A Look Forward to the Future of Publishing – Surprising Results of our Publishing Study & A Recap of The Next Chapter Event

Most consumers do not see themselves giving up printed books; three out of five eBooks downloaded are never read; and just 50 production inkjet systems owned by 25 book manufacturers produced more than ten percent of all printed book pages in the U.S. in 2012.


These are just a few of the compelling insights from the Ricoh-commissioned IT Strategies study conducted in conjunction with the University of Colorado-Boulder, “The Evolution of the Book Industry: Implications for U.S. Book Manufacturers and Printers”.  The results, announced publically this week, were first presented by the study’s author Marco Boer, vice president of IT Strategies at The Next Chapter.  At this event, Ricoh brought together the people and companies that are shaping – and being shaped by – the evolution of the publishing industry.  The key takeaway from the event and the study: a confluence of changes in the publishing industry and advances in digital printing are creating a uniquely opportune, but short moment – a flashpoint – for printers to take advantage of the disruption of online book buying and eBooks.

This silver lining drove the conversation at The Next Chapter conference held in Boulder in October.  The event was anchored by a keynote by Nicholas Carr, author of “The Shallows”, examining what the role of the printed word might be in a world where the internet is fundamentally changing the way we think.  Participants and panelists from Pearson Publishing and Penguin Books engaged the audience with a lively debate on how they’re pushing for innovation in order to not only survive, but thrive; Judith Briles, Author, Publishing Expert, & Founder of The Book Shepherd shared how book manufacturers can benefit from independent authors and publishers; and J. Kirby Best, Chairman of ColdLogic candidly dissected what he would do differently as a book manufacturer based on his current knowledge of the market.

One insight that aroused much discussion: while the total numbers of book pages being printed have steadily declines, digitally printed pages are increasing by 20 percent.  This seeming conundrum can be traced back to several factors that the study uncovered:

  • Digital printing of ‘ultra short runs’ have empowered book printers to supply books more tightly tied to actual demand. 
  • Publishers are using digital printing in two ways:
    • As a test with 1 to 2 books placed per retailer, circumventing cumbersome distributor guidelines and storage fees before ordering larger offset or digital printed quantities
    • For predicted strong titles, digitally printed books are used for reorders as needed to supplement first-run offset printed books
  • While there are fewer blockbuster best-sellers, the number of titles in print is increasing due to the advent of self-publishing.  More independent authors mean more opportunities for lower-volume and on-demand printing for printers. 

Some equally interesting results from the consumer perspective, which ultimately drives industry dynamics include:

  • Nearly 70 percent of consumers feel it is unlikely that they’ll give up on printed books by 2016. Consumers have an emotional and sensory attachment to printed books, potentially elevating them to a luxury item.
  • College students prefer printed textbooks to eBooks as they help students to concentrate on the subject matter at hand; electronic display devices such as tablet PCs tempt students to distraction.
  • The top three reasons consumers choose a printed book include: Lack of eye strain when reading from paper copy vs. an eBook; the look and feel of paper, and the ability to add it to a library or bookshelf.

The study has also sparked several insightful articles based on interviews with the study’s author Marco Boer:

You can find the full whitepaper with more findings here.  To learn more about how inkjet is being used to fuel the evolution of the publishing industry, take a look at our recent recap of blogs on the topic.

Michele Bollig, Ricoh


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