Digital colour printing is an opportunity for book printers to win back work that is currently being offshored, according to speakers at last week's annual London Digital Book Printing Forum.
HP business manager Roger Stabler, who spoke at the event last Wednesday (20 June), said he was seeing "a lot more onshoring of colour", which could be driven by publishers recognising the cost of producing a book over its whole life-cycle, including storage and transportation, rather than just the print costs.
CPI UK head of digital Martin Collyer said that the printer, which launched its Quantum digital colour book line in May, was offering a small percentage of spot integrated-colour at "almost the same price as mono".
Collyer, who called the addition of colour a "game-changer", added: "In the age of e-books, differentiating and adding value are the challenges for publishers and with colour inkjet technology we can add both spot colour and full colour cost-effectively."
Mark Jones, sales director of Ashford Colour Press, said that the printer, which specialises in producing educational books and training manuals and has a turnover of around £11m, is also looking to install a colour inkjet solution in early 2013.
"Our customers want a colour inkjet solution and we have to respond to that. The education sector is particularly keen on colour," he said.
Publishers who attended the conference confirmed that they would welcome the option for digital colour printing, providing that the quality is comparable to litho. Oxford University Press director of stock planning Paul Major said: "I could see colour inkjet flying if the quality is there. Books need to be more creative and so do publishers."
Taylor and Francis head of inventory Gareth Jarrett added: "Digital colour is very interesting to us for further education and textbooks."
Meanwhile, Clays director of manufacturing David Mickleburgh said that the company would not be investing in colour digital in the near future.
"Colour doesn’t cover enough of our market, which makes it is difficult to justify the cost of investing at the moment," he said.
Print consultant and industry veteran Andy Tribute, who also attended the conference, said that speed to market is another growing consideration for publishers, and an area where UK printers have the edge over overseas competitors.
"The general trend is that people want things much more quickly," he said.
Tribute warned, however, that UK publishers are lagging behind their US counterparts in acknowledging the importance of inventory management.
"In the UK, publishers still don’t see inventory management as a core part of their role but in the US they have a different attitude. I think this will change dramatically over the next three years as publishers change their business model," he said.
Ashford’s Mark Jones added: "At the moment it still goes against the grain for publishers to look at whole life-cycle of book rather than the unit cost."
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