Quality and timely delivery
Today, commercial and book printing segment is facing some tough challenges. In my opinion, printing volume has taken a hit. On the other hand, the number of jobs is increasing with every passing day.
Now, what matters to a customer is quality and timely delivery. We deal with a smart customer now, who values quality over cost. He also needs the best ratio for it. In other words, quality should be the baseline for all of us, and then, rates should decide the winner.
The differentiator now is the timely delivery of the job, even better, before-time delivery. So, it’s important to keep the commitment. It’s always a smart move to have an inventory available in the warehouse, though it does affect the input cost for the business. However, it is essential to maintain the balance.
In order to ensure a smooth flow of work, it is essential that all the diverse factors in the segment have synergy with each other. These factors include the projection of books required, size of the book, and quantity of each title, and the paper quality.
Instead of negotiating with just the printers, publishers also need to negotiate with distributors for a smooth operation. I have often seen books printed in PoD are stored in distant warehouses. This adds to the cost.
I would also like to highlight the myth we are made to believe that using fewer paper will save the environment. But, has anyone ever studied the real repercussions of eWaste vis-à-vis paper waste? Paper can be recycled, and the trees that are cut for pulp are replanted and taken care of by paper manufacturers. Has anyone checked on the recycling parameters of eWaste, how much percentage of the total eWaste material is being recycled?
Replacing single-use plastic
Traditionally, lamination films are 14 to 12 micron, whereas shrink films are of 16 micron. It is entirely possible to move past plastic in book production, from using lamination on the covers to using shrink wrap post-production. There are options available, including the following.
We can avoid lamination by applying flood UV on cover.
For packing multiple books, we can use VAX coated brown kraft paper.
We can avoid using gummed tape being used for closing the outer carton by glue-pasting the carton. For example, Welbound has a hotmelt glue case sealing machine which is a perfect alternative.
It is important that we should use tight carton. Again, only strip packing should be used to protect the box.
If we are sending the consignment to destination other than local, it should be packed in reuseable pallet made by wood or foam. If we need to protect the books from mishandling during loading and unloading, we should use bubble wrap, which will also protect the consignment from water.
Standardisation of sizes
Nowadays, publishers use around 10 different sizes for book printing. These including 5x7-inches; 5x8-inches; 5.5x8.5-inches; 6x9-inches; 6.25x9.25-inches; 6.5x9.5-inches; 7x9-inches; 7.25x9.5-inches; 8.5x11-inches; and 8.5x12-inches.
Standardising the format will help save on wastage of paper. I recommend four standard sizes. These are 5.5x8.5-inches; 6x9-inches; 7x9-inches; and 8.5x11-inches.
The quality of paper is standardised by grade and grammage. There are three grades available — A Grade; B Grade; and C Grade.
The ideal grammage for book printing is 60; 70; 80; and 90gsm.
Most importantly, we should take care of the grain direction for binding of paperback and hardbound.
Checklist for publishers
Today, publishers usually have four to five printers with them. Publishers should disclose their projections for the year to their print partners in advance to keep inventory.
For colour consistency and proofs demanded by editors and authors, publishers should have a colour-calibrated monitor in-house which is synchronised with the press. This will help save time and cost and will also improve colour reproduction.
I would advise publishers to use PoD model to avoid dilution of the stock return by distributors.