George Q. Nichols, 78, of Lafayette Hill, a former publishing company chairman, died of complications from cancer Wednesday at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Nichols became president of National Publishing Co. in Philadelphia in 1977 and retired as chairman in 2003. The firm, a subsidiary of Courier Corp., prints books, catalogs, directories, manuals and magazines. Mr. Nichols introduced automated equipment, his son George Jr. said, that helped revolutionize the production of quality books. He was past president of the Book Manufacturing Institute.

Mr. Nichols grew up in Boston and Greenwich, Conn.

He earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard University. He then worked for the Stanley Works and later was an executive in the publishing division of American Can Corp.

He was married to Audrey Coleman Nichols since 1962. They had met while skiing in Vermont.

Mr. Nichols enjoyed woodworking and vacations in North Haven, Maine, where his family had summered for more than 60 years. He served on fund-raising committees for the Philadelphia Flower Show, where his wife was a prize-winning exhibitor and judge.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Nichols is survived by sons Jonathan and Tucker; three brothers; and four grandchildren.

A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. today at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Bethlehem Pike and Camp Hill Road, Fort Washington.