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Book Printing Decline – Not So Fast

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By Gerry Mulvaney, European Sales Manager, Landa Digital Printing

If I tell you that my wife only ever turns her phone on when she wants to send a text or make a call and then turns it off again, you will see how staggering her conversion to her Kindle reader has been. From flatly refusing to use one last year, she has now become one of their biggest advocates. She reckons that when we travel, her book consumption has gone up at the same rate as our suitcase weight (now lightened by the lack of printed material) has gone down.

But according to a new infographic from Fast Company her experience is about to change and the pendulum could well be swinging back the other way.

The infographic highlights the fact that in the North American market, the rate of growth of the digital book slowed down in 2013 and in fact sales of hard back books actually grew by 10% in the first eight months.

Digital & printed book infographic by FastCompany

What can possibly be happening to a product that everyone was predicting would disappear in the same way as music CDs once everyone owned an MP3 player? It seems that the rate of sales increase for music tapered off once it accounted for 50% of music sales, whereas with e-books the taper has occurred once e-books took a 20% share of sales.

Adoption of digital books graph by FastCompany

Consumers seem to have decided that e-books are fine for disposable reading – the sort of paperbacks that get read once and then passed on or consigned to the rubbish bin; they won’t replace a hardback that is going to sit on a book shelf and be taken off for reference or to be read again.

Has the e-Book Revolution Eliminated Printed Books? On the Contrary!

In fact it may well be that the e-book revolution has created a bigger demand for hardbacks and as the infographic demonstrates, 70% of consumers say it is unlikely they will give up on printed books by 2016.

Reading digital and printed books in the same space

70% of consumers say it is unlikely they will give up on printed books by 2016

This is good news for both publishers and book printers, particularly those utilising digital printing, because the ability to produce a short run or even single copy of a book on demand is at the heart of the growth of the printed page.

It is not more copies of a single volume where the growth lies, apart from the occasional best seller, but more volumes of single or short run copies that satisfy consumer demands and boost publishers’ profits. Once colour is factored in, short run digital is likely to drive even more growth.

Of course the Landa Nanographic Printing® Presses will play their part, providing printers with a B1 (41 in. / 1050 mm) digital solution slotting into existing workflow and finishing lines, but making that volume of short runs profitable for the printers as well as the publishers.

Whether my wife will pick up the trend and increase the load in my holiday luggage this year remains to be seen, but we have yet not thrown out our sitting room bookcases and there is still space on the shelves waiting to be filled!

Image 1 source: FastCompany website
Image 2 source: FastCompany website
Image 3 source: Photograph, Martin Argles for the Guardian (

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