Capacity constraints create opportunity. If it becomes difficult to get something done, then sooner or later someone’s going to move to sop up the excess demand slopping around in the marketplace.

Maple Press has just installed a new ink jet machine. Printing Impressions tells the story. Maple, of York, PA see their new HP PageWide Web Press T260 as enabling them to produce another 100,000 books a week in runs from 250 to 6,000 or so. They opine that this ink jet press can print as good a halftone as the best offset presses. Maple Press‘s overall annual capacity is 13 million hardback and paperback books.

If you don’t see a video here (from the Maple Press site) please click on the heading of this post in order to view it in your browser.

One swallow comes; another goes. In the same PI edition is a link to The Target Report‘s report on the state of the paper industry, another huge constraint on book manufacturing capacity. Here the picture remains troubling. Given that the industry was already redirecting capacity pre-pandemic in response to reduced book manufacturing demand, and that our intense supply-chain difficulties are largely a consequence of the boom in book demand in 2020 and 2021, allied to a bump in demand for packaging papers, it may turn out that when book paper demand reverts to long-term trend, our troubles will recede. 2022 book sales do seem to be down from the frenzied heights of the past two years, but are still strong as against 2019. The trouble is that while buying and installing a printing press takes a matter of months, rebuilding a paper machine takes years. While supply can be turned off fairly quickly for this or that type of paper, getting the supply up again is a slow process.