Xlibris

Author Services

The Aftermarket

Digital Printing: On Demand, Short-Run

New in Printing: Direct to Plate

Large Formats on Youngs Road

The `Web’ Company

Corrections or additions?

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

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Xlibris

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."

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Author Services

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

will publish."

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The Aftermarket

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

inverted economics."

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."

Xlibris, 36 South Broad Street, Trenton 08608-2102.

John Feldcamp, president. 609-278-0075; fax, 609-278-0445. Home

page: http://www.XLIBRIS.com.

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Digital Printing: On Demand, Short-Run

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

market."

The Cranbury plant is one of seven Impressions centers started in

1995 by UARCO, a company purchased by Standard Register at the end

of 1997.

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

Stanfast impressions, 28 Engelhard Drive, Cranbury

08512. Steve Flood, operations manager. 609-655-2557; fax, 609-655-1731.

URL: http://www.stdreg.com.

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New in Printing: Direct to Plate

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

Chicago.

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."

basysPrint, 745 Alexander Road, Unit 4, Princeton

08540. Jeffrey Vargo, president. 609-419-8900; fax, 609-419-0678.

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Large Formats on Youngs Road

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

do."

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

buried."

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

Clarici Screen Printing Incorporated, 88 Youngs

Road, Mercerville 08619. Gene Clarici, owner. 609-587-7204; fax, 609-587-5932.

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The `Web’ Company

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

formats."

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

medium."

Webcraft Technologies, 993 Lenox Drive, Building

2, Suite 116, Lawrenceville 08648. Ted Sherwin, president. 609-671-4000;

fax, 609-671-4037.

Corrections or additions?


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