14 November 2014 Paper

Books and trends

As long as people read printed books there will be a demand for paper to print them on and the technology continues to evolve.

Despite the dire predictions, the printed book is far from finished. And for as long as there are printed books, there will be a requirement for paper to print them on. This, however, is changing as the style of books that are in demand evolves and as print and binding technology changes.

At one time book paper was easy to identify. Books were printed on papers made from mechanical pulp, where the wood fibres had been ground together rather than have the lignin dissolved in a chemical bath as is used for woodfree papers. The papers had bulk, were white but not too bright because reading is not easy on ultra bright surfaces which will reflect rather than absorb light. And the surface of the paper was ‘natural’, perhaps a sizing or some calendering to render a smoother surface, but without an additional coating.

But essentially book papers were not in the same class as the woodfree papers used for brochures, magazines and catalogues. This did not matter while the main task was to present a surface for reading black text. Colour sections would be printed on coated papers and inserted into the book between sections at the binding stage. And the papers were cheap, easy to print on and helped to keep the cost of book production low. This used to be key for paperback novels, chicklit, holiday reading, airport novels and so on that could be discarded once read.

It is this section of the book market that has been most vulnerable to ebooks and digital substitution. Retention of what is read is not crucial, and the digital version of the Fifty Shades books helped create a publishing sensation where under the normal laws of publishing, such books should not achieve such a massive success, which spurred demand for printed editions. But still at the lowest possible cost.

The unquestioned leader in book papers is Stora Enso which offers an array of different papers, presenting different qualities appealing to different strata within the book sector, for example offering options on bulk, opacity, shade and brightness.

The second placed provider is Arctic Paper whose Pamo paper is the general purpose papers while its Munken uncoated grades and G-Print coated papers are used for specialist and illustrated books. Stora Enso’s volumes have dipped across the board in line with the general paper market and this has resulted in the closure of newsprint machines. Likewise Arctic’s volumes have been affected by tumbling demand from Europe and the developed world. Sales to the UK in particular fell in 2013 relative to 2012, the company says.

However, if there is a reduction in demand for the general book papers, demand for higher quality papers and papers that can be printed digitally is on the increase. For alongside the substitution of printed books for digital, has come a rise in demand for hardcover books, often by people that have read the same title on the Kindle or other tablet. Here the requirement is a for a whiter and better quality paper, though still with an uncoated surface.

Things become interesting when colour is involved, more so still when digital print becomes involved. Most digital presses remain too small for book production, given the format of illustrated books. The HP 10000 is the first to break this with a B2 sheet, which can be folded into sections for binding. Pureprint, with two B2 machines now, has been producing colour books, on the one hand for galleries and exhibitions and on the other for personalised children’s books. Both exploit the power of digital printing, one to print on demand and manage stock levels in a highly responsive manner, the other to produce unique books, personalised with the child’s name.

Rotolito in Italy is also using its HP 10000 for book printing, both sections as well as complete books. These are bound between the pages produced on its HP inkjet web presses.

Most attention in digital printing has focused on inkjet. And this is having an impact on the papers that can be used. All webfed inkjet presses are using water-based ink, which must either be prevented from soaking into the paper or dried before it can do so. This excludes the traditional book papers, although better quality uncoated papers are being used for mono printing where ink coverage on the paper is relatively low.

Where colour comes in and ink coverage soars, inkjet optimised papers seem to be the way ahead. And colour is coming. This year Kodak with a new version of Prosper, Canon with the Océ ImageStream and Ricoh with the VC60000 are all pushing to be able to produce acceptable colour inside a book. The initial market will be STM and educational books rather than fine art or coffee table titles, but it is coming.

Outside the mainstream publishers is a whole eco system of grassroots and self publishers. The latter group will be working with print providers so have little say on the papers that are used, but the micro publishers are something else. These are companies where production values are high and where cost is not the prime consideration.

There might be coming from a design background as much as a book publishing background and want to make an impact with the book. This is driving demand for better quality uncoated papers, something that Peter Sommerville, marketing director at Denmaur Independent has noticed, even if he is not sure of the application: “We don’t always know what the paper is being used. We have seen growth in book products from magazine publishers, using articles published over a period of time in a single title.”

