The publishing industry is a large industry, with book publishing being the most significant sub-segment and ranging almost 130 billion dollars annually.

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Most of you, dear readers, of course, know the publishing industry, but let’s look at it before talking about the obstacles and opportunities.

By Morten B. Reitloft

What is publishing all about?

Publishing is basically about buying, selling, and distributing intellectual rights – and it can be paper-based like newspapers, magazines, books to film, radio, pretty much everything. Publishers have for years thrived, and we today see massive companies that have become global conglomerates. They often serve many different markets and publish various publications from books, magazines, newspapers, software, ebooks, film, radio, TV and typically spiced with a massive internet presence.

One of the biggest, who also operates printing companies, is the German Bertelsmann Group, with more than 130,000 employees and annual revenue exceeding 17 billion Euros. Despite the COVID, Bertelsmann grew more than 10% during the past year! This is by all measures amazing.

Bertelsmann and other major publishing companies compete, but tomorrow’s market space may look completely different. The market space is changing for many reasons, and one is technology, which we will talk about in a moment.

Often publishers are nursing upcoming talents and take risks in everything from proofing, design, marketing, print, distribution, and often very important, upfront payments to authors. Nobody can underestimate the work of the publishers and the network they have build-up with bookshops, distribution, and marketing plays an immense role – but then what, when you are once an established author?


The change made possible by technology

The British author Jane Friedman has written a post that explains why she chose to leave HarperCollins, one of the world’s largest publishers. Even established authors have to deliver 70-75% of their book revenue to the publishing companies. In the article, she writes that many often blame companies like Amazon for being greedy, but she keeps 70% of her revenue when selling through Amazon, as she so elegantly put.

In my research for this article, numerous authors are considering small upcoming publishers, some for reasons like passion for the book, passion for the relationship with the author, and other reasons, including commissions, etc. Others go all in and choose self-publishing, and this is an opportunity for our industry.

digital book from ipad

How some printing companies defacto become publishers

Margins are often under tremendous pressure working with large publishers since they batch their entire volume to get the best possible prices. Also, payment terms are typically between 30-180 days, making the print company the defacto publisher!

With digital print and smart binding, new opportunities are interesting for both small publishers and self-publishers. Digital print allows you to print smaller print runs but also on-demand. This will change the market and deliver new potentially golden opportunities for printing companies – and even better, maybe even expand the market even further.

Even software like HP’s Siteflow can now ‘create’ books based on users’ choices combining content from publishers’ back catalogs.

Customers love books, and as I have written in almost every Hunkeler blog, innovation and sales are always driven by demand. Customers like books, and the book as a media grows!

book production in publishing

How to get started with publishers?

So how can you as a printing company benefit from this trend?

Being able to produce books digitally will be the first step. You will need digital print and finishing equipment to deliver high-quality books – and depending on how much you invest, I recommend that you look into as much automation from the beginning, you possibly can!

Market your service to the smaller publishers and on the internet, but ensure that you understand the production and shipping and how to handle bookshops, Amazon, and all the on/offline outlets you will need to connect to.

Find out where you can add value (as usual), and consider working with software vendors to offer you an API so you can connect to the book publishing infrastructure. Also, consider working with cloud services like Cloudprinter. Your business model is not ONLY about producing books at your facility but more about serving what your customers need – and of course, profit from this.With today’s print solutions from HP, Canon, Ricoh, Konica-Minolta, Landa, Xerox, and more, you can produce books of one if you combine your print solution with a binding solution from Hunkeler.

Hunkeler book solution with plow folder
Hunkeler publishing with flyfolder
Hunkeler solution
publishing writting

The Long Tail (again)

Another topic we will need to talk about is actually one of my favorites – the long tail! When you look at conventional retail, you can easily imagine that a physical shop only can hold a certain stock! Retailers carefully monitor shelf-life and turn-around time, and most retailers have clear ideas when it’s time to turn titles. In e-shops, space may be bigger, but the problem is the same, so the solution is to produce on-demand. This is the ultimate potential for the industry, as the total volume of orders on non-stocked products exceeds the total sales of what’s on stock. At first, this can sound strange, but it’s pretty logical if you think about it.

If you can store 100 titles in your bookshop, there are maybe 100,000 titles you can’t – so with just a minimal demand, the long tail will logically give you more orders. Retailers and publishers will understand, so dear Sales Manager at PSP X – get started! If you want to learn more about how this works, I can warmly recommend The Long Tail by Chris Anderson (former editor Wired Magazine!).

As stated in the beginning, the publishing market is changing rapidly. It can be an extremely lucrative business to dig into, so I hope this article has been an inspiration to you. So till next time!

About the author

Portrait Morten Reitloft

Morten B. Reitoft

Morten Reitoft is the editor of INKISH News and INKISH TV. INKISH TV is a TV-channel for and about the print industry. 
Through his numerous posts and videos around the printing industry, Morten has a broad expertise in digital printing and knows both the companies and technologies behind them.

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