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These stories by Phyllis Maguire, Peter J. Mladineo, and Barbara Fox, were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on May 6,
1998. All rights reserved.
Publishing to Order
From carved clay tablets to papyrus scrolls, from the
hand-gilded masterpieces of Irish monks to Gutenberg’s painstaking
revolution, a book — in its many incarnations — has always
been a thing of beauty. Despite the dominance of computers, you just
can’t curl up with a laptop or rock in a hammock with your favorite
monitor. One lesson the Information Age has delivered is that books
are simply irreplaceable.
But publishing methods decidedly are not, and are long overdue for
an overhaul. That is the entrepreneurial premise of the Trenton-based
Xlibris, the brainchild of two guys in search of a great idea. Xlibris
— a play on the Latin for "from the library of," the classic
bookplate — is determined to drag publishing into the Digital
Age. Capitalizing on technological innovations and on trends transforming
the industry, Xlibris is making book publishing, still a bastion of
lavish craft and exclusivity, available to the electronic Everyman.
President John Feldcamp is a 36-year old Canadian who graduated from
the University of Toronto in 1986, majoring in English composition
with a specialist’s degree in psychology. He spent five years working
for Oki Business in Japan before moving to Mt. Laurel, New Jersey,
in 1992 to found Oki Business Digital, a digital publishing subsidiary.
Feldcamp served as vice president of operations.
"Information or content strategy was always part of my work,"
he says of his eight years with the Japanese telecommunications and
electronics manufacturer. "I had to manage customer information
in 40 markets and 20 languages for hundreds of products, and that
led me to rely on the Web. It was an excellent vehicle to deliver
information in multiple countries across product lines." A fiction
author in his spare time, Feldcamp first met Christopher B. Kelly,
now 33, when he was looking for a chief financial officer. Kelly,
a CPA with an MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill, ended up staying at the North Carolina venture capital firm
he was working with at the time, but he and Feldcamp kept talking.
"We were trying to think of a business we could start, something
no one else had yet perceived," Feldcamp recalls. "After much
discussion, we zeroed in on book publishing. It struck us as being
in a time warp; with so many industries massively affected by computing,
technology seems to have passed publishing right on by."
It is an industry, he says, still very much craft-based. "The
layout and design of each title is still a manual event," Feldcamp
explains. "Each title has an individually designed cover, along
with a select proofreader and copyeditor. Book publishing employs
roomfuls of skilled craftspeople, all of whom I greatly respect, but
the result is very high cost. The cold equations of publishing are
such that you need to minimize the number of such big investments
and try to guarantee the largest possible return on that small selection."
The would-be entrepreneurs also noted that, though publishing had
resisted digital automation, the industry was being reconfigured by
very contemporary merger mania. Last month’s bid for Random House
Inc. by the German media giant Bertelsmann AG was more proof that
while bigger might seem better for business, that point of view is
not necessarily shared by consumers and it strikes fear into the hearts
of many authors. Fewer publishing houses translate into larger advances
for a shrinking number of mega- and celebrity authors who can produce
volume sales, with break-even points typically in the tens of thousands
of units. "Midlist," says Feldcamp, "is now blacklist."
The fledgling partners also perceived that book publishing has neither
a pre nor an aftermarket. Feldcamp offers this startling statistic:
of the 500,000 books written in the United States every year, only
50,000 get published. And only one tenth of that tenth — 5,000,
or one percent of all books written — receives anything close
to vigorous marketing or promotion. Very few books stay in print for
more than a year, and their aftermarket — that is, life after
going out of print — doesn’t exist.
As for publishing’s pre-market, those 450,000 authors
who don’t make the traditional grade, publishing houses were no longer
the only game in town. "The cost of publishing is now falling
so radically that many authors self publish," Feldcamp says. Thousands
of authors, the partners noted, were choosing the Web as a publishing
medium. But while publishing logistics are completely amenable to
cost-reduction through technology, the finished product is not.
"Online book publishing is ineffective," Feldcamp says bluntly.
