Publishing industry restructuring with digital options

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.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital 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.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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