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  • the untapped potential for digital book printing is real
    and it is huge
  • we can learn from other sectors with digital services
    how we can make personalization work for us

Let’s ‘go Spotify’ on book printing

What comes first to mind when we hear the words ‘book market’?

Bookstores? Online book selling giants?
A product under pressure due to a perceived value drop of the product itself?

Possibly. But not digital growth market as such, right?

Yet. Fact.

An estimated 30 to 40% of books are returned by bookstores annually.
Between 65 and 95% of those unsold & returned books are pulped.

Approximately 14% of the book printing volume will be printed digitally by 2020,
while between 20% and 30% of the digital volume will be in color, depending on the source.

It gets even better.

The majority of digitally printed books is black and white today.
And 80% has static content.

Adapt and win

Can we make the book as a product more relevant – adapt it somehow?

And two.
How can we create a profitable printing model that way?

Other industries have gone before us.
Take music – see how the model from selling static music through stores on one device like the cd has evolved into highly personalized streaming services today?

So it would make sense to let go of the idea that we can still produce many copies of one book and remain relevant.
If we had digital do what it does best, we would print less copies of custom books.

Custom, as in: a children’s story that features the name of the child the book is for.
A travel guide with content and photos that match your travel plans.
A cookery book with recipes you selected. Add to that science prints and technical manuals in limited numbers…

…and how’s that for a digital growth market?

Back to Hunkeler Innovation Days 2019

So it’s no coincidence that this year’s edition of HID featured so many book printing solutions.
That was not the case 2 years ago. We at Xeikon showed a cover printing set-up, plenty of others showcased travel and cookery books production.

We all see the pressure commercial printing and its margins is under.

But. Printed books remain tactile objects and make us highly sensitive to its look and feel. Read: we desire quality. We need to be able to print on a wide variety of substrates, including coated offset stock.

Which still is a huge challenge for digital printing technologies.
Inkjet printing technology comes with manuals on graphic design, page layout, paper weight and types…
which involves limitations in coverage, in image size, in duplex page content and the likes.
Water and speed are not best friends in this case.

Dry toner has the edge over inkjet technology when it comes to versatility and quality. Go ahead, compare.

Call it the Spotify tipping point

Digital book printing is on the rise.
We predict a paradigm shift, both in the authors’ and publishers’ mindset, towards local, customized and targeted production.

So we may have been the only ones with a dry toner printing solution at Hunkeler Innovation Days,
and we may have looked a bit out of place, even – but with good reason.
We have the technology to be ready when book printing has its Spotify moment. And so could you.


  1. If we all see the pressure commercial printing is facing,
    we should be thinking about how we could anticipate our tipping point
  2. Digital can be the way to make the Spotify model work for printing
    if it can guarantee the printing quality and experience readers expect
  3. The way to go with digital would be local,
    customized and targeted production