Embrace technology to deliver faster and superior content!

The publishing industry is changing – readership is low due to digital options available, print runs are diminishing (more so for trade publishers), content is changing fast and deliveries have become short-timed. In this transformational age, book printing industry has evolved to confront these technological shifts. Here, four production experts from four different publishing houses share their views on book production. The printed word is eternal…books are the main source of knowledge dissemination and an important part of cultural heritage. Production department of publishing houses play an important role. Here’s more on their views on book production.

Market shifts…

“The technological progress is definitely the biggest disruption that has altered the traditional business models and operations, and created the opportunities wherein consumers are spoilt not only for choices in terms of multiple ways that content can be consumed, but for the availability of content of their choice as well. The PG (Post Graduate) print runs will continue to see a downhill, whereas the educational print runs starting from pre-primary and going upto UG (Under Graduate) levels will continue to swell for a couple of years until the electronic methods of study are adopted in the tier 2 & tier 3 cities of our country, owing to the policy reforms & investment push in the education sector,” says Manish Pahuja of Jaypee Brothers Medical Publishers.

Talking more on the technological trends, Sanjeev Misri of Ratna Sagar says, “There has been a drastic change in the industry in the last decade with the installation of brand new machines with high productivity and better quality with less input costs. This is important in today’s competitive market. Ironically these machines are feasible for large print runs. Print on Demand is the best solution for low print runs but at the same time the cost of production is so high in some cases that the publisher prefers to get the job done by conventional process and left with a minimal inventory.”

While, Manoj Mathuria, national production head, New Saraswati House (NSHPL) feels that the rapidly changing syllabus/pattern is the biggest challenge in publishing industry. “Initially the working style in publishing industry was very different but as the time and studying pattern is changing, the ways of working are also changing. Initially, we used to maintain additional stock by keeping in mind the additional demand in the coming years. But now, if we try to keep additional stock, it gets wasted as the pattern of studying, chapters, exercises etc changes. A very good example is the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) based Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) curriculum or the Value Based Questions (VBQs) or marking schemes in the schools. Therefore we have to reduce the print run as per the current demand,” he adds.

And the reading pattern of masses is another important market change that Sumit Chowdhury of Jaico Books points out. “There are lot of changes happening in publishing industry. The biggest change I have found is that people are gradually less interested to read the books due to their busy schedule. If we think about education, there are no diminishing print runs. But if we think about bigger publishers, definitely their print run is reduced due to lot of other small publishers, who print the books at very low price, using low quality of paper.”

Printer selection process…

“Large publishing groups are only interested to work with high capacity vendors who are willing to invest in paper and online manufacturing services, delivering print product in tight time-frames. Large publishing groups have moved into the vendor consolidation mode for their print buying operations, in order to achieve better costs and superior quality. The vendor base should be kept at 3-4 vendors to ensure optimum competition and derive good service delivery assurance,” shares Manish.

Manoj feels that the various parameters to be kept in mind for selecting a printer include: use of latest technology, good infrastructure or setup, power backup so that work doesn’t get delayed, and meeting the deadlines efficiently. “We are working with around 20 printers (approximately),” he adds. Similar views were shared by Sanjeev, who says, “During selection of printer we keep in mind the infrastructure, the number of machines, facilities, working and storage area, quality, time management, service, etc. We are currently working with ten major printers in Delhi.” Sumit also has the same views and shares that they work with five/six printers.

Binding needs…

Unfortunately binding is the area where we are still lacking in terms of quality. “We can print as much as we can but we are not able to do quality binding for even half of that. It is worth noticing that all the printers now-adays are putting machines keeping in mind the needs of textbook publishers,” shares Sanjeev.

So, do the publishing houses prefer their printers to handle their binding needs or they get it done from specialised binding facilities? “I am more comfortable if the printer is the binder, as that ensures virtually no time lag between the two processes on the manufacturing supply line. I believe that the concept of independent binders is unsuited to the publishing supply chain, due to very low interest shown by these independent binders in investing and ramping up the service line with technological advances that could have helped their business in the long run. Instead they chose to be service providers to the large print-bind manufacturing units, allowing the large manufacturing units to take over the market,” replies Manish.

Similar views were echoed by Manoj and Sumit. “The binding of books is done by the printer only and not by an independent binder as the quantity of books is too large and we do not want the transactions to take double time,” adds Manoj.

While, Sanjeev adds, “We work both ways. While some of the books are bound by printer and some are bound by us at our in-house bindery facility with a capacity of 35,000 section sewing books per day.”

Challenges faced…

“International standard quality product delivery, on optimum costs, within the shortest possible TAT (Time for Average Turnaround), remains the biggest challenge for any service/ material buyer. In order to achieve this goal, the buyer always needs to tap on market data on costs and should be able to assess the free capacity of the empanelled vendors. Despite empanelling the best vendors the quality of any product can be affected due to many reasons, therefore, there should be quality checks implemented at every stage of product creation pipeline, to ensure that the errors/defects are not seen post the manufacturing process with grave cost impacts,” told Manish.

As per Sumit, the challenges also include competition in the trade, availabilities of required paper, quality of work, modern and up-to-date printing machine availability, labour availability. According to him, if you are not getting enough labour, then books cannot be delivered on time. “So to overcome all these challenges, we do prefer well in advance planning of our schedule of productions,” he adds as a matter of fact. Besides, quality, Manoj also shares other challenges like tight deadlines from the editorial and sales team, technical errors, on time delivery of paper affecting the overall printing time and stock of paper to be in accordance to the printing of books.

While, Sanjeev shares an interesting perspective. “The challenges in the process is mainly the quality and deliverance of large volumes which is being faced by the text book publishers specially children books where the end user tests the durability of books at least for one season. Now-a-days since five subjects are put in one book and use of the same book in a day is numerous, all the more reasons to have good and sturdy binding ,” he says.

Any glitches…

Production department has become very efficient these days. As Manoj puts it, “An efficient employee is the one who foresees the situation and acts accordingly. One of the most challenging jobs is identifying the exact requirement of paper as the printing solely depends on the stock of paper. Another challenge faced in publishing industry is the fluctuating rates of paper/material. Last year it increased drastically from Rs 48 per kg to Rs 68 per kg that resulted steep increase in production cost. But it did not affect us so much as we did foresee the situation and ordered the paper accordingly.”

“With high capacity vendors, advanced software and machinery around even the most challenging of all tasks are faced easily. Gone are those days, when production staff looking after manufacturing jobs had to be at presses for days and nights to meet deadlines,” tells Manish.

But, still there can be few glitches, as Sanjeev shares, “Every job is challenging and even the same book behaves differently in each reprint. For instance once same paper was used in two different books and printed and bound at the same place with same environment and adhesive but one book was properly getting pasted and other was not with cover. This was a unique case which we confronted.”

Indian publications vis-à-vis international publications

“With regard to content, considering the fact that India is a non-native English speaking country, the publishers should focus on the content language and adopt an absolute zero tolerance policy on language/ grammatical errors. With regard to the quality of print product, the publishers probably need to remodel their print buying strategies to achieve better costs from high grade print manufacturers, by consolidating print runs and keeping inventories down,” shared Manish.

“We cannot compare the quality of Indian publications with international standard because Indian market is price-driven. They need the low price books to fullfill their purpose/requirement only,” adds Sumit. While, Manoj suggests that to match quality of Indian publications with international standards, we need to improve the paper quality, printing and binding quality. “The overall quality of book in international publication houses is better than ours because of the advanced technology of printers and paper quality,” he feels.

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