New Trends Emerge as Publishers Aim to Curb Costs
The paper market may seem dull to a publishing-industry outsider, but its constant changes keep the publishing industry on its toes. Right now, in particular, there are some major trends going on in the book paper market, according to a number of experts. Usage patterns are changing, costs are fluctuating and paper itself is undergoing some significant transformations.
Garry Zampini, vice president of sales and marketing for Cascades Fine Papers Group, summarizes the changes he sees in the marketplace:
• A greater use of high-bright mechanical pulp grades;
• A greater interest in recycled grades and products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC);
• More intense efforts to reduce costs;
• More books being printed in Asia (China);
• Globalization of paper purchasing; and
• Smaller run sizes for the average book.
Earlier this year, the "New Commodity, Exchange Rate and EPS Forecasts" report by investment bank CIBC World Markets, suggested that "super high-bright paper (i.e., a newer type of uncoated groundwood paper) is making meaningful inroads in serving the book and miscellaneous commercial printer market …"
According to Mike Spath, director of sales publishing papers for Weyerhaeuser, an international forest products company, the increased use of high-bright groundwood paper is a "major development."
Adding to the trend, in early August, International Paper (IP) made some waves in the industry by announcing that it has developed technology to improve the whiteness and brightness of its grades. The technology increases the brightness of IP's standard papers from 84 on the GE scale to 92, according to the company. The whiteness will increase to CIE levels of 135 and 145 with a uniformity of color unprecedented in commodity papers, according to IP. The company announced that it is making product enhancements to its Accent Opaque, DataSpeed, Hammermill, Postmark and Williamsburg brands.
"We're not sure how that's going to affect books, because some books are printed on 84 brightness paper," says Spath, who notes that Weyerhaeuser's customer base includes several trade books publishers. "Is 92 brightness too bright for these applications? We'll still offer an 84 bright book paper, but our 84 brightness options outside of book paper will probably be rather limited," he notes.
The Switch to Groundwood
Another change BookTech has been monitoring in the book publishing paper market, especially among hardcover adult trade books, is a switch from freesheet papers to groundwoods. (Go to BookTech's article archives at www.BookTechMag.com to read "The Changing of Standards," from the July/August issue, which examines this trend in depth.)
"The trend is definitely toward lighter-weight papers containing high amounts of groundwood," says Gary Orso, vice president of sales and marketing for Pratt Paper Co., located in Marblehead, Mass. "Groundwood stock is approximately 33-percent less expensive than freesheet high-bulking trade book papers. The groundwood stocks offer high opacity and high bulking characteristics that are superior to the freesheet trade book stocks," Orso notes.
The downside for those seeking longevity, he notes, is "the quality [of the groundwood stocks] is vastly different, and paper will yellow rather quickly when exposed to light and/or sun."
Some publishers, however, have reported using groundwood in a significant number of titles, including Simon & Schuster, Penguin Group (USA), and Warner Books.
"Ten years ago almost all trade publishers (non-mass-market) used high-bulking freesheet stocks in both paperback and casebound books. Today, it is the norm to use groundwood stocks in paperbacks," comments Orso. And he predicts, "In the next 10 years, groundwood stock in casebound books will be the norm. It is starting to happen already at several major publishers."
As Zampini suggests, groundwoods offer yield advantages to publishers.
Spath says, "You could buy a 45 # uncoated groundwood which bulks to 400 ppi vs. a 50 # uncoated freesheet which also bulks to a 400 ppi, so given the same pricing, you're getting a 10-percent yield advantage."
Despite such potential advantages, Spath says, "There is some interest
there, but at the same time, uncoated groundwood does undergo color reversion after a period of time, and some publishers are willing to live with that because of the lower costs, but others are not and haven't gone in that direction."
Any switch to groundwood papers has reportedly been inspired by cost and getting more for the money. In every segment of publishing—from magazines to catalogs to books—publishers are exploring ways to cut costs, including exploring changes in their paper usage.
