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PDF, or Portable Document Format continues to amaze us with its ease of use, predictability, strong customer acceptance and significant savings in production time and dollars. I strongly urge you to check it out. There appears to be no doubt that it is going to quickly become the industry standard for getting documents into print. After just three months of working with PDF files, here’s what we think of it.
Ease of use: If you can produce PostScript files, you can produce PDF files. To produce PDF files you need the Adobe Acrobat software package which will allow you to go from the PostScript file to PDF. Obtaining the complete Acrobat 4.0 package will cost about $230 and in just one publishing project, it will likely save you more than that in time, grief, and dollars.
As a matter of fact, even though you have to go through the extra step of converting from PostScript to PDF, more than one typesetter has told us they still prefer to do the conversion because it saves them the time and hassle they face in making sure they have included all the fonts and elements with the job when they send application files to a service provider. When a file is converted on the same system that created it the fonts and links should be readily available to the file.
Predictability: Typesetters and publishers who are supplying us with PDF files almost universally sing its praises. There is an article on page two of this issue that gives one publisher’s feelings on PDF. They have switched all their books to PDF and are delighted with the result. From the printer’s standpoint I can tell you unequivocally that our people all tell me there is no comparison in the reliability and predictability between the two software systems.
In our early days of working with PostScript files, we experienced problems of one kind or another in close to 90% of all the files we received. That has since declined to about 50% but that is still a significant number.
In comparison, PDF is making great strides in allowing visual proofing of files without having to own the various software packages that are available in the industry today. The problem rate with files is already below 10%. Our people literally have asked me to say whatever I can to get customers to switch to PDF. They feel that its inherent superiority to PostScript is so great that you can’t overstate the reasons to switch. Everyone’s life is easier with PDF and, if there’s a downside (other than buying the Acrobat software) it is not apparent.
I hope I’ve made the point. We can almost guarantee you’ll be glad you switched to PDF . . . and I can absolutely guarantee that, if T-S is your printer, we’ll be delighted you did.
Customer Acceptance: For this point I will refer you again to the story on page two where we’ve reproduced a letter from a customer who has done a lot of books as Output Ready PDF. And I’ll say here that they are very enthusiastic.
In addition to that customer we now have a couple dozen others using PDF and they all have positive things to say. The problems that sometimes rear their heads when you work with regular electronic files have gone away. PDF is saving time, money, and frustration . . . and your printer will love you if you use it.
Financial Comparison: If there were no other advantage to PDF, the dollar savings would still be a compelling reason to switch. At T-S, our estimating system calculates prepress costs using a three tier system. Application, PostScript and Non-Output Ready PDF is priced approximately 9% less than text copy that is supplied as camera ready copy. With Output Ready PDF this savings increases to approximately 15% over camera ready prepress costs. As far as we know, we are the only printer who is recognizing the planning & preparation that it takes to prepare good printable files . . . for that we are pricing work three different ways, based on the format you are providing. In both cases for camera copy or a regular electronic file, seeing a dylux blueline proof is the usual method that a printer will provide to you to proof the copy and that blueline expense runs from about $.60 to $.80 per page, for a 6 x 9 book. In addition, the blueline proof will add one week to your production schedule.
A recent development in prepress technology is the digital blueline which we have addressed in most of the recent issues of Printer’s Ink. This digital proof is about 1/2 the cost of the conventional blueline but it can only be made if the copy is submitted in a file and all the art elements are in place on that file.
A digital blueline can be made from either a conventional electronic file or an Output Ready PDF file . . . furthermore, because the publisher can see on their monitor the exact way a PDF file will print, we now have several customers who use this proof for the final check, instead of providing lasers with their file. This is definitely not the case for copy prepared on conventional files. So . . . the entire cost of printing and shipping lasers can be saved using Output Ready PDF and your job should have a shorter production schedule.
Miscellaneous: In each of the last three PI issues, we spelled out the obvious production advantages of PDF as being very small file sizes, being platform independent, no lost fonts or graphics, very stable and predictable files, final pages can be proofread on your monitor, problems are very readily identified, and preflighting by the printer has been reduced from 2 hours to about 20 minutes. Now you can add a financial savings as well as the possibility of eliminating laser proofs to these advantages.
