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... where print supplies excel in

underpromising, overdelivering,
and bucking the status quo.
Printing in
Special Report 2011


Looking Better than Ever
The fact that most printers we use are
now located in large purpose-built plants
with climate control instead of cramped
high-rise factory buildings has changed
the workflow, working environment, and
logistics involved in printing a book. It
has definitely improved the chance of
getting a high-quality final result, says
production director Neil Palfreyman at
Thames & Hudson, noting that the
massive leaps forward in prepress and
press technology have also ensured much
greater consistency in the printed result
and higher chances of reproducing the
original work, whether it is a painting,
sculpture, photograph, or some other art
What has not changed in the past 25
years is suppliers inventiveness and their
willingness to find a solution to a prob-
lem, be it some wild and wacky imposi-
tion scheme or out-there style of bind-
P r i n t i n g i n H o n g K o n g 2 0 1 1
ing. We have produced many limited
editions in the past three or four years
which, if somebody had asked me 10
years ago whether we could make those
books, I would have said certainly not,
says Palfreyman.
Despite being approached by suppliers
from Southeast Asia and beyond, Palfrey-
man has yet to find a better balance of
cost, service, and quality than those that
he currently receives from his Chinese
suppliers: However, the reality is that in
this Amazon era, where so many books
are discounted, consumers are looking for
bargains as the norm, regardless of the
costs that have gone into the making of
the book. We will continue to look to our
suppliers for better prices due to produc-
tivity improvement and new, more effi-
cient plant investment.
Asked about the rise of tablets and
e-book readers, he says, Either the soft-
ware available is too limited for us to
reproduce the more complex page lay-
outs, or the screen size and tactile ele-
ment are too limiting or lacking. Thames
& Hudson wholly believes in the unique
qualities of the book and the connection
people make with it on a basic level.
What you get on an e-book reader is
What has changed, what remains the
same, and what to expect next
Looking Back
and Ahead
By Teri Tan
In 1985, Nintendo released Super Mario Brothers, Commo-
dore launched the Amiga personal computer, Steve Jobs
founded NeXT, and Bill Gates issued the first version of Win-
dows. It was also the year PW launched the first report cover-
ing the Asian printing industry, of which you are now holding
the 25th annual issue. (In case you wonder about the calcula-
tion, we skipped one year at the beginning.)
Cover photo iStockPhoto/Nick M. Do
ince then, we have narrowed
our scope to cover mostly the
industry in Hong Kong/
China as it expands to become
the worlds print manufactur-
ing hub. Its evolution from
mom-and-pop (or, to be precise, dad-
and-son) shops into sleek multistory one-
stop facilities makes for a fascinating
story. The best commentary on this
change comes from industry experts and
professionals who have been working
with Hong Kong/China suppliers and
print brokers all this while. They, more
than others, have seen the ups and downs,
challenges and opportunities, past and
present. So PW calls on a few of these
professionals to sum up the past two and
a half decades or so of the Hong Kong/
China print manufacturing industry.
Back in 1985, Hung Hing, then
located in a multistory industrial
building in Tin Wan, Aberdeen, was
just recovering from a severe fire
that originated in a neighboring fac-
tory. Production was halted for over
a month, posing the first major chal-
lenge in my career, recalls execu-
tive chairman Matthew Yum, who
eventually built his own factory
now housing around 300 employees
and 10 pressesin Tai Po industrial
estate. We were into packaging
printing and corrugated carton man-
ufacturing then, and we did not start
childrens book manufacturing until
after our first Shenzhen factory was
established in 1990.
another printer in another country. The
latter has benefited Asian print suppliers
enormously. Another major transforma-
tion, he adds, is the rise of China as a
viable source for printing Bibles on 28
gsm and higher for both short and long
runs, from 3,000 to 300,000 copies.
Bible translation used to take 30 years
from start to finish, and typesetting the
pages would require months to accom-
plish. Now, with modern technology,
the goal is to complete the translation
within 10 years, and typesetting in a few
days, of which more time is spent on get-
ting the typography right, Hill says.
On the not-so-good side, technology
also allows us to make mistakes that
much quickerlike sending an e-mail
message in a matter of seconds that we
regret immediately. For sure, Bible pro-
P r i n t i n g i n H o n g K o n g 2 0 1 1
P u b l i s h e r s we e k ly a u g u s t 8 , 2 0 1 1 4
exactly that: an e-book, which is an
approximation of the physical object.
The physical and the digital are two dis-
tinctly different products. However, the
e-book technology is developing so
quickly that we certainly do not want to
stick our heads, ostrichlike, in the sand.
We do not want to be a dinosaur looking
over our shoulder asking, What meteor?
At the same time, we do not want to be
stuck with the publishing equivalent of
the Betamax video player. We are devot-
ing a lot of resources and money into
developing a workable model.
Digital printing, says Palfreyman, is
still a long way off in making inroads
into the kind of full-color illustrated
book that he does. Sheet size limitation
and high production cost make it com-
mercially unfeasible. We printed a cou-
ple of monochrome text-only titles digi-
tally, but they were more of an experi-
ment. The size of print runs for such
titles still makes offset litho affordable
for us. But as the pressure on inventory
control increases, who knows what the
future may hold.
Not exactly light stuff
In the past 20 years, says Derek Hill,
director of the British and Foreign Bible
Society, innovations in prepress technol-
ogy have transformed the printing indus-
try. Shifting from mechanical artwork
to digital files, especially PDFs, has
resulted in lower production costs and
faster turnaround, he says. It also pro-
vides publishers with greater mobility,
enabling work to be transferred easily
from one printer in one country to
works thrown into the mix. And given
the many creative paper engineers and
artists working today, I am sure we will
continue to see many wonderful pop-up
books in the future.
Pulp and Paper Chase
For paper, the types demanded by the
market have remained largely unchanged
in the past two decades, says Simon
Fung, general manager of Che San, one
of Hong Kongs oldest and biggest paper
merchants. But instead of using or
stocking four to five brands of, say, coated
paper, most printers and merchants now
stock only two or three. Paper manufac-
turers are facing just as hard a time as the
rest of the print supply chain, and they
are improving efficiencies by narrowing
product grades.
The pulp-and-paper industry has seen
a lot of changes: mergers and acquisitions
in Europe, scrap-and-build projects in
Japan, and closures in Korea. In China,
mills continue to expand rapidly, but the
government has been shutting down
those that are not environmentally
friendly. Every mill claims to be eco-
friendly and sustainable, says Fung,
but to what extent do customers
demand proof of such claimsFSC,
PEFC, PREPS [Publishers Database for
Responsible Environmental Paper Sourc-
ing] or PCW [post-consumer waste]? At
Che San, some customers only want to
know if a mill is FSC-certified, but they
end up buying non-FSC grade due to cost
constraints. Others are interested to
know where a specific mill sources its
pulp, especially since Indonesia remains
a sensitive area in terms of forest steward-
ship. Volume-wise, FSC-certified papers
account for less than 15% of total fine
paper sales invoiced by Che San.
The biggest change in the pulp-and-
paper industry over the past 15 years,
adds Fung, is the origin of paper. Today,
most paper comes from China, says
Fung. Back in 1994, it was primarily
from Japan and Europe, and later from
Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia. Previ-
ous dependence on Japanese paper was
evident from the impact of the 1995
Kobe earthquake, when coated paper
P r i n t i n g i n H o n g K o n g 2 0 1 1
P u b l i s h e r s we e k ly a u g u s t 8 , 2 0 1 1 6
duction has come a long way. Now vari-
ous formats are available, from the basic
ink on paper to fashionable versions in
denim material, camouflage colors,
metal cases, or plush polyurethane.
Within the industry, we joke that one
day we might produce the ideal Bible:
pocket size but in large print.
For Hill, Chinas continuing cost hikes
and renminbi appreciation against the
greenback will be the main factors chal-
lenging publishers and Hong Kong/
China print suppliers alike over the next
three to five years. Increasing demand
for ever-higher efficiencies will usher in
more modern machinery that requires
even less manpower, says Hill. At the
same time, competitiveness among
European and U.S. printers will improve
due to more favorable currency exchange
rates and proximity to the target mar-
kets. For short-run printing, I foresee a
substantial increase in print on demand
for Bibles, possibly using inkjet technol-
ogy instead of lithography.
eye-popping Progress
For pop-up creator and designer David
Carter, there have been three major
changes in the pop-up segment: The
most important was the acceptance of the
pop-up genre by major publishing
houses. Then came the shift of manufac-
turing from South America, specifically
Colombia, to Asia, and, thirdly, the
recent rise and decline of super-complex
pop-ups. Carter was with Intervisual
and liaising with top pop-up manufac-
turer Carjaval in Colombiabefore
establishing his own paper engineering
company 22 years ago.
The main reason pop-up manufactur-
ing moved from Colombia to Asia was
because the latter provides much more
competitive pricing, Carter says. Then
again, manufacturing prices are always
on the way up. In the future, it is possible
that the manufacturing base will shift
again. But for now, creativity in pop-ups
means the ability to use less expensive
manufacturing methods to rein in pro-