"People don’t want to read online; they want to hold a good, old-fashioned
book in their hands." Online book distribution was already being
blazed by Amazon.com, a 1994 Seattle start-up and solid online commerce
success story, though it has yet to be profitable as it pursues acquisitions.
It is also receiving stiff competition from BarnesandNoble.com, with
Bertelsmann’s Books Online soon to join the fray. The slot the two
partners decided to fill was to provide publishing and distribution
services to the potentially huge self-publishing market.
Seed capital was obtained, with prolific science fiction writer Piers
Anthony, frustrated by the number of his novels going out of print,
a major investor. Feldcamp and Kelly divested themselves of their
day jobs, Feldcamp says, fraught with fear and excitement: "Anyone
who starts a new firm without some anxiety is probably not thinking
clearly and shouldn’t be doing it."
Xlibris offers two tiers of author services. For a Level I fee of
$450 and a book supplied in electronic form, the company digitally
formats a bound hardback of up to 800 pages, programming it with codes
for pagination, and text and title styles. Stored electronically,
the book can be ordered via the Xlibris Webpage (www.xlibris.com)
or by phone, fax, or mail. When ordered, books are manufactured in
single-unit quantities (see Stanfast sidebar, page TK) with gold spine
stamping and an extensive choice of dust jacket covers. The price
for a single copy is comparable to bookstores, averaging between $20
and $25, though electronic copies — which are much less popular
— are available for $8 apiece. Xlibris ships the book to the buyer
and pays quarterly royalties to authors of $4 for each copy sold.
"With this approach, the economics of publishing get flipped around,"
Feldcamp says. "Instead of producing 10,000 books and praying
that they sell, our warehouse is a computer and our inventory is entirely
digital. Since the printing method used is also digital, it doesn’t
matter if one copy of 50 titles, or 50 copies of one title, gets produced."
Authors retain full control of copyright, and if, after publishing
with Xlibris, they attract a traditional publisher — as James
Redfield did with his self-published phenomenon, "The Celestine
Prophecy," in 1993 — authors can contract with another publisher
at any time.
The reaction among the more than 100 Xlibris authors is, says Feldcamp,
"almost evangelical. They’re very pleased to have the power left
in their hands."
Level II services, which cost $300, connect an author’s Xlibris publication
to the global market of consumers and distribution, providing essential
registrations and assignments. First among them is the International
Standard Book Number, or ISBN, with which a title can be ordered by
any bookseller. Other services include a Library of Congress catalog
card number, copyright registration, a listing in R. R. Bowker’s Books
In Print database, a specific UPC code assignment, and the registration
of the work with Amazon.com — a company, Feldcamp points out,
that has been busy compiling a customer database while it’s been racking
up a quarter billion dollars in annual sales.
"Amazon.com never forgets people who buy from them," he says.
"They know what their customers want and can recommend related
selections, enabling people to rapidly find titles they’d like, regardless
of whether the book has been aggressively marketed." The database
capacity of online booksellers — and of online commerce in general
— allows companies to match consumers with specific interests
and will change the ways in which books are marketed.
"Traditional marketing and promotion, as a broadcast strategy,
are expensive and ineffective," Feldcamp says. "We think that
type of promotion will be replaced by highly automated matching systems
that stay in the background and help people meet a specific interest.
The narrow-casting being done by new media is more of a one-to-one
deliverable. By manipulating database information, it becomes much
easier to match even a very narrowly focused book with the 1,000 people
in the country who might give a damn about that title. Within just
a few years, the vast majority of authors out there who want to publish
Another changing area of publishing is the aftermarket.
About 1.5 million titles have gone out of print since 1979, but "I
would argue that five years from now, there won’t be many books going
out of print because they’ll all be stored digitally." Xlibris
is pursuing contracts with different publishers — M. Evans & Company
and Regnery Publishing Inc. are clients – to carry their out of print
titles, making them available to buyers once again.
