VOLUME 12 ISSUE 2 SUMMER 1996
Since we began offering a discount of $.30 per page for all new printing jobs that send in text copy on "error free" files, we have been granting the credit on nearly 2/3 of all the new electronic jobs that we've received. (Since our quotes do not include this discount in their pricing the customer ends up with a lower price than they saw on the T-S quotation.) However, we'd like to get that figure raised up to as close to 100% as we can get so, I am going to reproduce here the document we have prepared to let our own people as well as customers know what we're looking for in electronic files. I take no credit for writing this and some of you may already have asked for and received a copy of it. If any of this isn't clear, call Laurie Briegel at T-S ... for goodness sake, don't ask me to explain it. (Incidentally, if your file comes from a file creator who is on our pre-qualified list, your job automatically gets the discount.)
The document shows 7 "phases" that your file must meet in order to qualify for the T-S discount. However, we feel that these are the same areas any printer would look at so they should be appropriate regardless of who does your printing. And these are things, that if done right, we will not only give you the T-S discount but they will help your job go through the production cycle quicker and with the highest possible quality.
PHASE ONE- File Compatibility
The text files that are created need to be compatible with our electronic imposition software. (This refers to application files only. Most PostScript files are compatible. A listing of compatible application file software is included in our Client Guidelines for Electronic Prepress.) We use Luminous PressWise and Ultimate Technographics Impostrip to do electronic imposition.
PHASE TWO - Use Correct File Formats
PHASE THREE- Files Provided are Consistent with T-S Quality Standards
Files must meet Thomson-Shore's quality standards as outlined in the preflight forms and our electronic prepress guidelines which we'll be happy to provide you.
The typical problems we will question are: files setup for wrong trim size; bouncing elements that will cause backup problems; graphics not being scanned at the correct resolution; hairline rules being used; margins not being specified correctly in the file and margin inconsistencies from file to file. These are some of the most common problems we encounter. Meeting these requirements will help ensure that the final printed product is of a very high quality.
PHASE FOUR - Use Supported and Reliable Removable Media
Files must be provided on a removable media that we support. Sometimes we are unable to copy files off the media due to disk errors or incompatible drivers on the media. To guard against disk errors, reformat your media often. Repeated copying and deleting of files can cause sectors on the disk to go bad.
To ensure we will be able to read your Mac formatted media we recommend using FWB's Hard Disk Tool Kit. Also the current Apple Drive Setup v1.02 is much more reliable than earlier versions.
We recommend to IBM/PC users to invest in Iomega's ZIP drive. We have had very good results with this drive and it comes with all the necessary utilities.
In all cases have updated and current drivers installed regularly on removable media.
PHASE FIVE - Complete and Accurate Paperwork
Our EP Data Sheet for text must be filled out completely by the customer and/or file creators. Avoid attaching additional pages to this data sheet as they can get separated in our production process.
Clear and accurate file directories MUST be provided. ("Print Windows" from the disks are not file directories.) We need the order of the files as they appear in the book, along with the correct file name, page range and number of pages in the file. Directories should indicate if blanks are in the files or where they need to be added.
Current laser proofs that are one-sided and 100% of size are also needed to clear this phase. Tiled proofs are fine if they are taped together. Also all graphic elements should be marked as LIVE (in file for final output), FPO or OPI images. If the production department finds reflow and has to pull off to questions the differences being found, then the $.30/page discount will be declined.
PHASE SIX - Files are Organized Well on Disks
We require good file organization on disks. There should be one folder which includes all the graphic files for the text as well as the application files. Provide one folder with the text fonts, and a separate folder for PostScript files if needed.
Avoid nesting folders. This can hamper good organization and causes confusion when copying the files to our hard drives.
By putting all your files into specific folders, duplicate file names will become apparent. All files need unique file names to avoid substitutions. If you encounter duplicate file names then the situation must be resolved before submitting the job.
Never put outdated versions of the files on the disk.
If you need to use multiple disks to submit the job, then label them in an organized fashion. If you must leave items on a disk that are not for the job in progress they should be put in a folder labeled "DO NOT USE".
Avoid putting multiple jobs on the same disk.
Windows users are limited to smaller directory/file names, but the organization should be similar to what is described above.
We strongly recommend that you submit a separate disk with the materials for the cover.
PHASE SEVEN - Be Sure to Submit all Elements to Complete the Text
All components to process the text should be sent at one time. In general this will include all files, fonts, graphics, laserproofs, and supporting paperwork.
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Here are some additional suggestions to help give you the confidence and skill to use text files effectively.
First, if you have any questions call us. Laurie Briegel's job is to answer customer service questions about electronic prepress. She's very good at explaining this stuff.
Secondly, plan to attend a T-S EP seminar. We currently have them scheduled in Chicago, Atlanta, and San Francisco. They are described elsewhere in this Printer's Ink and I can recommend them highly.
