What the Lessons Learned in Transactional Workflows Have to Teach Book Printers

Duncan Newton, Commercial Print Product Marketing Consultant, Ricoh USA

Duncan Newton, Commercial Print Product Marketing Consultant, Ricoh USA

I once worked with a man who said he wasn’t going to anymore Lessons Learned meetings until someone learned a lesson. He was being facetious, but there was an element of truth to what he said.

Too often we overlook solutions that are developed in another discipline because we don’t believe they have any application to our specific business.

Digital book production is just such a case. When books started to be produced digitally there were no established workflows that met the needs of the printers. Prinergy, Apogee, Prinect, and even Rampage, all were built around traditional offset production systems. Their focus was on scheduling, making film, burning plates, make-ready, creating imposition schemes, signature folding, binding, trimming, etc. And, for the last 10+ years they were driven by PostScript or PDF file structures. To adapt/adopt, many digital printers resorted to homegrown systems that were built in pieces, difficult to support and still not quite what they needed.

The chief difference between offset and digital is that digital printers produce pages in sequential order. In other words, when the last signature or stacked book block is delivered from the cutter/stacker it’s ready for binding without any further operations required. The first book is ready for binding in just the time it takes to print it.

During the reign of the toner-based continuous feed presses, the easiest way to make books was to bypass the process of signature folding. Rolls of paper went in, the books were printed 2- or 3-up, slit into ribbons, cut and stacked into offset book blocks. These book blocks were put directly into a binder and then into a trimmer. Early digital book printers invented a market for extremely short-run book production where none had existed before. Fleets of toner printers have expanded from just a few machines in one shop to dozens stationed all over the world. Their internal workflow systems were 100 percent home grown and most remain essentially the same to this day.

The Tools necessary for 21st-century communications

“The ADF architecture is the foundation for numerous applications of personalized variable data printing.”

Meanwhile, the transactional printers were doing something completely different…or so it seems from the outside looking in. In 1984 IBM invented the Intelligent Printer Data Stream™ (IPDS™) architecture that still drives almost every phone bill, credit card statement, insurance explanation of benefit (EOB) and bank statement in the world. In 1996 the Gartner Group developed the concept of an automated document factory (ADF) which was built around the core capabilities of IPDS. The original ADF concept was broken down into four modules with the first three focused on the data being received into the system and managing it all the way through from production to delivery. The fourth module was a bidirectional communication control that sat on top of the other three modules and addressed the needs of management for various reports about the operation of the factory:

  • Input—all the data and the instructions that are needed to transform the data into documents processed in the ADF.
  • Transformation and integrated output – the data and instructions are joined, and the documents are produced in the appropriate media.
  • Delivery preparation—documents are prepared for delivery to the recipient.
  • Control and reporting—manages production aspects of the ADF.

The structure was later expanded to include:

  • Document design and content integration—designers and design tools were integrated with operations management and ariable data printing tools.
  • Response management—consisting of integrated response analytics.

The elegance of the ADF architecture wasn’t in the modules but rather in the interfaces that connected them.

Print and mail facilities had to be able to efficiently produce huge volumes of personalized  communications. The ADF model gave technology providers and print service providers the framework for developing and implementing the architectures and tools necessary for 21st-century communications.

The ADF architecture is the foundation for numerous applications of personalized variable data printing. Printing companies with an ADF in place are able to smoothly compile, print, mail/ship and analyze a wide range of marketing and transactional communications including CRMbased printing and TransPromo messaging.

Madison Advisors also noted that ADF handles more than just document production. “ADF now includes data management, content management and integration, color management, and document composition functions previously found upstream1.”

But what has this got to do with a PDF workflow for making books?


