Publishing industry restructuring with digital options

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Publishing industry restructuring with digital options
MN Pandey of Delhi-based Avantika Printers. Photo IPP

According to a report recently published in The Times of India, British sales of eBooks are waning, suggesting that readers may be suffering from screen fatigue. The same report further reiterates that Britain’s publishing industry had a record-breaking year in 2016, with sales of book and journals recording their fastest year-on-year growth in a decade to reach EUR 5.7 billion. However, eBook sales fell 3%, continuing a trend first visible in 2015.

“For many years we have been discussing that the number of physical book readers is decreasing. In fact, printing itself has been visibly decaying. But in book publishing, the number of titles are increasing like never before although the print runs havedeclined. So, technically speaking, the increased number of book titles are countervailing the decreased print run in a befitting way,” says MN Pandey of Delhi-based Avantika Printers.

“Whether the reading habits of people are on the rise or not, the number of book titles is definitely on the upswing. Print runs are going down as publishers fear taking risks; they just want to secure the order rather than printing higher volumes, storing books in the warehouse and waiting for sales,” says Subhasis Ganguly, publishing veteran and a consultant in publishing operations.

Ganguly says, “Digital is bound to play a major role in book publishing. People are realizing there are discomforts associated with eBook reading. Those who were ardent fans of eBooks are now coming back to the traditional format; and with a plethora of new writers coming up today, digital as a solution is the only viable way to cater to short-run book production. The digital technology has even opened the window for writers to print a single copy and approach a publisher with it in hand.”

In the last three years, much restructuring has taken place in the publishing industry. “As a result, the production department is not restricted to its traditional job but has evolved into a print operation. It is now responsible for giving information on sales margins and also to take care of stock holding. Hence, the publisher’s production department allows only that number of books to be printed which do not pose any risk to the publisher. By following this rule, I spend less, I sell everything and I am not left with any backlog. Although my digital printing cost is higher than offset, it is beneficial nevertheless. Publishers who are able to understand this are gradually moving towards digital,” says Ganguly.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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