Bleeding Cool has been covering the challenges that comic book printers have been having of late – to be fair, all printers. For a good couple of years, the printers ran out of paper, had the industry ran out of printers. Of late, while there is still limit and lateness in the system, things have been getting a wee bit better. But will 2023 present fresh challenges?
Jim Fetherston, president and CEO at the printer Worzalla, told a spring webinar presented by Publisher's Weekly and Westchester Publishing Services that printers initially started closing after the reduction in demand for magazines and catalogues, even though book demand stayed up. And when demand increased during lockdown, North American printing capacity was at "historic low levels."
"Now, printers have better access to paper, and publishers have better access to printers, coupled with a "decline in orders from publishers, especially since mid-October, when they began to cut back as sales slowed" but Jim Fetherston predicts "that capacity will tighten again in 2023, a forecast he made based on the orders he has already received from publishers. At present, Fetherston said Worzalla has some wiggle room to accommodate rush orders, but not too much." The last such squeeze led to a manga drought and lateness and cancelled projects across the comics industry.
This is also coupled with a desire of publishers to no longer point in China and that the biggest American publishers are trying to increase printing capacity in the USA, with Chinese lockdowns and increased censorship also driving the move.
Publisher's Weekly also report Matt Baehr, executive director of the Book Manufacturers' Institute, said that other printers agree with Fetherston, while Fetherston states the printing industry's biggest challenge is hiring enough people going forward. So… who wants to work in printing?