Since the acquisition of the former IBM Printing Systems Division, Ricoh has continued to expand the functionality of its software suite to match an expanding set of requirements from print providers that are not doing transactional work. With the introduction of RICOH ProcessDirector, the expansion has become even more powerful and includes a list of capabilities that printers would see as exactly what they need:

  • Automated print management with scalable workflow control functions
  • Graphical workflow builder that allows you to easily apply business rules and logic
  • Optional PDF Mailroom Integrity Feature, which provides document-level control of PDF jobs and 100 percent closed loop reprint automation of PDF files without any further transforms
  • The InfoPrint Ink Suite, which can deliver quick results in ROI by optimizing files for color, automating ink usage estimates and integrating with your Enfocus PitStop server
  • A database-driven process engine with an extensible backbone for process management
  • An embedded IBM® DB2® database, a Print Services Facility print driver and a built-in AFP and PDF viewer
  • Precise management of document reprints from within your print centers
  • Ability to start small and grow as your requirements change

Each and every one of these capabilities can find a home in a dedicated book production facility or commercial print-for-pay shop. The more complex the shop, the more these capabilities become central to a successful production environment. When all these elements are put under one system’s control, themanagement of the company gains many advantages that will make their entire operation more efficient and better equipped to meet tight SLAs.

As a book printer’s business expands, the system is ready. Its open architecture is designed to be extensible to span the total production environment. Adding features like color management, imposition, or digital asset management is easy. The system is so flexible that printers do not have to abandon any of the productivity tools with which they are familiar.

Solutions for Book Printers

“As a book printer’s business expands, the system is ready.”

Plus, the entire framework is in a constant state of review and upgrade by a group of more than 50 engineers and system architects. Ricoh development is driven 100 percent by customer requirements and direct involvement in customers’ shops. These teams work in concert with customers and push themselves to create progressively better systems. Ricoh is committed to providing commercial printers and book printers with alternative solutions that support open industry standards and connections to key production print technologies across vendors. This is seen in the on-going strategy of Ricoh to make substantial investments in companies like PTI Marketing Technologies and Avanti Computer Systems, which have complementary systems.

PTI Marketing Technologies is a leading provider of webto-print and marketing personalization solutions for both enterprise users and print service providers. Together, Ricoh and PTI are bringing new technologies, software and services to market. This enables companies to drive relevant, multichannel marketing campaigns at global, regional and local levels.

Avanti’s core technologies are uniquely positioned to complement Ricoh’s offerings with advanced solutions for mixed environments with wide format, digital cutsheet, continuous feed printers, offset, and fulfillment and kitting operations.

RICOH TotalFlow Cadence for Publishing was developed around the capabilities described above, with a few significant changes designed specifically for a shortrun digital book production environment. It allows

book printers to sort and optimize books with different characteristics automatically while taking advantage of a true automated document factory.

So…what can book printers learn from a transactional workflow?


For more insights from Ricoh see;  ricoh-europe.com/printandbeyond


1 www.dpsmagazine.com/content/ContentCT.asp?P=417

Line of books

Breakfast Discussion on the Next Chapter For Books


At Ricoh we have a strong understanding of what major issues the publishing industry is currently facing and we have created a robust portfolio of services and solutions to help them overcome them. However, it is one of the fastest changing sectors and as such we know how important it is to be aware of any potential market shifts before they make any significant impact.

This is why we chose to sponsor one of London Book Fair’s first ever breakfast meetings and the results were very interesting.

With more than 30 managing directors and CEOs from publishers, printers, associations as well as industry consultants the discussions surrounding the topic of Transforming Creative Business in a Digital Age – Exploring New Business Models was extremely incisive.

It was very interesting to hear how content creation and dissemination remains a key concern for publishers – particularly smaller ones. This is something recent Ricoh sponsored research The Challenge of Speed by The Economist Intelligence Unit touched on. It  discovered 98 % of European education leaders believe they need to change faster now than they have done over the last three years, but are energised about the role of technology in the future of learning and are  interested in ways to make the education sector more responsive. This has led to some looking at alternative solutions such as book customisation and how that supports learning programmes.

Publishers partnering with innovative operations was also suggested as a way of moving away from the more traditional skills set and introducing some creative elements while maintaining core competencies. And while not everyone can follow Facebook’s example of buying Wassap to introduce a fresh perspective there are lessons that can be learned.

Integrating a more creative approach, such as working with a start up, can help a big company make some key changes and grow in a more independent way.