duction costs. It also has to do with how
the pop-up is used with the concept of
the book and not necessarily with the
complexity of the pop-up structure
Advances in technology in the past 25
years have definitely made it much faster
and less expensive to create pop-ups. Says
Carter, Such progress is most evident in
the prepress portion of a project, where
the latest software is much more accurate
in terms of color. But the greatest impact
on pop-ups is still good old hand labor.
The ability to manufacture super-com-
plex pop-ups at a good price in Asia is the
catalyst that has allowed pop-up artists
everywhere to expand the art form. I have
seen very complex titles created in the
late 1970s and early 1980s that simply
could not be manufactured at a reason-
able price at that time.
The current weak economy, he adds,
has had a great impact, particularly on
expensive and complex pop-ups. Nowa-
days, both consumer and publisher are
very sensitive to the retail price of a pop-
up book. I believe we will continue to see
expensive, complex pop-ups, but in
much smaller numbers. As a designer, I
am currently focused on simpler and less
expensive designs with a few complex
Regent Publishing Services began
in the summer of 1985. An unem-
ployed George Tai (having lost his
job at a color-separation house) had
coffee with a business friend at the
Regent Hotel in Tsimshatsui, and
both decided to set up a business
together even though they did not
have a single client. I used a
friends officeanother color-sepa-
ration houseto communicate with
one U.K. publisher and obtained my
first order: a repro job worth about
$2,500 that provided a gross mar-
gin of 50%. That was in October. Two
months later, I moved into a
300-sq.-ft. office in Aberdeen and
was joined by a junior secretary and
a young production controller. And
we went on from there.
25 Years
ago TodaY...
www. p u b l i s h e r s we e k ly. c o m 7
P r i n t i n g i n H o n g K o n g 2 0 1 1
prices rose to a historic high of $1,500
per metric ton due to reduced supply.
The recent Japan earthquake, in com-
parison, had little impact because
imports of Japanese paper have been slid-
ing since hitting the peak in the 1990s.
In fact, in the aftermath of the disaster,
Chinese paper exports to Japan have
grown substantially, helping to ease
oversupply caused by new capacity in
China. The 2010 Chile earthquake,
however, caused a different sort of
upheaval. Since Chile is a major pulp
supplier to China, the disaster caused a
sharp spike in pulp prices that was
largely due to market speculation. Paper
prices jumped 25% to 30% in a quarter
before dropping to their original level six
months later.
With more Chinese pulp-and-paper
capacity coming online in the months
ahead, mostly riding on the growth of
domestic demand, Fung says, Paper
imports into China will continue to
drop, while Chinese mills will face
heightened pressure to increase exports.
Those days of cheap paperand dump-
ingfrom the West are over, and the
paper industry will get more local. For
major pulp-and-paper players, gaining
any sizable share in a particular market
will now involve local participation, be
it via greenfield projects or through
M&A deals. Consolidation will continue
to occur and probably at a much faster
rate than we have seen before.
The e-volution of books
In the printing industry, Hong Kong/
China suppliers are fortunate in that
most of the books they produce best are
the ones not much affected by e-books
and not very likely to beat least not in
the next few years, observes Thad McIl-
roy, San Franciscobased e-publishing
consultant and president of the Web site
The Future of Publishing. While full-
color illustrated titles are well-suited to
be recreated digitally, the unique experi-
ence of holding and reading a beautifully
printed art book still reigns supreme, he
says. Most of the talk about enhanced
e-books is just that: talk. And while
some appealing and innovative work in
e-book format has been done for this seg-
ment, I do not get the impression that
much money is being made.
On the other hand, childrens books
are really starting to find a home on
e-readers. Recent announcements from
LeapFrog, the leader in educational
entertainment, about its personalized
learning tablet LeapPad will further
accelerate this trend, says McIlroy.
However, while such sales are climbing,
and once again some very innovative
work is being done, physical book sales
are not yet challenged in any important
way. It is more an example of incremental
revenue being generated by a new plat-
In his opinion, the sweet spot for Hong
Kong and China supplierswhich also
represents a huge opportunity for inno-
vation for publishers everywhereis in
custom manufacturing. Referring to the
segment that covers novelty titles and
books with bells and whistles, McIlroy
says, E-books offer ephemeral, two-
dimensional experiences. Printed books,
in contrast, are tactile and truly three-
dimensional, and some tremendously
creative work has already been done. I
think the ball is in Hong Kong/China
printers court to bring new capabilities
and novel ideas to their clients. And it is
far better for manufacturers to show off
their capabilities than for a publisher to
try to guess what might be done.
The market for smart and fun ideas, he
concludes, is always robust. Great print-
ers who are efficient manufacturers will
have opportunities for many years to
come. After all, we are now in a new era
in book publishing that has opportuni-
ties everywhere you look.
The Future is here
Certainly, the decade ahead will be a time
of opportunity, creativity, and growth. It
will also be a time of upheaval, evolution,
and perhaps revolution in the print man-
ufacturing industry. Looking back, no
one could have imagined that an indus-
try dominated by one single company
which did not even own a printing press
or scanner, but was responsible for nearly
half of the books exported from Hong
Kong in 1987, aka Mandarin Offset
would expand into what it is today: a hub
populated by modern production facili-
ties with the best presses and technology
money could buy.
And just as PW began chronicling a
new era in the industry some 25 years ago
for the publishing community at large, we
look forward to the coming years for yet
more stories of outstanding progress, new
milestones, and awe-inspiring projects
from Hong Kong/China suppliers. n
Eight staff and two printing machines were the sum of Leo Paper back in 1982.
The brainchild of two friends, Samuel Leung and Hok Hung Fung, the business,
then located at A Kung Ngam Village in Hong Kong, was primarily focused on
producing paper bags for U.S. clients. Seven years later, its first factory was
established in Nanhai City, Guangdong province, effectively laying out the foun-
dation for its ambitious expansion plan. In 1994, its primary operations and
production were moved from Hong Kong to the present gargantuan Astros com-
plex in Heshan city. Today, the company has more than 20 subsidiaries, over
18,000 staff, and 93 printing presses.
25 Years ago TodaY...
P r i n t i n g i n H o n g K o n g 2 0 1 1
see leaders, innovators, trendsetters, and
game-changers within the industry. Col-
lectively, they have built the Hong Kong
and China printing industry to what it is
today. Many of them, reviewed here in
reverse alphabetical order, have appeared
in this report since the first issue back in
1985. And while there are many more
outstanding suppliers capable of provid-
ing great quality, fantastic services, and
reliable delivery, this report focuses on
the feisty ones that are taking the boldest
leap forward in such areas as green man-
agement, product innovation, color
proofing technology, and digital print-
Our goal is to show what is achievable
and desirable in a print supplier poised
to meet the new age of Amazon, Google,
and iPad head-on. These suppliers inno-
vative and can-do spirit is what cost-
conscious and deadline-driven publishers
need in order to survive any downturn
and reap profits during the boom time.
As always, doing ones homework before
selecting a supplier or signing a contract
is essential.
Twenty-five years ago, we were a small
company, but with quite a big presence
in the overseas markets that we chose to
operate in. Even then, we opted to work
directly with our clients, and that
remains our policy to this day, says mar-
keting director Jeremy Kuo. Techno-
logical advances have made the business
more challenging and demanding, espe-
Suppliers are busy experimenting,
innovating, and developing new products
and services
Aiming for the
Next Level of
By Teri Tan
Consider this: in 2010, imports of printed material and related
products from Hong Kong and China to U.S. shores hit $2.397
billion (or nearly 45% of the category total). That is almost
back to the pre-crisis level of 1998. Obviously, the outsourc-
ing flow has not ebbed despite fervent calls for made-in-U.S.A.
books. Then again, there is the slumping greenback and weak
economy. For print suppliers, it is indeed the best of times and
the worst of times.
printing industries is unavoidable. Pub-
lishers select sustainable and leading
businesses as printing partners, and vice
versa. But for the partnership to work
and flourish, both parties have to sit
down together and work things out, in
addition to looking for innovative ways
to add value and reduce costs. (Hint:
dont expect the same prices as those
quoted three or four years ago.)
One thing characterizes Hong Kong
and China suppliers: their total disregard
for the status quo and for the forecast of
doom and gloom. They see opportunities
where others do notand they have the
guts and vision to act on what they see.
When PW looks at these suppliers, we
losure of big chains like Bor-
ders or small indie bookstores
translates into fewer outlets
for selling print books. At the
same time, e-publishing, hot
as it is, is still a new venture
with an uncertain future. Meanwhile, the
soft U.S. and European economy adds
considerable pressure to both publishers
and print suppliers, says executive
chairman Matthew Yum of Hung Hing,
pointing out that wages in China have
risen around 20% per annum since 2009.
The cost of materials and energy has also
gone up, and currency exchange remains
volatile. In light of these tough times,
consolidation within the publishing and
P U B L I S H E R S WE E K LY A U G U S T 8 , 2 0 1 1 8
Jeremy Kuo, marketing director at WKT