Now . . . you have heard me mention the notion of not providing laser proofs with Output Ready PDF files. We believe that if you have built a solid relationship with your compositor and printer, have not introduced any new methods, file formats or software into your projects, and have had reliable results . . . you could provide files without laser proofs. If you decide to provide lasers proofs, we will use them to verify line breaks and look for reflow, but be sure that your compositor is providing lasers printed from the PDF file, otherwise we may be calling you about differences.
One thing to add as a note of caution! In order for you to receive the lower pricing for Output Ready PDF you must have all your art, scans, graphics, etc. embedded and in place in your file when you send it in. Also it is best if your fonts are EmbeddedSubsets, see our guidelines for specifics on this. If you provide PDF files that do not contain the final art, we are forced to output film and strip the art on the table. Having to strip-in the art adds handoffs and costs . . . so the savings is not there.
Well, there you have it. Our latest attempt to encourage you to switch to PDF. Next issue we’ll probably say all this again with still an additional set of reasons. In the meantime, I’m pleading with you to get on the bandwagon. Why not be the first kid on the block to say, “My files are Output Ready PDF . . . what are yours?” You’ll be glad you did.
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The PDF seminar we announced in the last issue of Printer’s Ink has come and gone and it seems to have been a huge success . . . so much so that a second one is now being planned for sometime this fall.
Our first seminar, a two-day affair, was held in Dexter, June 3rd and 4th and was attended by a “sell-out” crowd of over 50 people from 16 different states. In addition to the 50 that attended, we had responses from many more who told us they’d like to attend but this time the timing didn’t work out for them.
While the seminar is aimed at thoroughly covering copy preparation in the PDF format, it also includes a plant tour, question and answer sessions with all of our production department supervisors and a session on scanning techniques. The next seminar being planned for the Fall will be a refinement of those same topics with the emphasis being on those that were the best received in the earlier seminar.
You don’t have to be a customer to attend. We’d like to give this information to the entire publishing world if they’re willing to listen.
If you’re interested in learning more about this amazing PDF technology that is easy to work with, will save you production time, will improve your book’s print quality, and also save you a lot of dollars in the process, let us know and we’ll send you a brochure on the seminar. To make this easy to do, use the attached quote request card to provide a name and address, check the box on the back and drop it in the mail.
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Here are some more compositors that have tested PDF files with us and are willing to work with you on supplying Output Ready PDF. We suggest that you review the quality of their work and request printed samples before using them as a source for scans.Affordable Type by Diane Lombard, IL Ph: 630-620-7270 Coghill Composition Company Richmond, VA Ph: 800-446-3041 Crane Typesetting Service, Inc. Charlotte Harbor, FL Ph: 800-214-0023 John Cole Graphic Design Santa Fe, NM Ph: 505-466-7311
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T he first actual Thomson-Shore experience with an Output Ready PDF workflow came in February when we talked with one of our customers who had been 100% electronic for a long time and they said they were ready to try Output Ready PDF. We said we were ready to receive PDF and so our first “test case” was born. After a lot of communication with this customer we settled on a workflow that was efficient for all parties concerned and the results have been a success.
From the very beginning, our experience with PDF has been mostly positive. All the potential benefits that we had heard about PDF vs. regular electronic files (these benefits are discussed fairly completely in the story on page 1) proved to be all too true. Everything seemed to work like it was supposed to . . . and even better in some cases . . . and both the printer and the publisher were instantly sold on this amazing new technology.
In this story we’ll give you the procedures this publisher and T-S are following with their PDF files and then we will give you the comments the publisher just gave us about their reaction to this 3-month long “test case.”
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If a title has any art in the text the publisher has to make a determination on how to include the scans. If we do the scanning we return a high and low resolution scan on a CD and your typesetter can use the most appropriate format for their files. It definitely works best if all the art, if there is any, is scanned and in place in the file before it is transmitted to us.
When the file is complete, the publisher then proofs and preflights the file on a monitor with everything complete and in place and appearing just as it will appear on the final, printed page. The monitor, of course, will be using 72 dpi resolution while the final printed piece will be 2540 dpi, but even at 72 dpi, they tell us the resolution is fine for proofing.
