The entries, commended and winning entries in this year’s British Book Design & Production Awards were representative of an industry regaining its confidence in the face of premature obituaries following the arrival of the internet and ebook readers.
Far from demise, the British publishing industry is in rude health. It has become a sector valued at £1.9 billion and has grown 60% in eight years. Whether this confidence is the result of improved production technology, the bracing wind of competition from digital technologies or simply renewed confidence in physical books is hard to say.
What is clearer as the five-strong judging panel comments in the introduction to the catalogue for the night, the crop of more than 500 entries impressed the judges “by the diversity of styles and incredible attention to detail. These ranged from choices of paper, text block edge decoration and embossing techniques … which demonstrated innovation combined with style and skill, despite budgetary constraints”.
BPIF chief executive Charles Jarrold heralded the "renaissance" of printed books brought about by technology that enables shorter runs and encourages greater creativity among publishers. He made special mention of the Student Award where the quality of the entries he said "was superb".
The Book of the Year award for The Imaginary, a children’s illustrated trade title demonstrated this, showing how publishers were “upping their game on standard trade editions”. It was “simply breathtaking”. It was also printed in China by C+C Offset.
This was the most successful printer of the evening, achieving ten wins or highly commended mentions. Italy’s Graphicom achieved seven mentions while Pureprint was the most successful of the UK printers with six commendations. There fewer books produced in the Far East on the shortlists, compensated for by an increase in European produced books from Scandinavia to the Balkans with German printers winning in two categories alongside four for the Italians.
As well as Pureprint winner in three categories including the Best British Book for Jon Bannenberg: A Life of Design, Charlesworth shared an award for the best Self Published Book (a new category) and Northend Print Services for the presswork on the winner of the Case Binding award. Generation Press won the Digital Print award for Formation, a book printed in white on black GF Smith papers.
There was constant mention of the choice of paper in all the categories, indicative of the importance attached to the look and feel of what is printed in an increasingly digital age. But publishers have not ignored digital. The Multimedia category threw up Jurassic World, printed in China by RR Donnelley Asia, which has its own app to bring the printed dinosaurs to life on a smartphone.
The catalogue of the night continued this theme with an app to link to videos of each winner, digitally embossed casebound cover, foiled and laminated in five different colours by Precision Printing. “To make this year’s book stand out from the crowd we really needed to go all out,” says Precision group managing director Gary Peeling.