process to create novel printing, binding,
and folding effects. Customers can bring
in sketches and ideas, and our creative
team will take care of the rest. Much of
this growth, I believe, is due to our zeal-
ousness in protecting clients intellectual
property. As such, Im not at liberty to
reveal project details beyond saying that
some have been completed and proto-
types are available for viewing at our
U.S., Hong Kong, and China show-
In short, printing projects that com-
bine special craftsmanship with meticu-
lous printing are TSE Worldwides focus.
The U.S. is still one of the biggest print
buyers around. However, demand for
high-quality printing from emerging
markets such as Russia, the Middle East,
and Brazil is growing. And that is partly
because of Hong Kong print suppliers
ability to offer great
value at competitive
prices, adds Tse. But
the need for middlemen
or regional offices, she
says, is waning, as cli-
ents are directly con-
tacting Chinese print-
ersthanks to technol-
ogy and the Internet.
However, there is ample
room for creative folks
like us to carve our
niche in the market-
When it comes to CPSIA compliance,
Tse says, We have rejected several cli-
ents who wanted to use noncompliant
materials in the production process. We
are all too aware of CPSIA-related con-
cerns, as we review its legal requirements
regularly and keep an eye on the latest
lawsuits in this area. We are able to keep
our clients up-to-date on safety guide-
lines and make recommendations regard-
ing the choice of materials at their end.
And that, to us, is what value-added ser-
vice means.
A broad-based business plan has shielded
P r i n t i n g i n H o n g K o n g 2 0 1 1
P U B L I S H E R S WE E K LY A U G U S T 8 , 2 0 1 1 10
cially in meeting client expectations.
Clients now want a more complete buy-
ing experience. Responding to inquiries,
solving production problems, contribut-
ing to product enhancement and cre-
ationthese are all part of our daily rou-
But putting service first does not mean
always saying yes. We believe that cli-
ents value honesty. While it hurts busi-
ness sometimes to say that we cannot do
certain things, we feel that it is better in
the long run. Kuo considers the past
three years as one big project for WKT,
one that will have a huge impact on the
industry. His challenge, of course, is to
convince the industry that his claim
about his production teams ability to
match color samples by any client is not
outrageous. Firstly, there is D-Tone
5040K, our neutral-gray color bar. It
answers one major question: how closely
the proof matches the look of the printed
page. In general, this is achieved using
GRACoL and FOGRA standards, both
working on the premise that if each out-
put meets the standard, then you can be
certain about what you will get on print.
The problem is that while it is relatively
easy to make digital proofs match these
standards, it is difficult for printers to
achieve the same throughout a print run.
D-Tone 5040K is the solution.
Kuo is now working on providing a
printed sample to clients, as well as the
originating file if requested. If the client
produces a proof from a file that is based
on FOGRA or GRACoL, they will find
that it matches our sample. This reverse
engineering will show that we can meet
these standards using D-Tone, and that
we are able to do the same for the whole
print run. We can print without seeing
the proofswhich happens for some
projectsand it will match.
Secondly, there is the use of stochastic/
FM screening for every job that lands in
WKT. The better contrast and the color
gamut greatly enhance an image, adds
Lastly, there are the green aspects of
the business. Our clients concern about
having products that meet environmen-
tal requirements has influenced every-
thing that we have done companywide,
and we are gaining recognition as a green
factory that is focused on waste recycling
and carbon footprint reduction. So, yes,
we have indeed come a long way in 25
years, especially in the last few.
TSE Worldwide Press
With the first phase of its U.S. office
remodeling completed, TSE Worldwide
now has an additional digital proofer to
speed up proofing and a state-of-the-art
videoconferencing setup to maintain
constant contact with
clients. Then there is
high-end furnishing
and a modern decor to
provide a stylish work-
ing environment. Over
in Hong Kong, we have
acquired a new office
right off the harbor on
Kowloons side to serve
as a convenient stopover
and a central meeting
place for our clients
global, regional, and
local, says CEO Sarah
Tse, who also implemented a brand-new
internal quality assurance program to
ensure the highest manufacturing stan-
dards. This eliminates the need for on-
site sampling or quality testing, saving
time and money.
In recent months, Tse and her team
have been seeing more highly confiden-
tial projects that require considerable
R&D. Because of this rising demand,
our engineers have developed new tools
and guidelines for the manufacturing
Sarah Tse, CEO of TSE Worldwide

Just because you can add bells and

whistles to your title does not mean you

w w w. p u b l i s h e r s w e e k ly. c o m 11
P r i n t i n g i n H o n g K o n g 2 0 1 1
Starlite from the slowing economy. Its
Paris office is doing very well, with
business expected to increase 30% to
50% this year, especially for childrens
edutainment projects as well as DIY,
craft, and hobbies titles, says chairman
and CEO K.Y. Lam. Given the higher
standard of living and better work-life
balance in Europe, the market for such
products is set to grow even further.
Back in China, Starlite now has a new
plant in Wuhan. This capital city of
Hubei Province is equidistant from Bei-
jing, Shanghai, and Guangzhoua fact
that would help Starlites goal to pene-
trate the domestic market. We will also
start our new production facility in Johor
Bahru, Malaysia, this year. Wages there
are about 30% lower than in Shenzhen,
and it also has a sizable labor pool, adds
Lam. Meanwhile, the Shaoguan facility
remains Starlites hub for hand-assem-
bled paper products for children as well
as novelty items. Phase II of its expan-
sion is underway. Labor is abundant, as
evidenced by the many Hong Kong
manufacturers that have set up shop in
that area. As for the chronic labor short-
age in Shenzhen, he says the company
copes by continuously improving the
benefits for our skilled workers and rais-
ing their salaries. At the same time, our
Starlite Innovation Center is hard at
work to find ways and means to replace
manual labor with all sorts of automa-
His team is also busy with bills of
materials as required by both PIPS (Pub-
lishing Industry Product Safety) and
New Directive 2009/48/CE on
toy safety, the latter in effect on
July 20. This work involves a
lot of data collection from the
bills of materials for every sin-
gle order. But it has to be done.
The tightening EU regulation
on chemical use and the revised
Toy Safety Directive demand
that manufacturers of books do
vigorous testing for a wide
range of chemicals and provide
supporting documents when-
ever required. Internally, we are
working on the same for the
U.S. market based on the requirements
laid out in the CPSIA. It is critical to
make sure that our products are safe not
just for children but for consumers of any
Lam is getting his fair share of FSC
projects in recent months, even though
they represent less than 5% of all projects
at Starlite. The price of FSC-certified
paper is usually not the critical factor as
it is just a little higher than that of stan-
dard paper, he says. What makes most
customers hesitate are the long purchase
lead time and high minimum order
quantity. However, if more people go the
FSC way, then such concerns will soon be
regent publishing
Computers and the advent of the Inter-
net have made the printing business
increasingly difficult to sustain, says
managing director George Tai of Regent
Publishing. With global communica-
tion so convenient and fast compared to
15 or 25 years ago, publishers can get in
touch with any supplier in any industry,
and at any corner of the world, simply by
pushing buttons. Comparison shopping
is now as easy as A-B-C, which indirectly
makes using print brokers less attrac-
However, Tai is not giving up. We
continue to upgrade ourselves, spending
more resources on improving customer
service and employing professionals to
explore new markets. Our high-quality
products, reliable delivery, expert staff,
and competitive pricing continue to
bring in new clients. With a lot of hard
work and close attention to our clients,
we will do as well asif not better
thanmost of our counterparts. We
expect another profitable year, though
not as good as what we would like. At the
end of the day, we have to make some
money to feed the 35 people on the pay-
The rise of e-books has hit conven-
tional printing, Tai laments: At the very
least, it drives print runs down to a min-
imum. As far as I can tell, more people
are turning to tablets and computers for
their reading pleasure. Besides dwin-
dling sales, bookstores are also disappear-
ing. Despite the gloom, Tai remains
convinced that publishers will continue
to buy from Hong Kong and China. The
capacity, the workmanship, and, most
important of all, the value of
products that we provide as a
collective group of suppliers,
are not something that pub-
lishers can get elsewhere,
such as India, Korea, Singa-
pore, Thailand, or Malaysia.
Of course, there are outstand-
i ng pri nters there, but
nowhere else can you find a
strong and proven print man-
ufacturing hub like Hong
Kong and China.
Inflation, labor supply
problems, and wage increases
in China are serious concerns
Chairman and CEO K. Y. Lam of Starlite at Hong
Kong Starlite Packaging Seminar
George Tai, managing director of Regent, with The Global
Party project
and cost-effectively. It is all about extend-
ing services and thinking proactively for
clients, he adds. Take one recent project
as an example. His team helped a client
reduce material costs by substituting
expensive gold paper with foil sheet.
Besides shaving 30% off the costs, the
client also ended up with more choices in
color and pattern. Finding alternatives to
help clients keep to their budget enables
them to publish and create more proj-
ects, and hopefully these projects will
continue to come to us.
Nowadays, customers are more willing
to accept higher prices, says deputy man-
aging director Francis Kwok; that has
helped us to cope with mounting cost
pressures. Business activity in the first
half of 2011 at Midas is close to that of
the same period last year. Competition
in lower-price projects remains keen
with very tight margins. To complicate
matters, paper cost has risen by more
than 10% in the first half. We do, how-
ever, expect a price drop in the coming
months. As for the labor situation, it has
stabilized and, given our higher produc-
tion efficiencies, we fully anticipate bet-
ter months ahead. But Kwok, ever cau-
tious, adds, It is still too early to say that
its the end of the tunnel. Given the
acquisitions and closures that have been
going on in the print industry, recession
P r i n t i n g i n H o n g K o n g 2 0 1 1
P U B L I S H E R S WE E K LY A U G U S T 8 , 2 0 1 1 12
to the industry, but Tai asserts that a bal-
ance can be found. Clients will have to
pay a little bit more, and our manufac-
turer friends have to find the right
resources, keep costs down, and improve
productivity. The printing industry has
been around for a few hundred years, and
we will keep on printing. Perhaps, one
day, someone will come up with an idea
that will bring down manufacturing
costs dramatically so that we can remain
competitive in the e-world!
Regal Printing
Art books, photography titles, and high-
end special editions have been Regal
Printings niche segments for a long
time. Nowadays, print runs have
dropped significantly, to somewhere
between 500 and 3,000 copies, which is
pretty low for most print suppliers, but
this range is what we excel in, says man-
aging director Maurice Kwan, who uses
a GMG color management system for his
projects. The proofs we send to clients
are a near-match to the final print qual-
ity95% at leastso they can trust our
production team to get it right. That
does not mean we no longer have clients
flying in from the U.S., our core market,
to visit us. San Francisco-based designer
Ron Shore, for instance, came for press
checks in May, June, and July this year,
and for each trip he had three or four
titles done simultaneously.
And for those wanting quick turn-
around for even lower print runs, Regal
offers digital printing. It uses Fuji Xerox
700DCP and Color 1000 presses for
color pages, and a Nuvera 100EA for
black-and-white titles. We use the dig-
ital presses for orders from one copy up
to 300. Anything higher will go on the
offset press. Since the digital presses only
do softcover, we often incorporate stan-
dard offset binding and finishing pro-
cesses such as wire-o, case-bound, and
other cover treatments. We even produce
products such as board games and card
games using a combination of digital and
offset presses. In the com-
ing months, we will be
working with a business
partner to develop an easy
one-stop book printing
s er vi ce t o be of f er ed
through our revamped
Web site. Finding a sus-
tainable business model
based on hybrid printing
that blends digital and off-
set is on his to-do list.
Meanwhi l e, hi s ar t
depar t ment i s goi ng
beyond normal file tweak-
ing or color correction.
Our team can help clients
create artwork based on their briefs, or do
high-end scanning of old books and rede-
sign the pages to create new versions for
them, he says. The latter is especially
helpful for clients wanting to revive out-
of-print titles or repurpose existing con-
tent. I find that clients are more than
happy to have us helping them in differ-
ent areas instead of just printing.
Kwan is looking into expanding his
range of cover treatments and exploring
new materials that can be sourced quickly
Maurice Kwan, managing director of
Regal Printing
Francis Kwok, deputy managing director at Midas