Some constituents of the book publishing industry have less flexibility than others, however. "Textbooks need to meet National Association of State Textbook Administrators specifications," says Orso. So "each publisher is limited in their quest for the best product. Although foreign manufacturers offer papers at reduced prices, meeting NASTA is a real problem (opacity is usually too low). So, most publishers use the same domestic paper from very few mills and forgo the foreign manufacturers," he explains.
Workbooks, which Orso notes do not need to meet the same type of criteria, are generally "printed on the least expensive grades possible that offer decent print quality. The trend in the workbook market has been to move off of coated groundwood and use uncoated groundwood whenever possible," he says. "Almost all workbooks for school (k-12) are printed on uncoated groundwood."
Fueling More Cost Concern
Publishers will have to continue to find new ways to keep manufacturing costs in line as paper prices are expected to continue to increase. Zampini suggests that pulp and energy costs will continue to drive up paper costs.
Increasing fuel costs have added to the cost of manufacturing as well.
According to Orso, "The paper market in general is going through a correction that began with modest increases in paper 18 months ago. For the balance of 2005, the real issue in fighting paper costs will come from freight costs. … Freight costs have exploded," he says, "and mills have not been shy about passing along the costs. Shipping paper from one region of the country to another has added to the cost of the paper significantly."
Because of this, he adds, "Most printers and publishers will be pressured to align themselves with a specific paper mill that is in the same geographic region as their printer. …Many customers will be able to save money if they are able to adjust. However, it might pigeonhole some publishers if they are forced to use a specific printer because of its location to the paper mill. Time will tell."
Exploring Environmental Options
Another trend cited by several industry experts is an increased interest in papers that use postconsumer-waste (PCW) recycled content and papers that are certified by the FSC as meeting strict standards in environmental sustainability. And, publishers have more options available to them at lower costs than ever before.
"One of the most important marketplace trends is the increasing interest in socially and environmentally responsible papers," says Stephan Lariviere, market manager, publication channel, for Domtar, a manufacturer of business papers, commercial printing and publication papers, and technical and specialty papers.
The use of 100-percent PCW recycled content paper by the Canadian publisher of the latest "Harry Potter" book and 40-percent PCW by the book's German publisher seems to have fueled the fire a bit in recent weeks as well.
"Many publishing houses are implementing purchasing policies to meet corporate social responsibility criteria across the board, including paper. … What particularly appeals to book manufacturers and other publishers is that since Domtar papers can be made with FSC-certified virgin fiber, they don't have to pay more for an environmentally friendly product," says Lariviere.
Zampini suggests that, in general, pricing for recycled and FSC-certified papers is competitive with virgin grades, and the quality does, in fact, pair up, he says.
According to Spath, "Yes, it's a hot topic, no question about that. There have been numerous meetings and discussions about environmental policy in general, and recycled paper is a piece of that, but it's only part of a larger policy," he says. "[Publishers'] paper suppliers need to be good environmental stewards, too. It's not just about how much recycled paper they make, but about practicing sustainable forestry, reducing pollution, conserving natural resources and supporting communities."
Lariviere comments, "Many publishers, authors, printers and paper mills are all recognizing the need to do the right thing, and use socially and environmentally responsible papers."
But not all paper suppliers have seen the same level of interest in environmentally friendly papers. Pratt Paper Co. has, in fact, seen little interest among its clientele of book publishers, says Orso. "Very few, if any, customers have inquired about the use of recycled papers in their publications. Many paper mills are being pressured to conform to certain forestry practices, though," he explains. "More and more mills are becoming [certified by the Forest Stewardship Council]. In short, each mill receives a seal of approval demonstrating their commitment to responsible forestry practices."
Orso notes, "My customers inquire on the use of recycled paper in less than 10 percent of all our conversations. There is a small demand from university presses creeping up, and I do think in the next 10 years more and more publishers will look into using recycled papers. As the work force changes from the baby boomers to the X generation," he predicts, "the demand will certainly change."