The power of the printed word

The power of the printed word

According to new research, three quarters of UK consumers favour printed books over digital content for recreational reading. And while this sounds like good news for publishers, they remain under pressure to embrace digital transformation to stay relevant and sustainable, overcoming challenges relating to supply chain efficiencies, personalisation and omnichannel consumption. 

We are already seeing the print industry take steps to respond to the changing demands of consumers—Forbes has updated its print magazine for the first time in eight years, to produce a more streamlined package and reading experience. And, rather than ignoring the growth of digital, the publication has embraced it within its print strategy, as it looks to keep pace in an ever-changing ecosystem. 

But with increased competition generated by self-publishing platforms and shorter print runs meaning a decline in the volume of printed pages, how can publishers continue to build on positive consumer sentiment to ensure a sustainable future? 

Ensure efficiency with on demand workflows  
To increase efficiency, many publishers are already exploring new business models—from short print runs to book life cycle management—that streamline the supply chain, thus reducing risk, waste and associated costs. But to make a real impact publishers need to shift to fully automated on-demand production where books are only printed once they are sold. As well as eliminating stock and reducing the amount of capital tied up in unsold products, on-demand production means books never go out-of-print, and can carry on generating revenue many years after their initial publication date. It allows books to be regularly revised and updated with a minimal amount of waste.    

Achieving on-demand production requires a fully automated digital workflow from order and print job management through to finishing and distribution, with standardisation of elements such as paper types and trim sizes to enable the handling of several thousand single print orders per day. The latest workflow solutions help publishers achieve this goal with digital technology designed to eliminate manual steps.     

Embrace personalisation through dynamic publishing 
Like all modern businesses, publishers need to take a customer-centric approach and deliver products that really meet the needs of the end user, which requires an element of personalisation. Through the use of templates hosted on online platforms, content can be combined from various sources to create a product specifically tailored to particular target groups or individuals. This type of dynamic printing is widely in use to create photobooks, for example, but is also being used in other ways, such as tailoring textbooks and other educational materials to individual student needs and interests.

Personalised, dynamic printing would be cost-prohibitive with traditional offset printing, but with digital printing and fully automated on-demand workflows it becomes a far more realistic option. Dynamic printing is a positive step for publishers as it allows existing assets and content to be reutilised to create high-margin personalised products, which are in great demand. 

Take a holistic approach to digital and print 
Online and offline platforms are often viewed as competitors for consumer attention, but they can also co-exist and even complement one another. Digital and print each have their own benefits so publishers need a way to combine these characteristics. One solution is smart books that take the tangible, immersive nature of print and add the instantly accessible and updateable capabilities of digital. 

Smart books are holistic products that connect physical and digital content, often using the reader’s mobile device. This may include online videos, quizzes or even virtual and augmented reality elements that supplement and enhance the book’s printed content. Readers could bookmark useful or important chapters or pages of the physical book and transfer them to a mobile app, or combine printed material from the book with their own photos or other content to share on social media.    

Rather than seeing online and offline as competing channels, publishers must instead focus on creating great content that can be used across both digital and paper platforms, allowing physical and digital, static and dynamic to work together for optimum performance.  

The outlook is positive for printed books but publishers need to ensure the market is sustainable. From adopting on-demand printing and embracing dynamic publishing to converging physical and digital in smart books, publisher business models must evolve to create and distribute content in a variety of ways, both print and digital, to meet the needs of their readers and offer true value.