Another option is expanding the ‘direct-to-consumer’ approach which can work well when customer loyalty is strong. Panel member Rebecca Smart, CEO of Osprey group, warned that this was difficult to do and even more so to do it well. There is also pressure on publishers to discover new patterns and new supply chains but there are a wealth of tools to help them achieve that.

Ricoh’s Benoit Chatelard commented it was Interesting to note that the product is not the content, a book is an expression of the content.  It is how that content is marketed that is important. Andy Cork, Managing Director of printer Printondemand-worldwide agreed when he said, as a content aggregator, he needed to understand what publishers want and, as a printer, the business needs to evolve and develop ways to helping sell books.

Publishing and digital consultant Anna Rafferty explained when she was at Penguin a reader community was created as a channel to market but also as a way of gaining insight into market requirements that then informed decision making.

These perspectives were delivered on a backdrop of details on e-reader sales that highlighted a successful 2011 with spikes around Christmas and the release of the Kindle Fire. However global take up remains patchy. The UK is no longer so far behind the US and in Europe interest from Germany was set to increase, followed by Spain. France remains a long way behind. Australia was also a promising market as was India.

What was clear is that there is no one size that fits all and what is relevant in one space is not relevant in another. It is also not about what technology will allow us to do but what can be usefully done with it.

A New Publishing Vision from Ricoh at London Book Fair

Senior Publishing Execs attended the Ricoh Breakfast Briefing

Senior Publishing Execs attended the Ricoh Breakfast Briefing


A New Publishing Vision from Ricoh at London Book Fair

Books are different from many other sectors of print because alongside their functional use they create an emotional connection.  The result is people have choice preferences from a quality hardback or a small but perfectly formed paperback to a weighty academic tome or an e-reader.

It is these personal relationships Ricoh Europe PLC will be exploring at the London Book Fair, April 8- 10, at Earls Court, London on stand R505. We will be showcasing a number of interesting applications and services aimed at helping publishers look at their markets in new ways. They are designed to enhance traditional publishing processes with numerous exciting and compelling services that deliver something extra, beyond print.


Bridging the online and offline worlds

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One such technology is video books – where video screens embedded in a publication link to additional relevant content. On the stand will be two video-enabled booklets in action – an instruction book to train end-users and a promotion for teaching and learning resources.

Another is interactive Clickable Paper that bridges the printed page and the online world to provide immediate one-touch access to multiple online resources such as photos, video/multimedia, web sites, e-commerce portals and social networks. It extends the value of the printed page and delivers far-reaching added value to readers, the magazine publisher and advertisers. Adoptees include Dutch Business Magazine De Zaak – it has utlilised Clickable Paper to add value to its publications – and Barnwell Print in the UK which has enhanced books with value-added multi-media content. On stand Where to Fish in Norfolk will offer a real example of this in action.

We are also developing solutions that support the demand for information to be provided across a variety of media. Open Text Book Portal is an online service that enables organisations such as universities to provide students with access to textbook content in multiple formats including print, Word documents and ebooks.


Custom textbooks and Digitally Printed Books

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Then there is our Custom Textbook initiative for the digital production of tailored textbooks.  For example  the US, there is a large market for customised textbooks and we expect this to become a significant growth market in Europe, particularly with opportunities such as those presented by university professors that prefer to create their own specific course materials rather than rely on predefined textbooks.

Visitors will be able to learn more about these technologies and more by viewing an unmissable 42-inch touch-screen Electronic Learning Table providing access to detailed information, documents, examples and videos.

Of course there will be book printing examples too with some created especially for the show including The Cult of Porsche: In the Beginning. The book is designed to be a print experience ‘like no other’ using the very latest digital printing technologies and papers.


So drop by and see how to start a new chapter in your publishing strategy.