This is just one example of the changed role of a book. More and more casebound volumes are being used as promotional tools, the London property sector for example has taken to the highest production values and print quality for brochures. It is driving demand for Lumejet output from AltaImage and TG Print for example and Premier Paper, which distributes Mohawk’s Panoramic paper for lay flat photobooks, has noted an increase in demand because of the impact a lay flat book can provide.

Premier Paper marketing director David Jones is also part of the trend. “I’m thinking about producing a high class give away in the form of a case bound book,” he says. “We’ve found a well known author to work with. People do not throwaway hard cover books.” The merchant is also discussing the supply of reels for inkjet printing and which papers are appropriate for which applications, including book printing, and how it performs in the bindery.

“And we are seeing interest in our Essential Velvet grade. In Europe this has become one of the more recognised publishing papers because of its look and feel it’s almost a second generation of a traditional publishing paper," says Jones. "We’re finding that designers love it: colour reproduction is superb and it works equally well on digital and litho presses. In general people are looking for specific papers for specific jobs rather than accepting a generic house sheet and certain printers are looking for opportunities to recommend the best paper for that job. That is a noticeable trend and we are receiving a lot of requests for samples and technical questions.”

The demand for greater impact is one that Arctic is well positioned to meet through its Munken uncoated grades, chosen for their tactile as well as reproduction qualities. One of photographer Rankin’s latest publications was produced on Munken Polar rather than a coated paper which is more usual for a photography title. The designer, Bryan Edmondson, said at the time: “In creating a finished product that is going to make the client happy, the designer has a responsibility to choose good stock, a good printer and great repro guys. I hadn’t used Munken Polar before so it was a bit of a leap of faith, but I’m really impressed with the results. The uncoated but very smooth surface of Munken Polar meant we were able to achieve much softer and more natural skin tones than is possible with coated papers, giving the photography a more intimate feel as well as a beautiful finish to the book.”

More and more designers and publishers, ad agencies even, are thinking in this way. It means that while books have a great future, so too do the papers that are being selected. Greater care all round delivers the sorts of results that customers come back for.

« »
Printed books require paper

Printed books require paper

At one time book paper was easy to identify. Books were printed on papers made from mechanical pulp, where the wood fibres had been ground together rather than have the lignin dissolved in a chemical bath as is used for woodfree papers.

The papers had bulk, were white but not too bright because reading is not easy on ultra bright surfaces which will reflect rather than absorb light. And the surface of the paper was ‘natural’, perhaps a sizing or some calendering to render a smoother surface, but without an additional coating.

But essentially book papers were not in the same class as the woodfree papers used for brochures, magazines and catalogues. This did not matter while the main task was to present a surface for reading black text. Colour sections would be printed on coated papers and inserted into the book between sections at the binding stage.

And the papers were cheap, easy to print on and helped to keep the cost of book production low. This used to be key for paperback novels, chicklit, holiday reading, airport novels and so on that could be discarded once read.

Story 1 of 4

Stora Enso

Stora Enso

Stora Enso offers an array of different papers, presenting different qualities appealing to different strata within the book sector, for example offering options on bulk, opacity, shade and brightness.

Story 2 of 4

Arctic Paper

Arctic Paper

The second placed provider is Arctic Paper whose Pamo paper is the general purpose papers while its Munken uncoated grades and G-Print coated papers are used for specialist and illustrated books.

Stora Enso’s volumes have dipped across the board in line with the general paper market and this has resulted in the closure of newsprint machines.
Likewise Arctic’s volumes have been affected by tumbling demand from Europe and the developed world. Sales to the UK in particular fell in 2013 relative to 2012, the company says.

Story 3 of 4

Photographer recommendation

Photographer recommendation

The demand for greater impact is one that Arctic is well positioned to meet through its Munken uncoated grades, chosen for their tactile as well as reproduction qualities.

One of photographer Rankin’s latest publications was produced on Munken Polar rather than a coated paper which is more usual for a photography title.

The designer, Bryan Edmondson, said at the time: “In creating a finished product that is going to make the client happy, the designer has a responsibility to choose good stock, a good printer and great repro guys. I hadn’t used Munken Polar before so it was a bit of a leap of faith, but I’m really impressed with the results. The uncoated but very smooth surface of Munken Polar meant we were able to achieve much softer and more natural skin tones than is possible with coated papers, giving the photography a more intimate feel as well as a beautiful finish to the book.”

Story 4 of 4