But doesn’t the grueling winnowing process in traditional publishing
serve a purpose, letting the literary cream rise to the top? "Do
you include Marcia Clark in that cream?" Feldcamp counters. "Good
books do succeed because they have a large potential market, but many
very good authors do not sell enough to interest a traditional publisher."
He points out that some craft functions, like editing, will remain
fundamental, adding value to the published product. "But many
of publishing’s labor functions are outdated, and those we don’t sell."
In the near future, Feldcamp see Xlibris developing relationships
with outside editors and proofreaders, enabling authors to avail themselves
of services not in-house. "Basically, we’re going to end up looking
a lot like a publishing house with much more technology and strangely
One kink still being worked out is volume orders for authors who wish
to send out review copies. And with his time for fiction-writing curtailed
by his publishing enterprise, Feldcamp has yet to see his own novel
in print, though he is confident he will. "New data for it is
being keyed in," he reports. New data — for a novel?
"Books are data," Feldcamp replies. "It’s that insight
that makes us different. Once you realize that a book has nothing
to do with the pages it lives on and that words are bits to which
data processing can be applied, everything about this industry changes."
John Feldcamp, president. 609-278-0075; fax, 609-278-0445. Home
If Ben Franklin, America’s preeminent printer, could
tour Stanfast Impressions’ Cranbury site, he would be amazed. No longer
are workmen brushing ink on type, hanging wet broadsides up to dry.
The plant where Xlibris titles are printed — along with a great
deal of Central New Jersey’s other business printing — features
10 gently humming printing machines, each the size of a VW Beetle,
and a pre-press department with 10 computer terminals. Xlibris’ publishing
strategy depends not only on the digital storage, editing, and delivery
of text, but also on a new generation of printing equipment that can
process a staggering array of electronic formats.
"Digital print has changed the way we think about printing,"
says Stephanie Gerstein, account executive for Stanfast Impressions,
which is owned by the Dayton, Ohio,-based Standard Register. Gerstein
claims that digital printing, which should account for 20 percent
of all printing business by the year 2000, has created a new, economically
viable market for on-demand, short-run printing.
"In traditional printing, you went through a whole pre-press and
color separation process, making film and then plates," she says.
"That made the cost of short runs prohibitive. There is so much
`make-ready’ in traditional offset press, a printer might throw out
300 copies before he gets a machine up and running." With traditional
methods, unit printing costs dropped only with volume, encouraging
customers to buy in greater bulk. Surplus had to be warehoused, and
obsolete materials were thrown away.
In digital printing, traditional pre-press processes have been eliminated.
In order to cost-effectively print short runs — like one copy
of a book — Xlibris formats all of its titles according to a standardized
template Gerstein refers to as a "box," adding, "The box
is the same, no matter what’s in it. Our machine takes the entire
file of, say, 100 dust jackets and process it as one job." The
finished product, a hardbound book with a four-color laminated dust
jacket cover, is much more sophisticated than "printing" a
book on your laser printer, but not much more expensive.
The short-run capabilities of digital printing also make it possible
to target very specific audiences. "Because you can update an
electronic file very quickly, short run print material doesn’t become
obsolete," says Gerstein. "You now can print 50 copies of
a project for a specific focus group. Or, to give a presentation in
four different cities, instead of ordering 1,000 general copies, you
can tailor 250 for each location, with information on that particular
The Cranbury plant is one of seven Impressions centers started in
1995 by UARCO, a company purchased by Standard Register at the end
The Impressions centers have four-color digital printing capabilities,
while many other Stanfast printing locations are digital document
centers offering black and white and spot color printing. Serving
local markets through many different locations is another new feature
of the industry. Says Gerstein: "We now distribute and print,
rather than print and distribute."
— Phyllis Maguire
08512. Steve Flood, operations manager. 609-655-2557; fax, 609-655-1731.
When a brochure or newspaper page is "camera ready,"
it needs absolutely no changes. It is ready to be photographed, and
that film image will be "burned" onto an aluminum plate and
put onto the printing press.
That’s the old way. But the printing industry is in flux. Over the
last eight years everyone in the printing industry changed to digital.