In any collaboration, day one is not the

issue. Its day 30, day 90, or day 120 you
have to worry about.

Production-wise, buyers are going for

simplicity and creativity, caused no
doubt by the slow economy and budget
constraints. Instead of utilizing com-
plex production techniques, designers
are spending more time creating unique
products using greener materials, adds
Lam, whose team advocates upcycling.
We use waste or surplus cover paper to
make paper bags as a value-added option.
It is a pretty simple concept that is great
for marketing while promoting upcy-
cling. It is quite popular among design
houses since it allows them to create
unique bags to promote their brands at
minimal cost. Naturally, saving energy,
minimizing wastage, and upcycling are
the top priorities at Magnum Offset. Last
year, it joined the WWFs Low-carbon
Office Operations Program (LOOP) to
monitor and further reduce its carbon
Unfortunately, clients are not always
willing to pay for greener materials. In
fact, anything that costs 10% more will
put them off. FSC-certified paper is
more popular among clients whose core
business is not publishing. In 2010,
around 10% of our projects used FSC
materials, but these were from banks and
property developers. Of course, there
were exceptions, especially when a book
publisher opted for very small print
runs. So Lam and her team go about
upping the green factor in a roundabout
way. Lets say we have a client with an
odd-size book that would incur more
wastage than usual. We would suggest
adding in other itemsstationery items,
bookmarks, promotional materials,
etc.that can be printed alongside the
main product without additional costs.
This way, the client spends less for more
while indirectly cutting waste to protect
the environment.
The way orders arrive at Locomotive
reflects the ups and downs of the global
economy in the past few years. Orders
seem to come in like buseseither lots
all together or none at all. It makes pro-
P r i n t i n g i n H o n g K o n g 2 0 1 1
P U B L I S H E R S WE E K LY A U G U S T 8 , 2 0 1 1 14
is still alive.
For now, buckling down and being
conservative is his approach. Our R&D
efforts in new areas have been curtailed
for the time being, and are mostly
focused on fine-tuning existing print
manufacturing techniques. Any new
R&D undertaking is only made upon
customers request. And we are happy to
report that such requests are back again
after a long year of silence.
One segment that has been growing
steadily at Midas despite the sluggish
economy is box printing. We print on
plain paper, special paper, or even those
surfaces treated with laminate, varnish,
UV, hot stamping, embossing, etc. We
also use materials such as leather, cloth,
PVC, and PET. Aside from conven-
tional boxes, Midas excels in producing
high-end handmade boxes for gifts, toys,
jewelry, cosmetics, food, and so on.
Book-plus projects, another of its spe-
cialties, have also been growing despite
industry speculations that publishers are
abandoning bells and whistles for basic
paper and board. We are also seeing lon-
ger print runs for photography titles, fol-
lowed by periodic reprints. This segment
remains our bread and butter. For mate-
rials, more clients are going for FSC-
certified paper. Although such projects
represent a very small percentage, Kwok
is confident that this trend will pick up
slowly and steadily.
His plan to vacate the Changan plant
and consolidate all production in Yuan-
zhou is nearing completion, while con-
struction of the new Shatian facility will
commence later this year. More resources
will also be dedicated to mainland China
to boost our sales there, especially in the
book and product packaging areas,
Kwok says. Given the appreciation of the
yuan and the booming domestic market,
his strategy makes perfect sense.
Magnum Offset
I have been hearing more complaints
from new clients about getting subpar
services from their previous suppliers
most probably a side effect of cost-cut-
ting measures. But the reality is, unless
we move to a cheaper country, rising cost
is something we all have to face and
accept, says business development man-
ager Anita Lam, who still remains opti-
mistic about the print manufacturing
industry. It would be a lie to say that we
do not make any profit. On the positive
side, we still get far better margins than
car makers do. However, given the fun-
damental problems roiling our industry,
sustainability is a concern. Still, cut-
throat price competition is not the solu-
tion. The key is to grow gradually by
maintaining good and creative service to
earn clients loyalty. At Magnum Offset,
the present focus is on staff training and
software upgrades, especially on color
management systems, to improve accu-
racy and efficiency. We have long
accepted the fact that both print runs and
demand will keep shrinkingtwo fac-
tors that have prompted many suppliers
to move into packaging and digital

To get what you

want from your
print supplier, you
first need to know
what you want, and
then communicate
that clearly.