Flexible Production is The Future for Printed Books

eBooks may not have had as much of an impact in Europe as they have in the U.S., but demand will grow. This, along with other dynamics affecting the book printing and publishing markets in Europe, will shape the future of book production, according to new research commissioned by Ricoh Europe PLC.

eBooks represent 20 percent of book revenues in the U.S., four times that of most major European countries, where printed books are still highly prized and under a certain level of regulatory protection by the EU and various individual European governments.  In recent research commissioned by Ricoh, I.T. Strategies found that even in the U.S., nearly 70 percent of consumers said it was unlikely that they would give up entirely on printed books by 2016 and the study found that as much as 60 percent of eBooks downloaded are never read.  In Europe and other parts of the world, however, book publishing dynamics are quite different than they are in North America. Ricoh commissioned the I.T. Strategies study to gain a better understanding of these influences, the differences between the U.S. and Europe in these markets, and the changes that both book publishers and book printers in Europe can expect to see over the next several years.


“There is a deep history of publishing in Europe and a very strong connection of publishing to the culture of individual countries. As a result, there is a common desire by the individual ECC members to protect their culture, which includes protecting the book publishing industry’s established business models.”

Major European Country and U.S. Book Statistic Summary, 2012

Major European Country and U.S. Book Statistic Summary, 2012

“Many of the larger book printers/manufacturers may have over-reached with acquisitions and aggressive price competition in the race to gain market share.  Smaller book printers/manufacturers have remained somewhat insulated from competition due to regional and specialty products focus. But at some point they may find themselves priced out of the market.”

ebook Share of Retail Revenue, 2010-2018, by Major Country

ebook Share of Retail Revenue, 2010-2018, by Major Country

The full research report can be downloaded here.  

Getting started in Digital Print: a Publishers Perspective


This article was initially published to accompany a Ricoh Americas Event for Publishers late 2013.

Mike Gallagher, Vice President, Penguin Books

Mike Gallagher, Vice President, Penguin Books

No matter who starts the initial conversation about digital print, book publishers and printers need to exchange an enormous amount of information if a print agreement is to be successful. Assuming both parties are starting from scratch, here are the key drivers:

  • Publishers want to reduce inventory/cost and expand sales by keeping titles in print.
  • Printers want to enhance their service platforms and add new profitable sales by keeping alive more “long tail” titles.
  • Publishers determine the scope of their projected program and provide the printers with volume requirements by week, month and year—with numbers based on format, units, orders, print runs, bind styles, 4/c cover specifications, finishing, paper grades, carton packs, shipping information and electronic systems.
  • Using the publisher’s data, printers decide which equipment to acquire:
    • Cutsheet, toner, digital web, inkjet, 1/c or 4/c print engines
    • Finishing options and in-line or near-line binding and trimming to match demand
  • Printers provide a plan and price based on a cost model that utilizes equipment options, depreciation, labor, maintenance, consumables, overhead, productivity and margin.

Publishers want to reduce inventory/cost and expand sales by keeping titles in print.

Inputs for volume requirements

Volume requirements are based on several inputs. For example, out-of-print titles which are being ordered by customers, or titles that are due for reprint but for which the annual sell rate falls below a breakeven number for offset printing. Depending on the volume, a publisher could request a print-on-demand model (print only when an order is received) or a small inventory model (auto-replenishment model) for the titles.

The quantities for marketing materials such as bound galleys, advanced readers’ copies and catalogs can be determined based on historical purchases. These are added up by monthly and annual volume to determine aggregate book and page volume. The trend is moving toward digital in these examples, in large part because  the minimum print run for offset now is 1,000 to 2,000 depending on the printer and the printer’s equipment. By not over-printing, and printing on an as-needed basis, a publisher saves a lot of capital.

All-in pricing factors

A digital print price per page all in (paper, ink, engines, binding, packaging and delivery to publisher’s inventory) is common. This approach provides a consistent way to request pricing, but the data provided to printers must be accurate. All-in pricing makes life easy for the publisher, but it requires printers to know their cost structure very well, down to size of carton packs, frequency of shipments and ability to maximize full truckloads. Standardization of formats, paper and cartons are key issues because this improves productivity and reduces cost.