Three years ago printers began to take pages from the computer, omit
the camera step, and transfer the digital pages directly from the
computer onto laser thermal plates.
The very latest technology will bypass the expensive thermal plates
and print the pages on the standard aluminum plates. So at the same
time that a Trenton firm is getting set up to publish very small,
one-book-at-a-time print runs (see story on XLibris, page 18), a sales
office on Alexander Road is demonstrating the machines to print thousands
of pages by going direct from computer to aluminum plates.
Jeffrey Vargo, 42, opened a four person sales office with demonstration
machines at 745 Alexander Road last summer. His firm, BasysPrint,
makes computer to plate imaging systems for printing equipment manufacturers.
A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, he has been in the printing
industry for 20 years, most recently as vice president of operations
at Man Roland, a printing press manufacturer, based in Secaucus and
The new computer-to plate-imaging system is now cost effective for
those who publish high quality color or those who print thousands
of pages a year, such as weekly news magazines.
"Our system translates it, take the image, and puts it onto a
conventional aluminum plate," says Christine Risley, the treasurer
and office manager. Born in Frankfurt, she is bilingual and has a
degree from College of New Jersey, Class of 1992, in international
studies. She and Varga had worked together in Westhampton for another
German firm, MBO America, a folding machine manufacturer.
"Our competitors are companies that use laser thermal plates,
and they are a good 60 to 70 percent more expensive. With a high volume,
you would save a lot of money," she says.
The 45-employee German firm is the sole owner of this technology,
invented in 1993 in what used to be East Germany, in a town called
Bardowick. The firm obtained a government grant, and then moved to
Boizenburg, near Hamburg, Germany, where the machines are now made.
Most firms in this area still print digital pages onto film before
burning them onto the aluminum plates. "We will be moving to a
direct-to-plate system within a year or so," says Jon Parker of
Brunswick Pike-based Parker Communications, a $10 million firm that
does 70 percent of its business in four-color printing for the commercial
and fine art market. "The biggest problem we have found is, we
don’t feel confident that our clients are ready for it. The material
we are getting in needs to be proofed."
The direct-to-plate systems work better for major publishers that
are confident in the impeccability of their copy and don’t need refined
proofs, says Parker. "When you work with corporations and agencies,
everyone does it differently, and there are more problems with the
files. We are switching over to give digital proofs to our clients.
If that works, we will go to the next step, direct to plate."
"With our system, working with the Japanese firm Toyo Ink, we
can provide color proofs," says Risley, "and the proofs are
applied — not to special paper — but directly to the stock
on which you will run the job."
08540. Jeffrey Vargo, president. 609-419-8900; fax, 609-419-0678.
The three employees staying late at Clarici Screen Printing
all share two things in common: One, none of them smell the sweet,
slightly toxic smell of the ultraviolet inks emitted by the printing
machines. Two, they are all members of the Clarici family.
Gene Clarici Sr., 64, is the president; his son, Gene Jr., 40, is
the company’s self-described "roamer" and computer graphics
guy; and Meg Clarici (Gene Jr.’s sister) is the office manager. (Frank
Clarici, 90, is retired). Some employees linger on their way out the
door at this time (6:30 p.m.), but on most days this family core is
the late crew.
It could be a Rockwell classic portrait of a family business, and
indeed, Rockwell himself could have painted an early portrait of the
company. The firm was started by Frank Clarici, Gene Sr.’s father,
as a printer of movie theater posters during the Roaring ’20s. By
the ’40s, the company earned its keep printing parachutes for another
Trenton-based firm, the Switlik Parachute Company.
More than five decades after its 1923 founding, the firm has grown
a little and diversified a lot, moving to new 17,000-square-foot facility
at 88 Youngs Road in Hamilton from East Franklin Street in Trenton.
It now prints everything from banners to clear view decals to floor
displays. It specializes in four-color process work and large-format
printing and everything in between, but it is not a high-profile business.
"We’re a lot of peoples’ best-kept secret," says Clarici Jr.