Anita Lam, business development

manager at Magnum Offset
WWW. P U B L I S H E R S WE E K LY. C O M 15
P r i n t i n g i n H o n g K o n g 2 0 1 1
duction planning tougher than before.
Some of this we attribute to market
adjustments to the continuous rise in
wages and material costs in China. Cli-
ents are reluctant to place orders until
they really need to, says director Sarah
Shrimplin, adding that backlist titles
present more difficulty. For publishers,
raising the selling price of old titles is
hard to justify, but rising production
costs make it necessary. This has led to an
increase in new titles, which are often old
titles revamped with subtle twists in the
layout to lower production costs. The
novelty book market, on the other hand,
is returning to true novelty publishing
with one-time printing.
Speaking of escalating costs, Locomo-
tive has finally bought its own office
premises. Hong Kongs love affair with
property is well documented. To avoid
ever-rising rentals, we plunged in and
bought an office in the same district
where we had been renting. According to
our real estate agent, our propertys value
has risen almost 50% in one year. If only
we could achieve the same margin in our
day-to-day business! adds Shrimplin,
who has also revamped the company
Web site to give it a fresh and energetic
look. No idle time for us while waiting
for the next busloads of orders to arrive.
For Shrimplin, 2011 was off to a more
robust start than the past couple of years.
We are hopeful that this trend carries
into the latter part of the year despite
concerns about Europes new safety rules
that took effect in July. One of her cli-
ents, for instance, has had to reclassify
around 70% of its books as toys follow-
ing the new ruling. She says, They will
probably need to redesign many of their
products to meet the safety rules. Obvi-
ously, we have to wait until all related
uncertainties are resolved before we have
a better picture of this market.
But this is nothing new to Shrimplin:
We have seen a whole cycle of boom,
during which many publishers either
expanded or developed their line of baby
books, followed by bust induced by eco-
nomic downturn and tightening safety
regulations. Having joined Locomotive
in its infancy in 1999 from the former
SNP Excel, also a childrens books spe-
cialist, I definitely feel like an old China
hand in all these.
Leo Paper Group
Leo Paper is not short on recognition and
certification for its ecofriendly manufac-
turing practices. It won the gold at the
2010 Hong Kong Awards for Environ-
mental Excellence for outstanding envi-
ronmental performance in philosophy,
culture, and management. It was accred-
ited as a Marks & Spencer Eco Factory,
the first print supplier to be thus recog-
nized by the British retailer. It is also the
first Chinese printer to achieve the PAS
2050 Product Carbon Footprint stan-
dard. Last year, it was certified ISO
14064 for assessing and reducing green-
house gas, and awarded the gold label by
WWFs Low-carbon Office Operation
We have participated in the develop-
ment of more than eight standards that
lead the industry toward a greener
future, says sales director Kelly Fok,
whose team publishes the Green Har-
Directors Jackie Butt-Gow (l.) and Sarah
Shrimplin of Locomotive
Alvin Lai (l.) and Kelly Fok of Leo Paper Group

Finding a print
match made in
heaven requires
more than just
prayers and good

ronmental consciousness. We wanted a

more energy-efficient workplace along
with greater workflow efficiencies, says
executive chairman Matthew Yum, cit-
ing the change to T5 fluorescent light-
ing, which slashes energy consumption
by 45% without sacrificing brightness.
Lighting control is also partitioned by
functional area and passage so that we
can switch off those not in use to further
reduce energy usage. The same is
designed for the air-conditioning sys-
Over at its various production facili-
ties, a number of environmental initia-
tives have seen further progress. We
converted our boiler system in Zhong-
shan from heavy oil to biomass fuel,
while the one in Shenzhen is now using
natural gas. We have also successfully
obtained the China Environmental Label
for our Heshan plant, adds Yum, whose
Fuyong facility is aiming for the same
certification. In the meantime, we are
looking into different ways of reducing
energy consumption, especially for air-
conditioning, and lowering VOC [vola-
tile organic compound] emissions from
our printing presses.
The past 24 months also saw 13 presses
of various sizes and functions commis-
sioned. The Heshan plant now has eight
presses, including a new five-color Hei-
delberg, and around 4,000 workers.
Besides being more efficient and envi-
P r i n t i n g i n H o n g K o n g 2 0 1 1
P U B L I S H E R S WE E K LY A U G U S T 8 , 2 0 1 1 16
mony Environmental Report annually to
share its green progress with stakehold-
ers. Aside from continuous improve-
ment on energy saving and efficiency
plans, we have embarked on a program
of green purchasing. It means exerting
control right at the source itself to reduce
VOC emissions. Examples include heavy
metal testing on all printing inks, the use
of more water-based ink (around 15% of
total usage in 2010), and a complete shift
from solvent-based lamination to water-
based. On top of these, we are monitor-
ing our supply chain to reduce the use of
energy, paper, transport, and space. At
the same time, Leo Papers purchase of
FSC- and PEFC-certified paper has
increased 130% and 400% respectively
between 2009 and 2010. Plans are
underway to obtain the ISO 50001
Energy Management System certifica-
tion in 2012.
Over at its subsidiary Leovation,
ARIUX (Augmented Reality Interac-
tive User Experience) projects are pick-
ing up steam. We have done around
150 projects so far, and we have upped
the ante on its complexity and user expe-
rience, says general manager Alvin Lai.
One recent project for Sejer/Editions
Nathan, for instance, allows kids to
interact with the books main character,
Dokeo, by just showing different learn-
ing cards to the Web camera. It boosts
the reading experience and promotes a
proactive reading habit. We have also
combined AR with motion tracking
instead of printed materials, thus greatly
enhancing user experience.
But one of the most important initia-
tives at Leo Paper in recent months is to
provide e-content delivery. By moving
into the digital space, we become a full-
service physical book and e-book pro-
vider, offering a total solution to our
clients. Aside from our knowledge and
experience in the publishing and print-
ing industries, we have the capabilities
to help clients tap the Chinese market,
adds Lai, pointing out that China is now
one of the fastest developing markets in
the digital space. We believe in a holis-
tic and integrated approach in delivering
physical and e-book formats. We are con-
tent enablers, preparing content for dif-
ferent platforms in which physical and
digital formats coexist and augment one
Hung Hing
It has been 22 years since the last renova-
tion was carried out at Hung Hings Tai
Po headquarters in the New Territories.
Today, it gleams with a new decor and
modernist atmosphere. Not only that,
the whole makeover was steeped in envi-
(l. to r.) David Eitemiller, Matthew Yum, and Christopher Yum of Hung Hing

Proofs are a simulation, and they often

do not match the press sheet. So stop ago-
nizing over it.

No one says
books must come in
boring rectangles
with cardboard cov-
ers and black ink
on white paper.

HHad2011_v5.pdf 1 18/07/2011 3:05 PM
publishing proposition that emphasizes
short, rapid runs. As a matter of fact, a
plot of land adjacent to the existing facil-
ity is being developed to house new offset
presses this coming quarter.
While there are still uncertainties in the
economy, business for the industry has
been consolidating, says CEO Fraser
McFadzean: Growth remains on the
conservative side. But that is the good
news: there is still growth.
Cost containment without lowering
quality, he adds, is the goal, but achiev-
ing that has its challenges. Some pub-
lishers may look to repackage existing
materials rather than take the risk of
launching new and untested products, or
to cut their lists and focus on successful
lines instead of diversifying. In the pre-
vailing climate of cost consciousness,
there is a discernible shift away from
FSC-certified paper. However, sustain-
ability has not lost its allure. Im sure
when times improve, there will be
renewed effort to engage with all things
green and eco-friendly. For now, the rules
of the game are pragmatism and practi-
Digital printing, which Colorcraft
offers, is enjoying increasing popularity
P r i n t i n g i n H o n g K o n g 2 0 1 1
P U B L I S H E R S WE E K LY A U G U S T 8 , 2 0 1 1 18
ronmental-friendly, these new machines
allow us to offer clients new value addi-
tions and features. As for paper, FSC-
certified products accounted for less than
5% of the companys total paper con-
sumption in 2010. However, this figure
is already double that of the previous
year. For sure, clients in North America
and Europe are now more keen to learn
about the paper used and to make sure
that the materials come from sustainable
Business-wise, the climate remains
tough. There are simply no short-term
fixes to the rising cost of labor, materials,
and energy, or to fluctuations in currency
exchange, says CEO David Eitemiller.
Just look at Chinas toy manufacturing
industry. It has shrunk from 20,000 to
the present 8,000 companies within the
last few years due to these challenges.
Any cost-cutting measures need to be
carefully considered so as not to affect
delivery schedules or quality standards.
Support and understanding from both
sides of the supply-demand equation is
key if were to ride out this difficult
Four months after installing an HP T300
inkjet web press, project testing with
various base weights and trim sizes has
picked up steam at the Dongguan facil-
ity of CTPS. Integrating the complex
software of T300 with the Muller-Mar-
tini SigmaLine takes time. Even with
leading edge technology and multiple
upgrades, going live is not going to
happen for a while longer, says global
business director John Currie, who is
encouraged by the positive reception to
the companys digital printing initiative.
Continuous installation of inkjet web
presses within the printing industry and
increasing adoption by American and
European higher-ed publishers have
assisted CTPS in converting traditional
print clients and gaining their accep-
tance. Getting regional publishers to
embrace digital book production is his
focus for the next 12 months. I should
be able to talk more about our progress
by mid-2012.
To accommodate the new digital line,
CTPS converted its huge packing/ware-
housing area into a clean room. An HP
Indigo 7500 sheetfed press is also placed
in this self-contained unit together with
the newly relocated prepress/CTP
department. Extensive retrofitting was
done to create the stable environment
that the technology requires, adds Cur-
rie, noting that the timing of the T300
installation coincided with the Beijing
Print Bureaus renewed push for green
initiatives in the industry.
Assigned to head the digital operation
is the prepress/CTP manager, a decision
that makes perfect sense to Currie. The
inkjet printing process is heavily depen-
dent on its software, so getting someone
who understands the workflow and has a
similar process-related mindset is cru-
cial. Internally, we view the digital line
and the CTP department as extensions of
each other. We found from our visits to
various T300 and T350 sites for our
technology evaluation study that the best
personnel to operate the digital line do
not necessarily have to come from the
production floor.
CEO Peter Tses stance on traditional
print production remains unchanged
despite the T300. Our offset printing
services continue to evolve to meet new
demands such as minimum inventory
and rapid replenishment. In the past 12
months, we have focused on retooling
our print solutions based on these
demands. This way, we can maintain that
printing in China remains viable.
Embracing inkjet technology is just one
of our practical solutions to the changing increasing adoption by American and
CEO Fraser McFadzean of

Technology is fast. But absorption by a

society or organizationyes, that includes
youis slow.

