Eric Ngema and Anivesh Singh setting up a book sale at St Anne’s Church, Sydenham.
JOHANNESBURG - Every author, publisher or printing expert will tell you that the design, look and feel, and shape of a book profoundly impacts the way you engage with the message of the printed word. In fact, the possibilities of book printing are so vast, that if they are not carefully considered, the magic of the overall experience of reading that book could be greatly influenced.

This is according to David Clayton, General Manager: Novus Print, a division of Novus Holdings, one of South Africa’s largest commercial printing and manufacturing Groups.

He says that first-time authors and publishers often underestimate the importance of collaboration in creating a printed book and the best books are created through a single and cohesive vision of both the publisher and the printing house.

“Find a printer and a publisher who is on board with your vision,” advised Clayton. “The financial and emotional investment of creating a book can add up, so it is key to work with someone who can deliver and meet your expectations, as not all printers are created the same.”

Clayton adds that there are many benefits to authors and publishers who work with local printers, besides seeing eye-to-eye on how the final product will come together. Yet, according to reports, the percentage of local authors and publishers choosing to print books offshore is increasing, with markets such as India, China and other Far East nations competing with local printing markets. In China, for example, there are more than 100,000 printing companies, and its printing industry was cited as the second biggest in the world already in 2013.

The primary reason that many choose to print their books offshore is cost. Initial quotes from offshore printers may appear cheaper, however, there are many ‘hidden’ costs that creep in, which means that using a local printer is often more cost-effective.

“Our publishing clients have more control of their stock and inventory, pay for less warehousing space, and spend less on transport and logistics, which is why they prefer not to print offshore,” says Clayton.

He explained that one of the issues that South African publishers face is not being able to predict which books will be the hot sellers, and therefore their print quantities are often too big or too small.

“If the books don’t move quickly, the cost of keeping the warehouse shelf space becomes expensive. Conversely, if the book runs are too small and they end up not having enough stock to keep up with the demand, using an offshore printer means having to wait for long periods before the stock arrives.”

Clayton says that the costs of being out of stock can pile up, as consumers who don’t want to wait for books move on to a supplier who can get the book quicker. In addition, not having control of your stock can also create cash-flow problems, especially for smaller publishing houses.

The benefits therefore of using a local printer with the right technological capabilities include better control of the quantities of books printed (a lower number of books at a better price), stock control, less time wastage, and cheaper transport costs. Of course, for companies who want to reduce their carbon footprint, using a local book printer is a no-brainer. 

Clayton says that emotional aspects are also important to consider when using a local printer, especially during the colour-pass phase, which is when you are able to witness the first print run of your book. Forming a relationship with your printer that transcends countries is often not possible when you have your book printed overseas, as many publishers, especially smaller ones, cannot afford to attend an international colour-pass.

“When you send your artwork abroad, you are at the mercy of the process they follow, while, if you print locally, you have some degree of control, connection and an element of personalised service, depending on your choice of printer.

“Our clients often form strong connections with the person responsible for printing their work. They also express how they are overcome by a warm, magical feeling as they witness their creation come to life on the press, and hold the first printed copy in their hands. It is a feeling that I, as both a reader and long-time printer, can relate to,” concludes Clayton.  

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE /SUPPLIED