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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mixed signals on the future of the printed book

These days it’s hard to decipher market directions when we’re faced with lots of conflicting information.  Take the case of book production, for example: 

Yesterday PrintAction reported how the Scotiabank Giller Prize is helping to boost printed book sales in Canada.

Additionally, two out of three major Canadian binderies I interviewed for my September-2010 column, “The Finishing Formula” confirmed that they expect printed books to enjoy a healthy future:

Moreover, an October-2010 study on the use of electronic books and e-readers in higher education by the OnCampus Research Division of the Ohio-based National Association of College Stores (NACS) has been widely cited as proof that students prefer print textbooks to e-book texts.

On the other hand, the Colorado-based Society for Scholarly Publishing has questioned this interpretation of the NACS study’s findings:

And in a recent statement announcing the closing of Transcontinental Printing’s Boucherville-Quebec plant, Transcon’s senior vice-president Jacques Grégoire said:  ““Today, because of the major structural changes in the printing industry that have led to decreased demand in certain niche markets, Transcontinental is faced with overcapacity in the book, catalogue and magazine segment of its print network.”

Perhaps further intelligence on the printed book’s future will be forthcoming this weekend at the Print World trade show (Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place, Toronto, Ontario; November 20, 21, & 22.)  I hope I’ll get the chance to pose questions on this subject to panelists at the Monday seminar “How to Win the War on Print”, who include John D. Williams, CEO, Domtar; Brian Reid, President, Transcontinental Printing; Perry Noxdorf, VP Operations, The Globe and Mail; and Frank Romano, Professor Emeritus, Rochester Institute of Technology.

25 November 2010 update:  Although a related thread on LinkedIn's Future Trends discussion group, entitled "Do you think printed books will die?  Are we all going digital?" is already a month old, it's still getting a remarkable amount of play.