Third, send us in a test file. We will run it and give you our comments and suggestions after we see the results.
Electronic text files are the coming thing in book printing. If done well they can produce higher quality reproduction of type, near perfect imposition, fewer "pin holes" on the page, lower preparation cost and shorter production time... to say nothing of lower typesetting costs. We're happy to do whatever we can... or whatever you ask... to help you take advantage of this.
We think it is definitely more than worth the effort of any book publisher to take advantage of this technology.
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For the past couple years most of the news in book manufacturing, at least at T-S, has been in the area of electronic prepress. However, while EP continues to produce an abundance of technological accomplishments, there are some unique new things happening at T-S in the areas of new plate and press equipment. Here is a run-down on what some of the new equipment we've installed in the last few months can do and what it will mean to our customers.
1. Plate Scanning: In June we installed an all new Heidelberg Plate Scanner for use on our cover and jacket plates. This device combines scanning, a computer and software to "read" the plate and convert the information to a digital file. This file is then run on a computer at the 4 color press (we had two, new state-of-the-art Heidelberg 4 color presses installed in June) and the ink fountains are set automatically to provide the right amount of ink to each section of the plate. In the past (before the first of June) the ink fountains on the press were set with the press operator manually turning a long series of keys on the press and this, in turn, released various amounts of ink onto the press's rollers. Plate scanning speeds up press make ready and significantly lowers the "waste" sheets required to get "up to color."
2. Scanning Spectrophotometer: When a cover or jacket plate is inked up on the press a press sheet is pulled and the color bar on the sheet is passed through a photo spectrophotometer. This device reads and records the ink density as well at the ink shade and stores it in its memory. Then as further sheets are printed, they are read randomly throughout the run to be sure there is no variation. If variations in any of the press's four printing units is detected the computer talks with the press and they decide what to do to correct it. This device can actually read variations that are too subtle to be seen by the naked eye and the adjustments are made automatically, while the press is running. This will pretty much insure consistent and near perfect color from the first sheet to the last.
When the run is complete a print out of the recordings is made and stored with the negatives. This is of some use (I'm not sure exactly what) if the job reprints.
This whole sequence of things is a new Heidelberg development that is known as "CPC 21". "CPC" stands for computer press control and the 21 is the latest numbered upgrade in press controls.
3. Heidelberg 74 4-Color Press: As I said, we recently purchased two of these new design, 4- color presses at a total cost of about $2,500,000. Some of the features they contain, in additions to CPC 21, are automatic plate hanging, (with near perfect adjustment and registration from the first sheet on, and with the plate hanging time cut from 2 1/2 minutes to about 30 seconds) plus automatic blanket and plate washing. These presses, both of which are already running three shifts, will be used for all of our covers and jackets, from one color through 4-color. One of them has a perfecting unit which will give us the ability to print on both sides of the sheet and this is handy for journal covers. In the past, copy on the inside of a cover usually meant putting the cover through the press a second time.
We still have our "old" 4-color press... it is now two years old... and this will be used for printing 4-color inserts which, along with quite a few of our 4-color covers and jackets, used to be subcontracted to another printer. Now all of our covers and jackets and some (depending on the page count) of our inserts will be done in-house.
4. Variquik Press: This is not really new news now since it has been running for close to six months but this press is unique and I think it bears repeating.
Our Variquik (the third one of its kind installed in the USA) is a Web press that prints from rolls... thus cutting down on paper cost... it contains six printing units and is configured so you can actually put two plates on the press, getting them press ready, while two others are printing... thus cutting make-ready down from about six minutes to one minute... and the sheet comes out folded so you eliminate the additional time and cost of that operation.
The Variquik prints at very high sheet-fed press speed (but still a bit slower than a traditional Web press) and it prints with sheet-fed quality with its make-ready savings, it is really designed for the short run book market. We do not expect it to compete in the trade market but in the field of 1000 to 6000 or so, it will be tough to beat. It is also a great press for printing halftones on either offset or enamel. An additional and unique advantage is that, because of its very fast plate make-ready feature, it adapts well to doing long run first printings and reprints down as low as 400 or 500 copies. Also, while most Web presses are limited to one trim size, the Variquik will handle two. Our press is configured to print 6 x 9 using the "zero" make-ready feature or 7 x 10 with normal make-ready.
The downside to this press is that it costs approximately $2,000,000.
Well, that's a synopsis of what we have done lately... outside of electronic prepress which seems to reinvent itself every couple of weeks and is covered separately in this issue. This, along with our 75,000 square foot building addition which we moved into in June, has given us additional manufacturing capacity, and competitiveness, that should work to our customer's benefit. Why not try us and find out whether or not we've done this successfully?
