Going from paper to digital – Best business decisions case study

Making the move away from traditional paper printing to digital formats has allowed Altaimage to move with the times: managing partner Robert King explains why.

At Altaimage, we felt that business had been good though the beginning stages of the recession; there were many big names falling by the wayside but our sales stayed constant, but for how long. I knew deep down this wouldn’t last, so I looked at our market and tried to strategically plan our next move.

I took a trip to Germany in 2009 to visit a trade show for book publishers, and this was the first time I knew I had to act fast. These shows were normally full to bursting point and jam-packed with printers exchanging business cards with publishers. This year it looked significantly different; it looked like I had turned up after the show had left town. Very few printers took up a stand and no publishers were looking to place work.

The story we had been told so many time was, ‘No one is selling books, and we can’t afford to print even a short run and leave them in a warehouse’, and unfortunately, this is the only trade I know where if you don’t sell something you have purchased you can’t send it back and get your money back.

At this point we knew that the publishers weren’t producing new titles and the printers were laying people off or closing down on a daily basis. This was all bad news for Altaimage as we produce the images and text FTP to create the print ready files.

After analysing the market, we realised that digital was the only way; no paper, no printer, no warehouse and no sale or return. I thought I had hit the jackpot, but as a result, we hit a brick wall.

This was such a learning curve for Altaimage; yes there were many people creating electronic publications but none were deemed as successful as a nicely printed illustrated book. We had to change that otherwise we were destined to fail.

Apple had just brought out the iPad and Amazon was selling more and more text books, but no one had cracked how we take a coffee table book and turn it digital.

Thankfully we had a strong design team who could take elements within a book and redesign it so it was enjoyable to read on a tablet. We added in some special effects, such as video and slide shows, link up all relevant chaperon openers and contents with hyperlinks and send it to Apple for sign off. Our first book took 3 months to get signed off due to us pushing the limits within the App!

Ok, in hindsight perhaps at this point we hadn’t cracked it but boy did we learn quickly after that. We are now a premier partner for Apple, alpha and beta sites for software and code our own scripts. All of our income was reinvested and from a standing start our digital side soon hit three figures and continues to grow year on year as we carry on working with new publishers on digital as well as conventional projects.

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Hunter was the Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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