W W W. P U B L I S H E R S W E E K LY. C O M 19
P r i n t i n g i n H o n g K o n g 2 0 1 1
particularly in the U.K. and U.S.
Other markets have been slower to
embrace this new platform. We
have to remember that the print
manufacturing industry never
stands still. It has adapted to every
technological change with gusto,
from embellished manuscripts and
Gutenberg to the present sophisti-
cated technol ogy. E-book i s
another of the changes faced by the
industry, and it is here to stay, says
McFadzean. E-books are popular
with road warriors, who are keen to
lighten their luggage while still
wanting to enjoy the pleasure of
reading books, and their lean and
mean iPads, Kindles, and similar
tablets offer them this convenience.
Thus, predictions of the demise of
printed books have been grossly exagger-
ated. Printed books have a loyal and
expanding market, and will be part of the
mix. Newspapers, after all, have not been
killed off by the Internet as predicted.
They have just had to adapt their model
to new market dynamics.
The way McFadzean sees it, We will
all have to adapt to changing circum-
stances, whether they are within or
beyond our control. And we will have to
be nimble about it. Whatever the situa-
tion, Colorcrafts objective is to steer our
customers through the shoals, providing
them with timely advice based on our
reading of market trends together with
our proven experience.
C&C Offset
The introduction of bamboo paper and
mineral paper, besides FSC- and PEFC-
certified paper, at C&C indicates grow-
ing eco-consciousness among clients.
And it says a lot about the companys
stance on green manufacturing. In fact,
the number of titles using FSC-certified
paper grew threefold between 2009 and
2010, according to marketing develop-
ment manager Vicon Wong. One domes-
tic client, Ping An Insurance Group,
went so far as using mineral paper as the
cover material for its 2011 diary, of
which 200,000 copies were printed.
The demand for bamboo paper is
expected to grow steadily as concern
about global warming and sustainability
increases among the international com-
munity. Bamboo, a fast-growing plant
with a higher fiber yield, is easier to har-
vest and transport, which significantly
reduces the carbon footprint. For all
these reasons, C&C now offers bamboo
paper for book production with grades
ranging from 70 gsm to 300 gsm.
Green initiatives continue to gather
momentum at C&C. Clients can now
opt to use paper pallets, which signifi-
cantly lowers transport costs since paper
pallets are some 40% lighter than
wooden ones. At the same time, paper
pallets are easier to recycle and do not
require disinfection treatment for
export, says deputy general manager Ivy
Lam, who has made ecofriendly facility
management her focus for 2011 and the
first half of next year. We are looking
into obtaining ISO 14064 certification,
which is aimed at controlling greenhouse
gas emissions, she says. This certifica-
tion would allow us to take part in emis-
sions trading schemes, further enhancing
our commitment to sustainability and
environmental protection. Last year,
C&C was named a green medalist by the
Hang Seng Pearl River Delta Environ-
mental Awards, a program that recog-
nizes environmental performance in the
manufacturing sector.
Lam and her team are promoting
PUR (polyurethane reactive) bind-
ing for both hardcover and softcover
to export clients. We have also
started offering digital printing ser-
vices to export clients in the educa-
tional and trade book segments. On
average, our digital presses process
about 100 projects every month,
adds Wong. Two units of Canon
I mage Pr es s C7000VP wer e
installed last November, boosting
the companys green initiatives and
its ability to meet client demand for
zero inventory and faster delivery.
Another development is the
launch of Microland, C&Cs own
line of stationery and paper prod-
ucts. This house brand, currently
available only in mainland China, is tar-
geted at professionals and students who
want higher quality and more stylish
products, adds Wong.
Asia Pacific Offset
Small to medium-size customers who
were less active in the past two years are
cropping up again, and both new titles
and reprints are going strong, says presi-
dent Andrew Clarke of Asia Pacific Off-
set. The continued strength of the euro,
making printing in Hong Kong more
attractive than ever, has resulted in fur-
ther growth in its Continental European
business. We have continued to see
strong growth in high-end museum-
quality projects.
These days, customers think globally
in terms of manufacturing, adds Clarke,
Ivy Lam, deputy general manager of C&C Offset

Print suppliers do
not control ship-
ping lines or cus-
toms. So asking for
a guarantee of ship-
ping time or deliv-
ery is a waste of

P r i n t i n g i n H o n g K o n g 2 0 1 1
P u b l i s h e r s we e k ly a u g u s t 8 , 2 0 1 1 20
tal policies. We find that more publish-
ers are going the ecofriendly route
because it is the right thing to do rather
than seeing it as a marketing ploy. But
getting a 100% certified product can be
a challenge when cover materials, boards,
and other additions are involved in the
making of a book. However, materials
with internationally recognized chain-
of-custody standards are getting more
common with each passing month, and
customers are encouraged by the grow-
ing number of options available to them
in Asia.
Asked about his take on the rise of
e-books in the U.S., he says, It is inevi-
table and should be embraced rather than
feared. There are still many books and
formats that may never be attractive in
e-book format. Illustrated titles, for
instance, offer a very different and endur-
ing experience. A coffee-table book on
Kindle does not quite have the same
and they go to whoever can offer the best
quality at the most competitive price. I
dont think our customers make their
decisions based on locationwhether
domestic, near-shore, or offshorebut,
rather, what is best for them from a ser-
vice, quality, and pricing point of view.
They do not print in Hong Kong or
China only because of price, but also
because of reliable, consistent quality
and responsive service. And while costs
have escalated over the years, Clarke says,
Customers have always been concerned
about Chinese workers wages and work-
ing conditions. The recent minimum
wage law and workers welfare regula-
tions have raised industrial workers
standard of livingand that has to be a
good thing.
What was not good was Japans earth-
quake in March, which resulted in paper
shortages and price hikes. Its some-
thing we dont need while coming out of
recession. But, as usual, things worked
out and we got the job done. It seems to
me that there is a global crisis every other
year in the first quarter.
Clarke is seeing more publishers
thoughtfully developing their own envi-
ronmental policies and standards. Dif-
ferent clients have differing environmen-