Sometimes, the per-page price applies only to text, and the cover is additional. There are always extras, and these include case binding, Wire-o binding, cover lamination, UV coating, prep corrections, direct ships and fifth color. Labor also factors in, because I’ve observed that if a printer is running only one shift, costs tend to be high.

In most cases, printers will be a one-stop shop for 4/c finished covers, 1/c and 4/c text, binding, paper, cartons, prep services and file archival. Publishers will push for a greater variety of stocks, bind styles, cover finishes and distribution capabilities. Some printers may not have all bind styles or the correct digital print engines for the publisher’s specific needs. If print vendors cannot provide the services inhouse, they can go to third-party vendors, but this is unusual and usually not cost effective.

There are enough digital print vendors for a publisher to find a good match in terms of product, quality, price and service.

Pile of books (1)

Successful agreements depend on more than price

Price per page is the obvious big driver, but other things like location, quality, service, experience, electronic communication, capacity and financial stability also are in play. Location is straightforward because it affects delivery times and costs. Quality varies machine to machine, so some time ago, we said digital print has to be offset substitutable in terms of durability, quality and price. This requirement involved significant changes by paper suppliers, and is also impacted by equipment and printer experience, which can be gauged by length of time in this part of the business. Service means the printer has the right capacity and understands the flow of materials and requirements to put finished products into inventory.

For example, at 1,000 orders a month and 50 to 100 books per order, a manual process is cost prohibitive as well as inefficient. The entire process must be automatic…

Electronic communication and automation are essential. Monthly digital print orders are very different from typical offset orders. For example, at 1,000 orders a month and 50 to 100 books per order, a manual process is cost prohibitive as well as inefficient. The entire process must be automatic—the inventory system sees the reorder point, sends the PO to the book printer, pulls the file from archive, queues it up, and off it goes. Insert hands, and the process becomes too slow, too expensive, and mistakes happen. Ultimately, consumer orders also need to be tied in so they flow directly to the printer. Communicating electronically requires a publisher and printer to use the necessary interfaces, and to be more closely aligned than ever before. This is not optional!

Capacity is not just what’s available on the floor but how much is actually open. A printer can’t help me if capacity is booked up. There can be monthly and annual spikes on both sides, so an average volume per month isn’t useful. Printing books isn’t like printing bank statements,  where you print the same quantity during the same week of every month.

Financial stability is important because it takes time to ramp up. A print agreement of two to three years is better than one year, but if new technology comes along, printers have to be prepared to step up.

We’re seeing larger book printers adopt inkjet because they want to print from one to one million. Inkjet also provides the option to customize and/or personalize some or all products.

We’re not asking for a lot of customization right now, but we may in the future. For example, our salespeople could give their buyers bound galleys with the buyers’ names on them along with a personal message.

The conversations take time

Given all that goes into a digital print agreement, I recommend a slow start-up. It takes time to work out the details. My advice for both publishers and printers is to be honest and up front and share information, including long-range marketing plans.

Meganews – a new magazine publishing model ?

Recently in Stockholm we launched perhaps the ultimate Print on Demand Publishing solution.  Meganews is a revolutionary new concept which brings magazines to consumers.

The Meganews concept

Artist's impression of Meganews in action

Artist’s impression of Meganews in action

Meganews is an unmanned newspaper vending machine with internet access that prints, in real-time, a copy of the magazine you have selected. You purchase your magazine ​​through screens on the kiosk and pay by credit card. It only takes two minutes from making your purchase until a freshly printed magazine drops down the hatch.

At launch, consumers can choose from over 200 magazines and journals.


The Meganews kiosk

The Meganews kiosk

The Swedish journalist and TV profile Lars Adaktusson, his brother Hans and their company Mega News Sweden came up with the idea. Behind the software, the card terminal and the screens is the technology consultant company Sweco.

The industry design company LA + B has designed the news stand.

Last but not least  Ricoh’s digital colour cutsheet technology provides the on-demand, high quality colour printing.

Benefits for Publishers

The solution reduces publishers’ costs for distribution and logistics. We expect that, by printing on demand at the consumer’s location, Publishers will save around 10% of their costs.

