Catalog Production in the Digital Age
Digital Production: A Precursor to Digital Printing?
No look into the future of catalog printing would be complete without some serious discussion on digital printing. In February 2003, CAP Ventures and WhatTheyThink.com published a survey of about 100 printers, and a mere 16.4 percent suggested that the catalog industry could benefit from print-on-demand solutions such as those from Xerox, Océ Printing Systems, IBM, HP Indigo and Xeikon.
By Larry Zusman’s estimation, this may be an understatement of digital printing’s true potential in the market. Zusman, manager of VI solutions marketing, integrated marketing and solutions operations for Xerox’s Production Systems Group, says the catalog industry is among the top three target markets for its most recently introduced iGen3 digital color production press.
“For a long time, it’s been a challenge to print personalized catalogs,” Zusman says. But digital printing obliterates most of these daunting challenges. Today’s digital presses can produce as much as 100-percent variable content in color that rivals offset, says Zusman. But just because digital presses can print that much variable data doesn’t mean catalogers should go hog wild over customization. “Spot personalization is the more likely approach catalogers will take,” he says.
And because shorter runs are often less expensive to produce digitally, catalogers who produce large page-count books may find that producing smaller, more targeted versions of catalogs gives them more bang for their buck. Per-page costs are quite compelling for short- to long-run lengths (but not ultra-long runs), Zusman adds, and the presses are better equipped to handle a wider array of printing stocks, even lightweight papers.
But what’s really exciting, Zusman says, is the behind-the-scenes press manufacturer/post-processing cooperation and CIP4 standards development that’s led to a comprehensive list of in-line finishing options for catalogs.
“Digital printing and in-line finishing will change the world of catalog printing,” Zusman predicts. “Just think, in a single pass, you can now print, fold, cut, saddle-stitch or perfect-bind, and prepare the catalog for packing and distribution.”