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Andrew Clarke, president of Asia
Pacific Offset
WWW. P U B L I S H E R S WE E K LY. C O M 21
P r i n t i n g i n H o n g K o n g 2 0 1 1
As a rule, wow-inducing projects do not come easy. The designer may hatch
a fantastic, albeit abstract, idea that would fall flat during the dummy-mak-
ing stage. The production director may want to speed up the manufacturing
process without considering that glue, ink, and paper take time to dry well
and should not be rushed. Worse, those materials that seem oh so appropri-
ate for the fantastic project may come with a hefty price tag way beyond ini-
tial projections, or a nightmare to source. The onus is then on the print man-
ufacturer to juggle the inconceivable, the impossible, and the impractical to
come up with the right solutionand deliver on time, at high quality, and
within budget.
Here are several recent exampleschosen arbitrarily from a long list
that attest to Hong Kong and China print manufacturers impressive capa-
bilities and can-do spirit.
Ten facsimile documents printed on an assortment of papersfor texture varia-
tion and realistic reproductionare the highlight of Russia of the Tsars and the
Slave Trade from Thames & Hudson. These documents go into a rectangular
pocket on the inside back cover, and we produced the pocket using Wibalin gusset
to increase its flexibility and durability, says president Andrew Clarke. Then there
is Andrews McMeels A Doonesbury Retrospective, a 696-page slipcased volume
chronicling the comic strips 40-year run, which comes with a four-page foldout
map detailing the complex relationship matrix spanning three generations.
A book from the French Foxy Lady Project SAS, 20th Century Legendary Guitars:
Lifesize Photographs, which approximates the size and shape of an actual guitar
was a challenge from start to finish. Measuring 109-cm. 47.3-cm., the 124-page
book with a pull-out poster required four rounds of dummy-making. Its bigger-than-
usual dimension called for large-format printing, meticulous planning to avoid mas-
sive paper wastage, and a much longer production schedule. Every step in the
binding process had to be done manually, including folding of the eight-page end-
papers, case making, and casing in, says deputy managing director Francis Kwok,
whose team also had to figure out the most suitable pallet and container for ship-
ping the unusual book to avoid damage during transit.
The 300-page Eco House Book from designer Terence Conran does not just talk
about environmental-friendly home improvement. It is itself ecofriendly. About
90% of the materials used in it are FSC-certified, and the rest are green, too, such
as gray board for the cover and recyclable shrink-wrapping film for packing, says
deputy general manager Ivy Lam. The book went on to win the silver medal at
IAPHC 2010 in recognition of C&Cs production capabilities and stringent quality
P r i n t i n g i n H o n g K o n g 2 0 1 1
P U B L I S H E R S WE E K LY A U G U S T 8 , 2 0 1 1 22
The limited edition of Luxury House 20102011, published by Hong Kong Eco-
nomic Times, comes in a clam-shell box with a sheet of stamps from the Hong
Kong Post Office and a wooden bookmark with the recipients name laser-engraved
on it. But the most unusual part of this project is the bamboo case cover. For
that, we had to source a vendor to strip the bamboo, hand-sew the strips together,
dye it in a specific color, and dry it under the sun to remove the moisture. We then
cut the bamboo piece to size, glued it to the cover and used laser engraving to
deboss the book title, says managing director Maurice Kwan, who has the satis-
faction of seeing this title win the gold at the China Print Awards 2010 and the
IAPHC 2010.
Then there is the special campaign to promote Mandarin Oriental Hotels presti-
gious Krug Room. The cover of this promotional book has a layer of cork over it.
Unfortunately, the local cork paper or cork from China is of inferior grade. So I con-
tacted a friend in the U.S. who represents a Japanese paper company to get high-
quality cork paper shipped over from Tokyo. We then use laser engraving to print
the title, simulating the effects that are found on Krug champagne corks.
A presentation package measuring 13.4-cm. 2 8.8-cm. and around 12.5 cm in
height for the Global Party, September 1516, 2011, took about six months to prog-
ress from quotation to order confirmation. The set includes two boxes, two key
rings in individual bags, one cradle, and two 200-page case-bound books. A lot of
special design and preparation work was required, and everything is hand-assem-
bled, says managing director George Tai, whose team had to contend with the very
fine typeface set on a black background for the books and the task of wrapping the
boxes in black saifu cloth, which gets dirty and stained easily. The short turnaround
time50,000 sets within four weeksadded to the challenge. But the client is very
happy with the finished product, and we are already discussing details of their 2012
project, which comes with a bigger order of 200,000 sets.
Another project, this one for becker&mayer, has 17 different special features
including envelopes, stickers, trading cards, posters, and various gatefolds. For
Star Wars: The Complete Vader, we apply aqueous varnish to every page to prevent
setoff due to heavy ink coverage. The manual gluing of so many special features is
strictly controlled to prevent warping, and we have to do multiple tests to find the
right balance of sewing and gluing for the spine.
Replicating on paper the color, feel, touch, and details of Nelson De La Nuezs orig-
inal artwork is the toughest challenge in producing the 168-page Pop Americana.
We created a unique ICC profile that would fit the printing press in China and the
paper used. And prior to the big run, we produced one signature of press sheets
for the authors approval, says CEO Sarah Tse, whose team also developed a
clamshell for the 22.9-cm. 30.5-cm. hardcover book after going through numer-
ous sketches and samples and having multiple videoconferencing and physical
meetings with the client. The clamshell is a great marketing piece that doubles
as a keepsake. Impressed, the celebrity artist has been sending Tse new refer-
rals since the beginning of the year.
WWW. P U B L I S H E R S WE E K LY. C O M 23
P r i n t i n g i n H o n g K o n g 2 0 1 1
A different platform to meet the changing
publishing proposition
The Time Has
Come for
Digital Printing
By Teri Tan
News of CTPSs acquisition of an HP T300 in Marchthe first in
Asiacame as a shock to many in the industry. Although much has been
said about the advantages of digital printing in recent years, Hong
Kong/Chinas print industry relies mostly on offset. As such, CTPSs
big-ticket investment sparked much speculation, interest, and debates
within the industry.
Several print manufacturers, in fact, have already ventured into the
digital arena. At C&C Offset, two sets of Canon Image Press were
installed last November to satisfy book publishers increasing demand
for smaller runs and shorter delivery time, and C&Cs Shanghai com-
mercial printing facility has expanded to more than 20 presses (from Fuji
Xerox, Canon, and Kodak) since launching its digital printing services
back in 2005. Over at Regal Printing, its Xerox DocuColor 800 has
catered mostly to self-publishers and small publishing houses in the past
six years. Leo Paper Group has two NexPress machines, the first of which
was installed in 2006, while Hung Hing has recently installed a Konica
Minolta digital press as a test to decide when or how to expand into the
digital arena. Many others are weighing the model and brand that would
best suit their needs.
What is the story behind CTPSs bold venture and how does HP figure
in the whole digital printing movement? PW sits down with John Cur-
rie, global business director at CTPS, and Aurelio Maruggi, v-p
and general manager of HPs inkjet high-speed production
solutions division, for a quick chat on the rise (at last!) of
digital printing in Hong Kong/China.
Why digital printing, why now,
and why HP as your supplier of
John Currie: We have been monitoring
the developments in digital printing for
a number of years, visiting DRUPA,
IPEX, and other print exhibitions as part
of our research. The turning point came
early last year when news emerged about
a viable digital book production solution.
Further research led us to HP. Digital
printing is the new frontier that would
tremendously benefit those brave enough
to venture into it. And this is our way of
keeping ahead of the curve.
Were you surprised when
CTPSand not one of the big-
gest China or Hong Kong print-
ersvoiced its interest in T300?
Aurelio Maruggi: We have found that
early adopters are better characterized not
by size but by their keen understanding
of how digital printing would fit their
own and their customers long-term
strategies. CTPS is a key supplier to
American educational and reference book
publishers, and these publishers have
been moving significant amounts of
work onto HPs inkjet web press plat-
form to achieve supply chain efficiencies
and enable new business models such as
textbook customization.
JC: We have always maintained a low-
profile business approach, though this
digital move has changed it somewhat.
And while we are not on HPs business
development strategy list, we are certainly
now on their sales and marketing teams
What does it say to you when a
medium-size company like
CTPS installs a T300?
AM: It confirms that the same funda-
mental market drivers are active across
the globe. Publishers are focused on
reducing inventories in order to increase
working capital and reduce product obso-
lescence risk. Digital printing allows
printers small and large to offer publish-
ers order quantities that are based on
expected or measured market demand,
and it is unencumbered by machine
P r i n t i n g i n H o n g K o n g 2 0 1 1
P u b l i s h e r s we e k ly a u g u s t 8 , 2 0 1 1 24
customers add even more business by
unlocking prints greater value in the
digital worldthe ability to offer a tan-
gible, authentic product that can be cus-
tomized or even personalized in a way
that holds greater appeal to readers.
Presently, only 1% of the global
publishing industry uses digital
printing for book production.
How does HP plan to go about
changing this picture?
AM: Trends in the book industry point
to a need for increased efficiency and
flexibility. We are working with printing
and publishing firms to share information
on the rapidly evolving opportunities and
challenges facing the industries today.
With these shared insights, we can work
together to accelerate adoption in areas
with highest returns and develop better
solutions year after year.
Now that the first T300 has
been installed in the region,
setup and plate costs. CTPSs
move speaks volumes to its
progressive approach to profit-
able growth. And while there
are several leading book manufac-
turers worldwide with HP inkjet web
presses, CTPS is the first export player to
adopt this platform. Our intention, when
these presses were developed, was to
enable longer-run digital printing. CTPS
shows us that a longer-run solution can
help a book exporter to grow, and that is
vitally important for any digital press