It is also more environmental friendly as it saves transportation. About 60 percent less emissions of fossil greenhouse gases are generated during the life cycle of a magazine printed in a Meganews kiosk compared to a magazine printed and distributed in the traditional way, according to a survey conducted by the research institute Innventia on behalf of Meganews Magazines. The reason for this is that 40 percent of the traditional journals never get sold, must be returned and goes directly to recycling.

Almost all Swedish publishers are on board, including Bonnier Tidskrifter, Aller Media, Albinson & Sjöberg, LRF Media, IDG, Talentum and Medströms.

All magazines are printed on demand. This also means that a much wider range of titles can be offered than in a normal manned kiosk – such as back issues.

Tommy Segelberg, Director Nordic Operations, Production Printing Business Group, Ricoh Sweden

Tommy Segelberg, Director Nordic Operations, Production Printing Business Group, Ricoh Sweden

How will  Meganews  be rolled out ?

The Meganews news stand in the Mood-gallerian Shopping Mall is the first. In the next six months, the kiosk will be tested in airports, hotels, hospitals, grocery stores and more malls among other places.

Ultimately we’d like Meganews to go global.   We expect that the launch in Mood-gallerian will be start of something revolutionary.


Request more information

Six Strategies for Making Short-Run Printing Profitable

Rich Lloyd - Global Offset to Digital Offerings Manager, Ricoh

Rich Lloyd – Global Offset to Digital Offerings Manager, Ricoh

We all know short runs are here to stay, so the question is how to make more money out of short run production print while providing the same level of service that your customers come to expect. Whether you’ve been producing digital books for years, or you want to expand your print on demand strategy, these tips can help you.

1. Know your current workflow costs. Do you really have a firm grasp on what your current costs are?  Wouldn’t it make sense to run through that analysis so you have a baseline?  It doesn’t matter if you’re using manual or automated processes. You want to know where you are today, so when you change part of your overall workflow, you can figure out the operational impact and ROI. The more you do this, the more you’ll understand your cost variables and how to manage them.

2. Evaluate your short run publishing output. What are you printing now and where do you want to take your business? What percentage of your business is conventional versus digital? Figure out which jobs cost you the least and the most to produce. Create a growth plan based on current capabilities, your expertise, market opportunities and so on. The most cost-effective digital print solution lets you diversify in the areas where you want to expand but also streamlines the production of day-to-day work.

3. Remove as many human touch points as possible. Labour is costly, and so is human error. You need to be more competitive so you HAVE to be as efficient as possible. Automate as many steps and processes as you can. You may not be able to automate everything right away, but maybe look at a phased approach. Look for modular, open workflow solutions that give you add-on possibilities, and let you plug in third-party software and even your own systems if you want…leverage those investments that you’ve already made in your business.

4. Go beyond on demand book printing. Books may be a steady base of business, but diversifying can be a smart move. Some book printers are looking at critical communications, which are applications that must be delivered to a specific person: insurance explanations of benefits, prospectuses, voting ballots and so on—and often regulatory compliance is involved. Every piece needs to be tracked so you can confirm every piece is printed accurately. Automating the reprint process is essential. This type of work can be very profitable if you’re set up to do it right. The key is a workflow that can tackle a wide range of different applications.

5. Invest in software that saves money immediately. Always be on the lookout for automation tools that you can put to good use right away.  Software that connects your print workflow to other parts of your business is critical to future growth. Self publishing has taken off – have you evaluated workflow solutions that can allow you to play in that market as well.

6. Look into colour management and optimisation. Considering the cost pressures from publishers, if you are doing full colour work, colour management and optimization can be keys to improving overall profitability whether it’s conventional or digital output.

There are lots of ways to increase short run publishing profitability, but they need to make sense for your business.

To find out more, read our White Paper:  Offset to Inkjet – The Bridge to Digital for European Book Manufacturers

White paper - Offset to Digital the bridge for European book manufacturers

White paper – Offset to Digital the bridge for European book manufacturers

This is available from Ricoh Business Driver or, if you are not a member, request it here.