Printers and Publishers will confabulate during PrintPack 2015

14 February 2015 is Valentine's Day. On that day, printers and publishers will discuss their love for books. The event hosted by Henkel, Welbound and PrintWeek India will be Round Two of the initiative to boost book production and eliminate pain points. More importantly, Round Two will create a platform for print buyers and printers. This will facilitate better understanding and improve communication.

12 Dec 2014 | By Noel D'Cunha

Round One was hosted on 16 May 2014. At that time, besides the introduction of PUR technology in India, the delegates discussed key points at a hotel located near the Welbound headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram. In the past, the city has witnessed unprecedented events like the National Book Printers’ Conference (NBPC) in 2011, and the formation of the Top Book Printers’ Association.

Atul Bahl of MBD Group

There is a lot of potential for increasing the book reading and book production in India. The way to improve the same can be:

1. Publishers and authors need to do more promotions for the products

2. Formation of book clubs at the school level so that the children get into the habit of reading

3. Parents to be made part of the book clubs

Logistic is a vital part of the supply chain. But there seems to be a lack of professionalism in this part of the supply chain. Even today, it is still not possible to predict if the material will be available on time. Printers can help tackle the issue by planning in advance and keeping a lead time so as to ensure timely delivery of the finished goods, as well as the raw material.

The products should be priced competitively to ensure that the product is not killed due to over-pricing. To ensure the same, the publishers and printers must collaborate to ensure the correct print run of the books so as to keep the cost of printing under control.

Since most of the printing machineries and the raw material in the book publishing industry is imported, the risk on margins due to currency fluctuations remains. To counter this, the government must encourage the industry to invest in R&D for printing technology and also try to reduce the dependence on the raw material imports by finding ways to make pulp and paper in India. The industry needs to be encouraged to invest into farming of bamboo, or other grass and trees which should be used for making paper.

There is a need to strengthen the supply chain in India to ensure that the goods are not damaged during transportation. Also, the relevant parties should be educated about the usage of right kind of packaging needed for the products.

I believe print firms need to implement better QC processes during production to control wastages. Plus transit damages should be covered under insurance.

Proper production planning is the key to ensure that that the workflows in the book publishing and printing are followed completely. Both parties need to jointly ascertain the time needed for the printing.

In this sense, I believe an up-to-date QC process is the biggest help.

Peter Anil Rego of Brilliant Printers

The image of books and book reading needs a makeover. Print industry needs to highlight that printed books are an important means of inculcating reading habit. Advantages of reading should be emphasised. All stakeholders could work together to ensure this is done through campaigns like advertisement, celebrity endorsements, quizzes, contests, publicity through social media etc.

Other options could be book review contests. Our industry leaders should work with associations of Principals of schools and colleges for book promotion events that highlight the importance of book reading. 

The industry must lobby with the Government to increase the allocation of funds to libraries, to promote local writers, use Amazon, Flipkart etc. to the maximum, to ride on their strengths to distribute books

A general awareness needs to be created about the great value in a book. Comparison in price terms to other similar items that we commonly spend money on needs to be made and the value for money in books needs to be highlighted. The concept of a book as a gift needs to be promoted.

If printers are aware of the annual quantities (based on inputs from publishers), an annual or half yearly contract can be signed with the paper mills so as to have control on the prices

Periodic meetings could be scheduled. Professional designers and agencies who specialise in the entire art and science of book production could be hired to present latest trends in the market, tastes of customers, international trends in designing and improvements in book production etc.

Vasant Goel of Gopsons

Printers should advertise, run special promotions, make books available through more channels.

Cost: the only way to reduce cost is to do it by standardising the volumes and follow manufacturing contracts, change book formats to suit printing kit for maximum optimisation, planning and scheduling, reduce movement of physical books to bare minimum -  therefore storage at printers site move only when book is sold, and rationalise - digital v/s offset , reprints v/s first runs. 

My point is, stakeholders must understand the cost in total value chain as a whole. Right now, most publishers are looking at PPB and gross margin according to their sale price. I feel a lot can be saved in between as well; 

Supply chain: Nobody can predict or give a forecast. This is a common problem the publishers talk about. I agree. Having said so, there is very little data analysis, and forecasting models, at least a 60-70% accurate plan can be generated. In itself, this will bring the cost down significantly. The basic idea that I propose is, printer and publisher need to work together. Also, they need to work transparently to bring down total cost of printing and supplying a book till retail selling point. I feel, PPB cost reduction alone has limited scope

Inflation: I don't think 95% of the print industry even considers inflation or what is the real impact of inflation in terms of purchasing power.

Currency: This is a big factor. And the only way to address this is transparency and agreement. cost of hedging vs risk forecasting vs substitution with domestic inputs - needs to be worked out in utmost transparent way and agreed between publisher and printer.

Conclusion: Printers should pack well. Printers should ensure minimum physical travel of books, form policies of sales by carton quantity pack; clear return policies with time lines and agreements.

The point is, there are many possibilities. To sum up: 50% of the problems can  be solved if good quality material is used. For the balance problems please invest in a good kit, raw materials and standardisation.

Plan for Valentine's Day

The above points were raised during the closed-door meeting in Kerala, which was led by Subhasis Ganguly, book publishing consultant and former vice president at Penguin Books.

The 40-member group of print firm CEOs and publishers focussed on pain points in the value chain and sought solutions. 

Everyone agreed that the book publishing and printing value chain has witnessed a number of challenges, chief of which is the impact of a rise in paper prices. Higher competition in the K–12 segment, and the potential effect on international student editions after the 2013 US Supreme Court ruling in the Supap Kirtsaeng v/s John Wiley & Sons case are a few of the other factors that have impacted the value chain.

PrintWeek India predicts: The outlook for 2015 looks better, with stable paper prices, and more growth opportunities in the school education market, as well as more Indian titles being published for the higher education market. But it is vital to foresee new challenges, and to think about how stakeholders can add value in the future.

This is what we hope to discuss on 14 February 2015 during PrintPack.