New Xeikon 9600 at Thomson Okhla for color books on demand

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New Xeikon 9600 at Thomson Okhla for color books on demand
Rajiv Piplani

One of the largest commercial printers in South Asia, Delhi NCR-based Thomson Press has revitalized its Okhla digital print unit in South Delhi by adding a new web fed Xeikon 9600 5-color duplex press to the existing three digital presses in the plant. The new digital press arrived in September and has been printing customer’s work consistently since its initial trial run in October. The work so far includes coffee table and short run color books on a variety of untreated substrates from 40 gsm bible paper to 350 gsm coated stocks. The culmination of almost two years of looking for the most appropriate digital press that can viably handle all types of work, it is clear that Thomson wants to enable publishers to print-on-demand. “To print what they need and only in the quantity that they require,” says Rajiv Piplani general manager domestic sales for Thomson Press.

Warehousing main cost of publishing
It is well-known that the main cost for book publishers is warehousing. With print orders of larger quantities than immediately needed, most publishers think that this controls the per copy cost and the inventory of extra copies avoids the delays and costs of reprinting. This often leads to speculative overstock and costly maintenance of inventory preventing the marketing of the publishers complete list. The ability to order limited runs of 5, 25, 50, 100 high quality printed and bound color books enables publishers to order as many copies as needed and even to show production samples of new titles to get orders for their front list. It becomes easier to maintain a back list without huge inventories and to efficiently activate the tail list – books that are often out of print, but can now be made available and distributed efficiently through eCommerce platforms such as Lightning Source, Flipkart and Amazon.

New publishing paradigm
Publishers will have to evaluate the new economic paradigm and the opportunity that digital printing and production offers. The Thomson digital book factory is a comprehensive book production plant under one roof including prepress, multiple digital presses for both monochrome and color, complete finishing and binding of both perfect bound and hard case books. It is backed up by Thomson Press in Faridabad one of the biggest commercial printing plants in the country and a leading exporter of printed books and diaries.

The new Xeikon 9600 at Thomson can print on all types of uncoated and coated, domestic and imported papers from 40 gsm to 350 gsm. Because the 9600 is a web-fed 5-color duplex press, it can print on both sides simultaneously at a speed of 14.5 metres a minute. The print width can be 19.8-inches wide by almost any length to accommodate book covers, dust jackets, educational and text books as well as technical, science and medical books in both traditional and oversize formats. On our visit we saw several magazines that had been proofed and even printed on light weight coated stock and many books printed with fully saturated color on very thin paper without any show through. There were also many special learning books with innovative features that are produced in small quantities at the plant. The ability to use a variety of papers for high quality color is one of the breakthrough features of the new digital press apart from its ability to produce variable and personalised documents.

Apart from the new Xeikon, the digital book factory in Okhla contains an HP Indigo 5500 sheetfed digital press and monochrome digital presses from Oce and Canon. The folding and binding equipment includes a Stahl folder, section sewing, hard case binding, a perfect binder and trimmer from Horizon, a die-cutting machine and a laser machine for cutting intricate patterns on paper and board. The complete design, prepress and innovation set-up at Okhla for digital products is clearly an attempt by the company to aggressively provide a complete color and black and white digital book factory to publishers — so that they can understand, experiment and enjoy the benefits of the new print-on-demand technology right at their door-step.

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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