Trends to Track in the Paper Market
The publishing industry has changed dramatically in every area, from the way pages are created to virtual proofing to computer-controlled presses to highly sophisticated finishing equipment. Even paper, the low-tech part of our industry, has changed.
How has paper been affected in this highly technical world we work in, and how have those changes affected the way we use paper to produce magazines and catalogs? In my opinion, there have been four distinct areas of notable change.
Paper specifications have been slowly changing toward more “hybrid” options. The standards of grading papers, e.g., #2, #3, #4, etc., have blurred—papers are now being described as “2½” or “#3 with a brightness of a 2.” The paper industry is slowly moving away from the basic grading system to a more purely specification-driven description, which will allow for more unique grades and pricing structures.
Super Calendared stocks (SCs), used heavily in the roto-gravure market for newspaper inserts, have improved their characteristics and are nearly indistinguishable from some #5 coated groundwood stocks. Some SCA++ stocks even rival #4 coated groundwoods. This is good news to publishers who can adopt SCAs, which can be up to 15 percent less expensive.
Recycled stocks have become more prevalent as their characteristics improve, prices drop and options increase. These stocks also play a role in the perception of the publishing company’s commitment to the environment. Many publications are sensitive to “green” issues and are almost required to use recycled stocks. The improvement in their characteristics have helped make using recycled papers a good business decision, rather than only a marketing decision.
Wide Web Presses
The newest trend in printing is the use of wide web presses. These presses print up to 48-, 64- or even 96-page forms. Standard presses print 32 pages in which there are two webs of paper, each printed eight pages per side and imposed in a two-up by four-across configuration. The wide web presses have six (2x6) or eight (2x8) pages across, which obviously requires a different roll width.