manufacturer looking to expand in the
Hong Kong/China printing industry.
It was a really fast-track deci-
sion to purchase and install the
T300, right?
JC: Discussion started in earnest in
November, and the purchase signed off
by our CEO, Peter Tse, in December. It
is the quickest installation undertaken by
HP. The goal was to have it ready by
early April in time for our open house
during the Print China exhibition.
Surprisingly, the air-freighted high-tech
software and hardware went through
Chinese customs without a hitch. Muller-
Martini also fast-tracked its SigmaLine
delivery to our Dongguan facility.
AM: Peter is a man of action. He visited
our Corvallis, Ore., product development
site after the initial conversations and
saw the T300 printing his sample jobs.
The pace just picked up from there.
Book printers in Hong Kong
and China are known globally
for offset printing capabilities.
Getting them to shift to digital
is a big task. How do you plan to
convert them?
AM: Few industries are transforming as
significantly as the publishing industry,
and we are working closely with printers
in every corner not only to show how an
investment in HP can drive efficiency
and reduce costs but also how it gener-
ates new opportunities. We want to help
John Currie (l.)
and Peter Tse with
their HP T300
www. p u b l i s h e r s we e k ly. c o m 25
P r i n t i n g i n H o n g K o n g 2 0 1 1
whats next?
JC: The upcoming months will be focused
on promoting it as a viable textbook and
STM production solution. We are work-
ing on establishing new business streams
based on this T300 and upcoming instal-
lations. Co-sharing and smart partnership
with other HP clients around the globe
is also part of our plan.
AM: As more publishers buy into the new
platform and efficiency model, we expect
further expansion across the Asia Pacific
region. This is already one of the fastest-
growing regions for HP and our counter-
parts in the graphic arts space. With the
success of Indigo presses in the region,
we have a strong infrastructure in place
to support our customers. The plan now
is to expand our presence in the inkjet
web press area.
What are the best features of
JC: In addition to providing full-color
short-run solutions, the T300 is great for
clients adopting rapid stock replenish-
ment and low inventory warehousing.
We want to be the regional point of con-
tact for such print orders.
How about the latest model,
AM: The T400 is the most productive
press of our rapidly expanding product
portfolio. In fact, if you are printing
A4-size pages, you can have more than
6,000 pages per minute. Its 1,067-mm
web width offers format flexibility and is
a good match for many existing signa-
ture-based finishing solutions as well as a
growing number of digital inline solu-
tions. It is also highly compatible with
521-mm finishing solutions that are
prevalent in the industry.
How about the much discussed
environmental advantages?
JC: For one, producing books in smaller
quantitiesmade possible by digital
printingreduces overprinting and the
volume of unsold returns. These in turn
translate into savings in terms of paper
consumption, ink use, make-ready, and
solvent usage. Inks used by T300, for
instance, are water-based, with very low
VOCs. Ideally, more installations of digi-
tal presses such as T300 in different cor-
ners of the globe would further reduce
the carbon footprint associated with
cross-continent deliveries.
AM: Research shows that an estimated
30% of all printed books in the U.S. will
be returned to the publisher and pulped.
Digital printing helps publishers to bet-
ter match supply to actual demand, cre-
ating significant environmental savings.
We have sponsored a study to measure
the carbon footprint associated with print-
ing and distributing a paperback after
the printing is done on an offset press, a
digital press, and a mixture of the two
platforms. By using HP digital presses,
for instance, the carbon footprint of a
typical 240-page 14-cm21.5-cm paper-
back would be reduced by 14% to 20%.
I wish that printing presses
were manufactured in different
colors to make them less boring.
Given a choice, what color would
you prefer your T300 to be?
JC: Within the Hong Kong printing
industry, Peter is seen as a vibrant person
who is definitely not boring. Since the
T300 looks so futuristic, high-impact and
bright casing color would be most appro-
priate. A Ferrari red would certainly fit
Peter to a T.
AM: That is an interesting concept. We
have not established custom color schemes
for our press housings yet. But it is evi-
dent that we are very conscious about
creating great industrial designs for our
inkjet web pressesthey dont look like
anything else in the industry. If you
recall, earlier continuous-feed digital
presses looked like big office photocopi-
ersthey didnt give the impression of
being on par with an offset book press.
However, when you look at an HP web
press, I dont think there is any misunder-
standing that this is an advanced, heavy
iron press.
JC: We actually asked for the Muller-
Martini line to be in another color, but
we ended up with blue, which is margin-
ally better than the green that was ini-
tially offered.
What is the optimum run for
T300 and T400?
AM: Some customers have said it is in
the low hundreds up to approximately
5,000 copies for the T300. But the num-
ber will go up for the T350 and T400
because those models produce more pages
per minute, thus driving down cost per
book. On the other hand, our inkjet web
presses are capable of producing unique
page per book at full press speed. So even
a one-copy run is possible.
JC: Our experience to date shows that
the most efficient run is between 2,000
and 3,000 copies. Titles using the same
paper stock but with different trim sizes
or extent can also be printed together in
batches of 50 to 500. Batching or bun-
dling of titles minimizes paper changes
and wastage, and reduces setup time. We
also have an extremely flexible SigmaLine
folder/collator/binder/trimmer system
that allows quick changeover for jobs
that use the same paper stock.
Paper stock for digital presses
is always a concern. How does
the T300 or T400 perform with
uncoated stock?
JC: We turned to paper merchant Hing
Tai Hong for assistance once the scarcity
of inkjet-optimized paper in this region
was confirmed. We then started with
Appleton since its 66 gsm stock had
already been tested and used in digital
printing. Heavier base weights are com-
ing soon. New inkjet grades from Sappi
that are tailored for books are expected to
be available by the end of the year. The
same goes for those from StoraEnso and
New Page.
AM: All our inkjet web presses come
equipped with bonding agent printing,
which enables the use of the lowest uncoat-
ed grades of offset and newsprint stocks
with excellent results. Some customers even
print on lightweight coated offset stocks.
Since the bonding agent is printed wher-
ever a subsequent drop of pigmented
ink is placed, it immobilizes the pig-
ment near the paper surface. This
reduces show-through on thin stocks
and prevents wicking and irregular dot
P r i n t i n g i n H o n g K o n g 2 0 1 1
P u b l i s h e r s we e k ly a u g u s t 8 , 2 0 1 1 26
ing companies show that the analogue
offset printing it purchased consumed
720,000 kilograms of aluminum plates
and more than 16 million liters of pro-
cessing solvents annually. It is now mak-
ing an aggressive transition to digital
printing for many of its titles.
Is CTPS looking at other tech-
nologies to support the T300?
JC: We have already prepared a second
site for additional inkjet press installa-
tions while working on complementing
T300 with different finishing options for
both hardcover and paperback produc-
tion. Being an early adopter in China
means we have first dibs on other techni-
cal offerings from HP.
What is your advice to those
considering installing a T300 or
T400, or venturing into digital
AM: Printing is only a part of book pro-
duction. When assessing the digital value
proposition, one needs to take into con-
sideration the benefits of time and labor
savings in prepress and inline finishing.
Unlike conventional printing, digital
printing can produce collated pages or
signatures to print one book at a time,
thus eliminating separate signature pro-
duction, folding, gathering, collating,
binding, and trimming. With digital
paperback production, the whole process
can be done inline with just two or three
operators. At CTPS, for instance, you
will find rolls of paper at the start and
finished books on pallets at the end. For
those considering digital printing, it is
crucial to factor in benefits in terms of
labor, turnaround time, and efficiency
during the assessment.
JC: Do your homework. Review technical
aspects to ensure that the digital press is
suitable for the type of product you have
in mind. Make sure the press will inter-
face seamlessly with the finishing lines. It
is also very useful to find out from actual
users their experiences and challenges in
successful day-to-day rollout. Most impor-
tant, do not buy into the hype regarding
certain presses or technology that has not
been fully tested in the market.
gain. Additionally, as it is a noncontact
printing process, paper cleanliness
and smoothness is greatly improved.
We are working with various mills to
bring more inkjet-optimized papers to
the market.
JC: For black-and-white printing, any
woodfree 80 or 90 gsm is suitable. We
are currently testing on matte papers for
full-color work. In most cases, we have to
tweak the print file to obtain the required
results. Right now, we find that woodfree
stocks can take up to 40% ink coverage
on four-color printing, while inkjet opti-
mized papers66, 90, and 105 gsm
can take up to 30%. Increased coverage
is expected as newer papers come along
and as presses adapt accordingly.
How does China in particular,
and Asia in general, figure in
HPs long-term strategy?
AM: These two are growing markets that
command high levels of attention and
strategic planning within HP. We are
anxious to listen and learn from publish-
ers and printers in these markets to best
match our offerings to their market-spe-
cific needs. In China, we are learning
that escalating wages and retaining
skilled labor are beginning to favor the
type of automation enabled by digital
production. And as the government con-
tinues to privatize its publishing indus-
try, we anticipate that these companies
will have a heightened awareness of the
increased savings and earning potentials
offered by digital printing.
Do you have any examples or
statistics on benefits achieved
through digital printing?
AM: A project at the British company
Communisis comes to mind. It recently
shifted one of its direct mail projects to
a completely digital workflow using the
T300. The switch saved the company
time and money associated with making
220 plates. It also gained much more
flexibility in its versioning process:
instead of printing just 56 variations of a
direct mail piece, it could print more
than three trillion different combina-
tions of images and customized messag-
es. On the book publishing side, statis-
tics from one of the worlds top publish-
Aurelio Maruggi
at the launch of
HP T400
CALIFORNIA (USA) 001-909-989-8282 (PST)
HONG KONG 011-852-2191-8077
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