochrome in the past. The demand for color printing is big: we added our four-color Kodak NexPress M700 last July, and by the end of that month, it was running at full capacity,” adds Lindemann, noting that the biggest benefit that offset printing may hold over digital is the ability to print in metallic and special Pantone inks. “We see our short-run color projects growing substantially over the next 24 months. And we are keeping an eye on various new technological developments for our next major acquisition.”

UniBook Publishing

At FSC-certified Unibook (formerly WWAOW), 75% of its business comes from self-published authors. Naturally, its Web site (available in 10 languages, including Italian and Czech) makes it very easy for authors to get started. “Our user-friendly publishing wizard is a six-step online process that asks authors to upload their manuscripts, cover art, biography and book description. If the author does not have cover art, he can use our templates for free. A base book cost is displayed and the author can mark up the price and increase the royalty. Once everything is finalized, a preview of the cover is displayed and the author is asked to purchase five copies as the publishing cost,” says UniBook's SEO expert, Mark Lister.

“The buying price varies. For small quantities, it is approximately $79 for five hardcover books, based on 144 black-and-white pages. Large quantities have volume discounts. The price difference between hardcover and paperback is only $2 because we manufacture the covers,” says sales & marketing manager Kimberly Boim. “The patented metal spine in every cover allows the book blocks to be bound in approximately two minutes using our thermal heat-binding system. Our covers and binding are the strongest in the market and have a shelf life of approximately 60 years.” Bestsellers among the 2,500 titles on UniBook's online bookstore include Buckhead: A Place for All Time (400 copies sold), Moon Cussers (300 copies) and A Better You (200 copies). Meanwhile, the company—whose U.S. headquarters is in Alpharetta, Ga., and Europe HQ is in Rijksweg, Belgium—recently launched My Agenda Book and My Meeting Book services, allowing clients to personalize their agenda or meeting books and to have them printed; prices start from $14.95 and $9.95 respectively.

Adds Boim, “Our biggest challenge lies in making Unibook known to authors and publishers. We are new to the POD market and are up against industry giants like To compete, we run a nimble operation, providing fast page layout and design services in addition to efficient, high-quality printing and binding.”

PW Talks with Bridge Publications
Rare is the publisher that has a full-scale in-house digital printing operation for all its book and label production. In fact, Bridge Publications' operation is so unusual that it merits a case study in the forthcoming Print on Demand for Dummies (Wiley, June). Bridge is currently relocating to a new 272,000-square-foot plant in Commerce, Calif., and expanding its facility to CD production and DVD packaging. Executive v-p Ann Arnow and v-p of manufacturing Blake Silber talk about digital printing and more.

How is the relocation?

Ann Arnow: It is a multiphase project aimed at minimizing any disruption to our delivery schedule. The first department to move was warehousing, stocks and shipping. We are now planning the final move of our manufacturing division for early June.

Your new facility has a lot of new equipment. What are they?

Blake Silber: We have a Digicon label finisher that combines foil-stamping, lamination, UV coating, embossing and die/kiss-cutting, and a Beilomatik for fully automated hole-punching, corner-rounding and coiling. We also added a new shrink-wrapper that is four times faster than our old one. In our printing division, we added two DocuPrint 1050s, making a total of eight. We also installed a new shipping line with automatic scanning and sorting capabilities that can process 1,000 boxes per hour, which we recently put to the test with a shipment of 95,000 audiobook packages.

You have also started a line for CD and DVD products, right?

BS: Yes, we will be replicating and producing CDs in-house and packaging DVDs at our new facility. Our HP Indigo 4500 web press prints all our CD/DVD packaging labels. We also have two custom-made machines, one for inserting CDs into individual sleeves and the other for simultaneously applying labels to the front and back of CD packages. These two machines can process 2,400 items per hour, which previously would take multiple teams of people all day to do by hand.

Is it true that you use a special digital paper for your books?

AA: That is correct. Previously, we used a very nice looking paper for our hardcover books, but since it is not made for digital presses, it would sometimes jam the press. So Xerox developed Custom Digital Opaque, available in 60-lb. rolls, specifically for our digital presses. This beautiful text paper increases our production by 20%—30% and, best of all, it is SFI [Sustainable Forest Initiative] certified.

How many copies have you printed?

BS: We have printed 2.74 million hardcover copies and 2.59 million paperback copies since starting production in January 2007. These do not include 387,970 copies of coil-bound products and 718,447 copies of audiobook transcripts. We stock a total of just over 1,900 unique stock items including 18 hardcovers in 16 languages, seven unabridged audiobooks in 16 languages, and nine of our founder Mr. Hubbard's most popular introductory books on Dianetics and Scientology that were just available in 50 languages in March. We maintain a minimum shelf quantity on every item and reprint them based on sales with print runs ranging from 20,000 to just 100 copies for smaller foreign languages.

How do you measure your success in digital printing?

AA: I think our sales figures and our continued ability to fulfill increasing demand for Mr. Hubbard's works is the best measure. The many awards that we have won also speak for themselves. In March, we received the Progressive Manufacturing 100 Award for our Full Service Digital Book Facility project. Three of our titles just won the Gold Leaf Award for foil stamping for the book jacket and label categories. Last year, Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science won the Pewter Award at the Gold Ink competition; it was the only book with a digitally printed dust jacket among the winners. We also won various awards for design excellence.

What is your wish for digital printing?

AA: To have other printers and publishers tour our plant, gain from our experience and see what digital printing can do. We want to share with the industry what we have found so successful.