What are the opportunities in the black & white print market?

Canon EXPO 2015

The digital print market is in rude health, according to a report from leading researcher Smithers Pira1, which predicts the market will grow 68.3% in revenue by 2018. In line with this, industry analyst InfoTrends2 is forecasting an increase in the number of A4 impressions on digital black and white and colour print engines to 364 billion per year by 2018.

Printed books are back in vogue

One of the fastest growing applications in the period 2013 – 2018 in terms of ‘absolute print volume gain’, is digitally printed books. This application area is expected to grow by 16.9 billion pages over the five year period3 and is also an area where monochrome print volumes are set to increase. This trend is a result of a physical book market that is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance at present, with major book retailers in the UK reporting an increase in sales.

Waterstones – the UK’s largest bookshop chain – reported an increase of 5% in December 2014 over the same month the previous year, while Foyles, also in the UK, enjoyed an 8.1% jump in sales in December 2014 from December 20134. However, the book publishing industry is much changed from the ‘print and hope’ approach of previous years.

Most book titles these days require smaller volumes and this is where monochrome digital presses thrive. Publishers can now produce smaller and manageable quantities of books on demand at competitive price points. If print is combined with efficient inline and offline finishing, jobs can be turned around in less than 24 hours. This capability not only meets unpredictable consumer behaviour for book products, but removes the more expensive elements of the traditional value chain, such as large physical inventories and waste costs through pulping of unused stock.

Key themes for all black and white markets

While this opportunity in the book publishing market is more relevant to book printing specialists owing to the specific printing workflow set-up and expertise required, there are some key themes that will resonate with any Print Service Provider (PSP) that produces monochrome print. Consistent with the print industry as a whole, there is increasing demand from print buyers for customised print, shorter runs, faster turnaround time and Just-In-Time (JIT) delivery. Fortunately digital print technology is perfectly suited to help PSPs cost-effectively respond to these needs.

The power of digital print

Digital print enables PSPs to be more efficient and flexible, ensuring they can meet print buyers’ demands and take on more complex jobs. This includes finishing and the inclusion of variable data for end-to-end production of personalised applications. As a result, PSPs need to be sure that their work environments are adaptable and fast enough to take advantage of an ever-changing market that predominately wants print on-demand.

Whether through a digital-only production environment or a hybrid of digital and offset technologies, production workflows that incorporate digital printing technology enable PSPs to take on a wider variety of jobs in both monochrome (and colour) in different run lengths at the same time. This flexibility can make all the difference in winning business in a competitive market, and digital print can become the core driver in a PSP’s business moving forward.

Educating the print buyer

However there is still a significant amount to be done by PSPs to educate their customers about the advantages of Print-On-Demand (POD) and how it can benefit their businesses. By making it possible to cost-effectively print runs as short as one copy, the technology provides print buyers with the versatility they need to respond to the fast-paced modern communications landscape, but they will need to know about it if they are going to take advantage of it.

Be it an urgent reprint of a textbook following a change in a school’s syllabus, a micro-trend for a particular novel or a reactive personalised direct mail campaign, PSPs can help print buyers be more agile in the instantaneous consumer market, all the while keeping a closer control of costs. By operating more cost-effectively, PSPs can also charge less for shorter runs as a result, which represents greater value for money and a better return on investment (ROI) for the customer. This in turn increases the chances of repeat business and improves customer retention rates.

When it comes to the black and white print market, if you’re in the right position and looking at it the right way, there are still opportunities up for grabs.

1 The future of offset vs digital printing to 2018, Pira

2 InfoTrends, Western Europe digital production printing application forecast 2013-2018

3 InfoTrends, Western Europe digital production printing application forecast 2013-2018

4 Daily Telegraph - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/11335718/The-Kindle-is-dead-the-book-is-back.-Or-is-it.html - accessed 01/04/2015

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