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Book Printing: Divining the State of the Print Book

I read two articles online this week that have reinforced my belief that the print book is still going strong.

“Book Reading 2016”

The first article is from the Pew Research Center (Internet, Science & Tech) website. Dated 9/1/2016, this article, “Book Reading 2016,” makes a number of claims about the state of the print book and reading in general, which it then supports with charts and statistics. (Over the years I have developed an unreserved trust in the Pew Research Center.)

Here are the claims the Pew Research Center made based on its surveys and analyses (as quoted):

    1. “Print books continue to be more popular than e-books or audio books.” The article goes on to say that in the last twelve months more than twice as many people read a print book as read an e-book.


    1. “Nearly four-in-ten Americans read print books exclusively; just 6% are digital-only book readers.”


    1. “More than one-quarter (28%) of Americans read books in both print and digital formats.”


    1. “Some 38% read print books but did not read books in any digital formats.”


    1. “Compared with those who have not attended college, college graduates are more likely to read books in general, more likely to read print books, and more likely to consume digital-book content.”


    1. “…young adults are more likely than their elders to read books in various digital formats, but are also more likely to read print books as well: 72% have read a print book in the last year, compared with 61% of seniors.”


    1. “The share of Americans who read in order to research a specific topic of interest has increased in recent years.” This is in contrast to those who read to stay abreast of current affairs, those who study for school or work, and those who read for pleasure. Since 2011, “the share of Americans who read in order to research specific topics of interest has increased by 10-percentage points…, from 74% to 84%.”


  1. “Women are more likely than men to read books in general and also more likely to read print books.”

What We Can Learn from This Information

First of all, Pew Research Center statistics make it clear that print books aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. They are still way ahead of electronic media in terms of readership.

However, many people, especially younger ones, do read e-books as well as print books, for pleasure, to study for work or school, to stay abreast of current events, or to research topics of interest to them. But the ratio of print book readers to e-book readers is still exceptionally high.

The article also noted that although e-book readership increased from 2011 to 2014 from 17% to 28%, it has nevertheless remained stable since then.

Griffin Press, “the World’s Most Advanced Book Printer”

The second article was entitled “Griffin Launches End to End Digital.” Written by Wayne Robinson, the article was published on 9/7/2016 on

The article describes the hardware and workflow of a state-of-the-art book printer, noting the following (as quoted):

    1. “The company has installed a HPT410 monochrome digital printer.”


    1. It has “added a full Kolbus binding line onto the back.”


    1. “Covers–previously the stumbling block in attempts to create such lines–are printed on site on Griffin’s new HP Indigo 10000 and HP Indigo 7800 printers.”


    1. Griffin adds cover “embellishment on a Scodix Ultra Pro Foil.”


    1. “Griffin is looking to produce some 45,000 books per day or 16 million books a year, on the digital end-to-end line.”


    1. “It has two other HP monochrome reelfed digital printers.”


    1. Griffin “will keep its offset presses for long-run work.”


  1. Peter George, CEO of Griffin’s parent company, PMP, notes that “the entry of Amazon into the book market ‘changed everything’ and led to local publishers demanding rapid print and short runs.” He says that “Printed books are clearly here to stay. Kindle has plateaued.”

What We Can Learn from This Information

The article succinctly reflects the present moment in print book publishing. This is what I infer from my reading of “Griffin Launches End to End Digital”:

    1. For book printing, the most efficient equipment is a dedicated, black-only, toner-based digital press. To me, Griffin Press’ buying the HPT410 monochrome digital printer reflects the company’s view that the highest percentage of print book work will be for K-only text blocks.


    1. Conversely, there’s no better equipment for book covers than the HP Indigo digital press. In my opinion, nothing comes closer to offset-quality printing.


    1. That said, the demand for print books in general is high, as reflected in Griffin Press’ projected yearly output of 16 million books. (The HP T410 press–and HP’s latest T400 series presses–cost in the range of $2 to $3 million (depending on the press’ add-ons). This shows just how serious Griffin Press is regarding the future of “ink on paper.”


    1. Until recently, the focus has been on printing ink or toner digitally onto the paper substrate. Press sheets then went through traditional analog finishing operations. Now there are digital binders (the article referenced the Kolbus binding line). Press manufacturers have been developing end-to-end solutions that integrate digital printing and digital binding equipment. This reflects the manufacturers’ commitment to digital book production, and their awareness that consumers and businesses have shown a growing need for digital book printing.


    1. The reference in “Griffin Launches End to End Digital” to “embellishment on a Scodix Ultra Pro Foil” reflects a move from analog to digital equipment for die-cutting, foil stamping, embossing, and other processes that in prior years had required the making of metal cutting or stamping dies. Scodix has rendered die-making less necessary by inventing digital methods for building up 3D texture (coatings, foils) on a press sheet. This complements recent advances in laser creasing and cutting, which also sidestep the need for metal dies.


    1. Griffin Press’ purchasing additional reelfed monochrome printers implies that digital printing will also be essential for longer-run books, since rolls of printing stock are more economical than cut sheets for longer press runs.


    1. Griffin Press’ keeping its offset equipment implies that even though the bulk of book print jobs will be short run or variable data work, some publishers will still require longer press runs of books (black-text-only or multi-color-text).


    1. Griffin sees that the trend is toward shorter press runs and faster turn-around times, as noted by Peter George’s (CEO of Griffin’s parent company, PMP) comment that Amazon’s print-on-demand business model “changed everything.”


  1. As in the first article referenced in this blog posting, “Griffin Launches End to End Digital” notes that e-readers (the Kindle, as per the quote) are no longer displacing print books. The print book is still viable and will be for the foreseeable future.

At least that’s what I got out of reading the Pew article and ProPrint article.

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