(Rider University, Class of 1980). "Clients are like a Who’s Who.
In an industry where most people do T-shirts, we haven’t done a T-shirt
in 40 years. People say `What do you do?’ We say it’s what don’t we
Clarici takes on projects others fear — or simply don’t have the
resources to accept. "We do what people can’t do," he says,
noting that to stay alive in this business, a business must keep up
with the times. "We reinvent ourselves every five years,"
he says. "We have to stay up with what the market wants or get
Most of Clarici’s competitors are in the midwest, where the cost of
equipment, labor, and real estate are slightly lower. But, Clarici
reports, the company has been able to carve itself a niche. The equipment
around the new facility carries a $1.5 million price tag. The two
buildings at the facility cost $1 million.
Clarici usually takes his entire staff (14) to equipment shows. "They
look for the equipment that will help them in production," he
says. "Everybody has a say."
"Screen printing is still putting ink through a fabric, but it’s
the type of image, the type of inks, the type of substrates" that
make it so equipment-intensive, he explains.
The company’s display racks are a veritable history course in fonts
and lettering style. When Paramount Studios started shooting the movie
"IQ" in Princeton, it came to Clarici for some ideas. "Paramount
didn’t know what the posters looked like, we turned to the display
rack and say, yeah, we know exactly what they looked like, because
these were done in the ’40s, by us." Just don’t go to Clarici
if you need to know what Black Sabbath T-shirts looked like in the
’70s. They stopped doing T-shirts in the ’50s.
— Peter J. Mladineo
Road, Mercerville 08619. Gene Clarici, owner. 609-587-7204; fax, 609-587-5932.
Nod if you thought Webcraft Technologies’ manufacturing
building on Route 1 in North Brunswick looked a little bit too dated
to be home for a Web company. Well, it isn’t. This web is the old-fashioned
kind — referring to the large rolls of paper that wend through
high speed printing presses.
Webcraft is a printing and direct marketing firm that recently moved
its headquarters from Horsham, Pennsylvania, to 10,000 square feet
at 993 Lenox Drive (it still keeps that large lottery ticket printing
facility at Route 1 and Adams Station Road in North Brunswick).
The company also has no intentions of changing its name to alleviate
the confusion. "Prior to the Internet that’s all `the web’ was,
web printing," says Ted Sherwin, president. "We print for
just about everybody’s who’s in the direct marketing business. We
do a lot of inline printing, lots of single, triple, and double web
Webcraft’s total sales of $326 million make it the largest commercial
printer in New Jersey, and is especially known for its fragrance marketing
— it direct-mails free samples and creates pull-and-sniff ad pages
inserted in magazines. Besides printing personalized direct marketing
materials, Webcraft has a sister database company that does fulfillment.
Sherwin, 51, has been president of Webcraft since last July. Before
that he worked with Harte Hanks, the San Antonio-based direct marketing
firm, where he was chief operating officer. He also worked for General
Electric for 11 years. A Pittsburgh native, Sherwin got his pre-law
degree from Kent State University in 1970, the year of the historic
National Guard shootings.
Two years ago, Webcraft was purchased by Big Flower, the $1.7 billion
conglomerate based in New York City. Currently, there are 16 employees
in the Lenox Drive facility and Sherwin says there are no plans to
diversify further. "We’re just going to continue our strategy
to stay in the fragrance and direct marketing business, especially
in the database side and personalized printing," he says.
While Webcraft lives and dies by the mail, Sherwin isn’t the least
bit daunted by the encroachment of so many new media to the world
of marketing communications. The volume of mail carried by the US
Postal Service has increased since 1984, says Sherwin, before the
advent of alternatives like overnighting and E-mail.
"People still send stuff using the mail," he says. "People
look forward to going home and looking at the mail. As long as the
raw material costs of what we do stays relatively constant, I think
that we’re going to continue to see people use the mail as a viable
2, Suite 116, Lawrenceville 08648. Ted Sherwin, president. 609-671-4000;
Corrections or additions?
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