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The winning entries in the 1996 American Association of University Presses Book, Jacket, & Journal Show were announced in June. Every year for as long as we have records, Thomson- Shore has printed and bound more winning entries than any other printer but our numbers are greater in 1996 than ever before. We printed 14 of the "typographic" book winners out of a total of 31. Together, the other Ann Arbor printers printed 8. For illustrated books we printed 4 of 23, the Quebecor plants printed 4, Stinehour printed 3, the other Ann Arbor printers combined for 2 and 10 other printers (8 of them overseas) printed 1 each. On jackets, we printed 6, Hadden Craftsmen and Stinehour printed one each and all the others were printed by specialty printers... none by book printers.
Our competitors may say "so what?" to this but I believe pride is one of the pay-offs for working together well and we think this demonstrates the accomplishment of a very good team.
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Another source of pride for T-S is being one of 20 companies listed on the dust jacket of a recently published book entitled "Changing Forever... The Well Kept Secret of America's Leading Companies". This book was written by Dr. Carl Frost, retired professor Emeritus from the Psychology Department at Michigan State University. The book promotes employee involvement, participative management and the things a company has to gain by recognizing the value of motivated employees who take pride in their work. Thomson-Shore is one of his examples.
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Paper prices are still relatively stable. Natural paper prices have remained virtually unchanged for over a year, while white paper has gone down about 28% in the past year. However, that has not changed much for several months now. Currently natural paper is about 25% higher priced than white when you compare comparable weights. The natural sheet is bulkier (lower ppi) and has a couple of % more opacity.
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One problem that comes up often and would seem to be fairly easily correctable is the matter of getting all the specifications of a job to your printer on one document. Our opportunity to produce exactly what a customer wants is much higher if you send with the job a signed quotation or a letter, giving us all the specifications for producing those books. If some of the specs come over the phone, some in a letter and some via other ways, there is a chance that something will get overlooked or done wrong. We still have instances where a customer will refer to a phone call telling us that all their orders should be shrink wrapped or have something else done to them and they don't put those specs down when they send in the job...under the assumption that we already know that.
When this happens it will still very likely be done correctly but we'd like to eliminate the chance for a mistake if we can. A single document giving all the specifications you want us to include is, we believe, the best way to do that.
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Another area where problems can occur, and this is a little stickier to resolve, is when customers supply their own scanned halftones in their text file. In the olden days before electronic prepress, customers occasionally supplied halftone negatives and we printed from them. This usually produced acceptable results but sometimes the customer ended up unhappy with the results and on a few occasions we even had to destroy printed sheets and start over.
Now, with so many desktop and other types of scanners out there, the problem is occurring more often and when we get halftones in a file we (or the customer for that matter) have more trouble than ever determining how well we can reproduce the furnished scans.
If a customer does their own halftone scanning and imbeds the scans in the text file, we charge $1 extra for each halftone (halftones slow down the outputting of the file) and we also strongly recommend they see a press proof of several of the photos so they know what they are getting. The proof adds about $250 to the price.
If you have discerned from this that we prefer to produce halftone scans ourselves, you're absolutely right. For one thing, we believe we have very good equipment to do this and excellent talent to run it. Halftone scanning is an acquired skill and it takes experience to obtain that skill. Also, for every different sheet we print on we change the dimensions we scan to and someone outside T-S is not going to have this knowledge. Our people have very high standards on halftone reproduction and it causes us a great deal of concern when a customer says, "Don't worry about it...those furnished scans will be fine." They may well be but it ain't always the case.
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Most short run book printers stock text paper, board, cover and jacket stock, end sheet stock, etc. for 5 1/2 x 8 1/2, 6 x 9, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4, 7 x 10, and 8 1/2 x 11" trim sizes. For variations of those sizes like 5 x 8 or 8 x 10, we would usually just trim off some additional paper from the next larger standard size, so there is not a real big production problem in achieving most non- standard sizes. However, in case bound books, producing non-standard sizes is complicated by not having the proper size binder board and that can't be accommodated in the final 3 knife trimming. So, for case bound books, we stock several special sizes of binder's board to accommodate the following "non-standard" sizes: 5 x 7, 5 x 8, 5 1/4 x 8, 5 1/2 x 8, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4, 5 1/2 x 9, 6 x 9 1/4, 8 x 10, and 9 x 12.
If you select one of those 9 non-standard trim sizes for a case bound book, we can still produce it fairly effectively. If you have a trim size other than one of those, it would cause us to either order special board or cut an existing board down and that's not as simple as cutting paper.
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Printer's Ink has been published for 12 years now and for at least 9 of those years we concentrated on describing the ways you could most effectively design and produce short run soft and hard bound books. Now it has been a couple years since we devoted any space directly to the "basics" so here is a concise primer on some things to consider to help you keep book manufacturing costs down.
