It is estimated that the most valuable book in the world is the first book ever to come from a printing press – and that was the Bible, from the press invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440. Experts value the book at between 25–35 million US Dollars.1

I don’t think there is a connection, well not an earthly one anyway, but it may be a surprise to learn that close to being the most lucrative genre for book publishers is religious material.2 And this is where imprints came into the picture, because most publishing companies deal in different genres – for example: romance, spiritual, religious, self-improvement, biography, food and cooking, teenager, and so on.

They use different trade names, generally, for the different genres, and these are ‘imprints’. ‘Ladybird’, for example, is an imprint of the Penguin Group for children’s books; ‘Bluebird’ is an imprint of Pan MacMillan for wellness and lifestyle; ‘Stonebridge’ is the imprint of Jacana Media for leadership and personal growth. There are hundreds of imprints on the shelves.

The Imprint Act 19933 makes it a legal requirement for all printed matter intended for public sale or public distribution to bear an imprint, and which will be registered with the Printing Industries Federation.

  1. It is a criminal offence not to insert the imprint in legible type and in one of the official languages.4

  2. The Printing Industries Federation can grant permission to use an abbreviation of the full company name – in other words ‘Penguin’, instead of Penguin Books (South Africa)(Pty) Ltd. It is an offence for anyone else to use that abbreviation.5

  3. If there are any changes to the details furnished to the Printing Industries Federation at the time of the original application for consent to use an abbreviated imprint, it is an offence not to inform the Federation within 14 days.6

  4. Lastly, it is an offence to distribute any imported printed matter in the Republic, on which the name of the country of origin does not appear.7

  1. - ‘In the book world, the rarest of the rate’. See also, in general, Wikipedia – ‘Gutenberg Bible’. 

  2. – ‘Which 5 Book genres make the most money?’ 

  3. As amended; the latest amendment was effected by Act 18 of 1994. 

  4. Section 7 read with section 2(1). 

  5. Section 7 read with section 3(4). 

  6. Section 7 read with section 3(6)(a). 

  7. Section 7 read with section 4.