With the popularity of e-books and e-readers like the Kindle, many people think book printing is a dying industry. But they’re dead wrong. Book printing is alive and well—and growing.

E-books, on the other hand? After sales exploded in 2010, their growth has plateaued in recent years. According to Nielsen BookScan, e-book sales were actually down 30 million units in 2015. Printed books, meanwhile, have seen a steady uptick each of the past four years.

John Conley

“We’re excited to show Western European book printers how they can bring color trade book printing back into their own geographies, and solve their customers’ inventory challenges.” — John Conley, Vice President, Global Publishing, Production Inkjet Solutions, Xerox

This is all great news for book printers and publishers alike, right?

Not necessarily. The challenge for many American and Western European printers is a large subset of four-color books (namely children’s books, higher education and K-12 textbooks, and adult trade books) are printed offshore by offset print houses that produce massive volumes at low costs.

For publishers, these lower prices come with their own set of trade-offs. Many of these book titles, for example, have such narrow sales windows that when supply runs dry, the overseas pipeline cannot replenish inventory fast enough to save sales. To mitigate risk, publishers typically order volumes at the high-end of their sales projections, often resulting in overage and obsolescence.

But high-speed color inkjet printing is changing that dynamic. Big leaps in digital inkjet technology are improving quality, speed, substrate flexibility and affordability. With this technology at their disposal, book printers can efficiently produce runs of one to 1,000 units, in their local markets, within 48-hour turnarounds.

Printing shorter runs on demand also helps solve inventory issues—which, ultimately, saves money. It gets books to local customers quicker—a great service that off-shore printing houses can’t match. By printing in the same geography a book is marketed in, publishers are able to dramatically reduce freight, administrative and handling costs, and waste from an inefficient supply chain.

With these advantages stacking up, it’s easy to see how localized, digital printing can become cost-competitive to sourcing large, offset runs from distant geographies.

To carry this message further, next week I’ll be representing Xerox at Hunkeler Innovationdays in Lucerne, Switzerland. We’re excited to show Western European book printers how they can bring color trade book printing back into their own geographies, and solve their customers’ inventory challenges. If you’re interested in learning more, visit us online or feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn to start a conversation.