The evolution of publishing

The evolution of publishing

Throughout the world, the publishing industry is undergoing major changes as printed books, magazines and newspapers compete with e-books, online publications and social media for reader attention. Print certainly remains relevant in publishing – indeed, 96% of print and digital magazine readers say they are going to stick with print in the next 12 months, 69% of people are more relaxed and receptive when reading a newspaper on paper and 57% of people believe that learning from books is the best way to learn – but publishers are having to work harder than ever to respond to changing consumer preferences by developing new formats and models to grow their businesses.

While each publishing sector faces its own unique set of challenges, four business models enabled by digital print are helping publishers in every sector to adapt to the changing market landscape.

Short runs

With a continually increasing number of new titles published annually and average run lengths decreasing, demand for small editions is increasing. By optimising production processes, digital printing makes printing short runs faster and more cost-effective, while future-proofing print production. Once established, digital short run production can also pave the road for decentralised printing concepts, reducing delivery time and cost not only for books, but also for printing newspapers or magazines in hubs or remote areas.

Print lifecycle management

Digital short run production leads to print lifecycle management, which is all about optimising the distribution chain for the publisher. In this model, actual sales demand determines the number of copies printed, reducing storage costs and the risk of overstocking. (To learn more about the benefits of this model, read TJ International’s success story.)


In addition to savings on storage and decreased risk, another of the reasons print-on-demand has grown in popularity among publishers is its potential for connection to e-commerce. This ‘first sell, then print’ model depends on having a workflow that is optimised to make it viable and affordable to print single copies of magazines or books as they are ordered, thus making a zero-stock strategy an achievable goal for publishers.

Smart publishing

Individualised or dynamic content is at the heart of ‘smart publishing’, enabling innovative applications such as targeted newspaper or magazine advertising as well as customisation in book publishing. The model is all about selecting variable content for different user groups, so content can be extracted from various sources and then merged to create a customised publication. 

For print service providers (PSPs) the concept offers new revenue and growth opportunities beyond print services, while for publishers it helps them to make the most of existing assets by matching them with individual needs and creating a new digital customisation service.

In the educational book market, for example, there are Canon customers in Turkey, Austria and Switzerland offering teachers, private tutors and coaches the capability to customise schoolbooks or workbooks for their students and classes by using variable content from existing sources supplied by a publisher. In one case workbook content is selected according to the individual strengths and weaknesses of each pupil as identified in their exam results. In another example, the publisher and PSP developed an automated workflow and online shop to simplify customisation and order management while streamlining production and shipping.

The concept can easily be transferred to other publishing and printing segments – travel, cookery and business books, to name a few. Imagine, for example, a travel guide that brings together the best up-to-date information from travel publishers and the latest consumer information from social media with guides, maps and discount vouchers. Similarly, the model is also enabling microtargeted newspaper and magazine advertising based on location, demographics and customer preferences.

The world of publishing may be evolving, but print remains as relevant as ever. In fact, a recent consumer publishing forecast highlighted that by 2020, print will remain the format of choice for consumers of books, magazines and newspapers. Aided by advances in digital print production, publishers and PSPs are developing new models that will ensure the next chapter in the story of publishing is a dynamic one.

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