TRIM SIZES: Most short run book printers have standard sizes of 5 1/2 x 8 1/2, 6 x 9, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4, 7 x 10, or 8 1/2 x 11. It is a good idea to aim at one of these sizes. A 7 1/4 x 10" size would be run as though it was 8 1/2 x 11 and would use about 30% more paper than 7 x 10. There are also other manufacturing inefficiencies for that size as well.
PAGE COUNTS: Page counts must be divisible by 8. Most book printers will do those standard trim sizes in 32 page signatures, thus, 160, 192, 224, etc. are very efficient. If your book is 152 pages, or 8 pages short of even 32's, it will likely cost at least $100 more to produce than a 160 page book. If it's 16 pages short, i.e. 144 pages, that's not so bad.
TEXT STOCK: For short run printing it is very desirable to use the printer's floor sheets. You get the advantage of carload pricing and the printer does not have to special order the paper. Special orders of paper frequently need a minimum order of a ton or more, must be ordered in even cartons and if the printer has trouble with the paper, it must be reordered. All this has an impact on the price. Most printers stock white and natural text paper in 50 and 60 lb. weights as well as 10pt & 12pt coated one side cover stock and 65 lb. white vellum cover stock. Special order cover stocks are much more common, and less of a problem to obtain, than special order text stock.
CAMERA COPY OR EP: Prior to about 3 years ago virtually all new book printing was done from camera ready copy. The vast majority of this was "keyboarded" by a typesetter after the author had written it. With the development of desktop publishing, this procedure changed and now it is pretty much S.O.P. to go from the author's work processed manuscript all the way to imposed negatives or plates that are ready to print... through design, editing, etc... without having to keyboard copy again. Thus, the total cost of producing books has gone down and in the case of short runs, where typesetting could be half of the total production cost, it is down a lot.
LENGTH OF RUN: Up until very recently, at T-S our estimating was based on a set up charge for each operation and then a time and charge for running each piece. Thus, the first copy might cost $1000 and each additional copy could be $2. In this scenario there is no "critical" point you had to reach to get the most efficient price. This is still the case for all our trim sizes except 6 x 9, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4, and 7 x 10. But for those sizes at, 1500 copies we switch from out sheet fed Heidelberg perfectors to the Variquik and the pricing becomes somewhat more competitive... thus the old rule of "no most economical run length" does not hold completely for us anymore.
There are a lot of other standards which we covered in Printer's Ink Volume 9, Issue 2, Summer 1993, but there is not enough space for them here. If you would like a copy of that issue give us a call.
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In the last Printer's Ink we mentioned the Electronic Prepress Seminars that our people have developed and will be putting on around the country. The seminar has been done 3 times thus far and I highly recommend it.
Here is the schedule for our next 3:
The seminar is aimed at an "advanced beginner" level but it covers a broad area of electronic prepress for text. It should give you a chance to become comfortable with the technology and you will have ample time for questions and interchange with the other attendees. You should leave with the knowledge of how to prepare a text file for a printer and how to obtain the T-S discount for error free files.
Our speakers at the seminar will be Laurie Briegel and Sue Campbell. Between them they see virtually every job that comes to T-S in electronic form and when a problem occurs, they are involved in finding the solution.
Each seminar will run from 8:30 until 5:00. The cost is $50 and lunch, plus coffee breaks are included. To secure a place call Laurie Briegel or Jim Holefka at T-S. It's a bargain.
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As weve mentioned in past issues of Printers Ink, one of our countless committees had the assignment of developing a survey that will let us know how customers think we are performing and also, hopefully, give us input on things we could improve on.
We have now sent out over 500 of these and have received back an incredible 42%. Part of that very high response rate is that we are offering a choice of several prizes (sweatshirt, umbrella, duffle bag, or flash light, all with a T-S logo) as a reward (or bribe) for responding.
The survey has 45 questions plus room for comments so the bribe seemed to be a good idea. At any rate, the response has been about three times what we expected. And...we humbly and honestly can report that the overall response has been 96% positive. It seems customers like us, they think we are honest, we turn out good work and we are a pleasure to work with. The comments practically bring tears to my eyes.
We have developed a computer program to build a database of answers so we can track progress... or lack of progress... over time and that was a major purpose of this venture. A second purpose is to find out quickly if we have done something wrong so we can react to it and try and get it straightened out. We want to stop those situations where a customer is unhappy with something we've done but does not tell us and simply goes away mad.
And lastly, it let's our people see first-hand that customers do appreciate and respond positively to conscientious work and caring treatment... and that's what it's really all about.
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Printer's Ink is a quarterly newsletter written by Ned Thomson, president of Thomson-Shore, Inc. A hardcopy version is sent out to approximately 20,000 addresses, world-wide. If you are interested in being added to our mailing list please contact us one of the following ways:
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