After the copy has been proofed on screen and approved by the publisher, the file is on the typesetter’s FTP server, ready for transmission to the printer. They then fax us their final specification letter telling us the job is ready to go and either the typesetter sends the file to our server over the Internet or else we go to the typesetter’s server and download it directly. Either way the transfer is immediate, and without cost and no laser proofs need to be supplied by the publisher. Eliminating the laser proofs saves them time as well as money.
At T-S the file goes directly into our planning department completely avoiding spending the usual day that is lost when other electronic formats are provided for text copy.
Currently our procedure calls for sending digital bluelines of all PDF pages (at a cost of about 1/2 that of a regular blueline) but this publisher’s experience has been positive enough through the 1st fifteen titles that they are considering bypassing digital bluelines on files that they are receiving from their primary compositors.
All Output Ready PDF files (assuming that the art is from a reliable source) will go through the “direct to plate” equipment at T-S and this will additionally enhance the final printed quality . . . because no negative is ever made. Eliminating the negative also saves the publisher considerable money in proof return costs.
There . . . those are our comments. Now here’s what that customer told us about their experience with PDF.
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“We have recognized PDF as the next workflow standard and it has many advantages for us. In addition to solving problems experienced in the PostScript environment, like missing fonts and graphics, file size, and page independence, PDF has allowed us to switch to soft proofing and eliminate the need for final laser proofs. Utilizing FTP, we are able to view the final PDF file from the typesetter on screen and then deliver the file to the printer over the Internet. This process saves time and eliminates the need to output and ship final proofs. We have concluded that the reliability of the PDF files and the soft proof check by the publisher and the printer eliminates the need for any further checking. This is an opportunity for significant cost and time savings.
Fortunately you have welcomed PDF because of the more compact files and fewer output errors. There seems to be much support in the industry for implementation of PDF workflow and because of this we expect any problems experienced with PDF to be addressed and the process further perfected.”
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That’s it! All the news that’s fit to print about PDF. I certainly hope this encourages you to try it. PDF is looking like the best thing to hit the graphic arts field since the offset press and it’s just sitting there waiting for you to take advantage of it.
If you want to know more, call us or plan to attend the next T-S PDF seminar (we’ve already had one very successful one) that we’ll hold here in Dexter this Fall. An inquiry form to send in for more seminar information is printed elsewhere in this issue of Printer’s Ink.
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Thomson-Shore now has 16 current client guidelines for electronic prepress. We have developed each of these in order to help customers be able to prepare clean and trouble free electronic files for book covers, jackets, and text pages.
In the 5 years since we issued our first guideline, we have dispensed well over 10,000 copies of them to over 2000 customers. We have received very positive feedback on the help they have provided and we have even had some of these guidelines featured in publisher’s newsletters as an example of the kind of help that is available free to publishers.
At the moment we can fax any of these guidelines to customers upon request or they can all be viewed and/or downloaded directly at www.tshore.com/factory/ep/epguide.html. To download you will need Adobe’s Acrobat Reader, which you can get free at Adobe’s website. This will give you the most recent version available.
We are adding new guidelines and updating old ones regularly so even if you have received some of these in the past, you might want to check them out again to be sure you have a current copy.
Our customers have told us there is no printer out there that has anything that rivals what we have to offer here so even if you have similar information from another source, you might do well to look us up.
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The guidelines cover these 16 subjects.
1. About . . . Preparing and Submitting Clean and Trouble Free Files. (83KB)
2. About . . . P-file: P-file (photo file) is a term that was developed by Thomson-Shore. This document is an overview of what this term means and how it can benefit your production workflow. (82KB)
3. P-File Preparing Guidelines: Guidelines for Preparing & Submitting Art for Digital P-File Scanning. (320KB)
4. P-File Guidelines for Proper Use of Digital P-File Scans: The purpose of this guideline is to explain when it is appropriate to use the high resolution scans versus the OPI low resolution scans. It is very important that you follow these recommendations, especially if you are proceeding with OPI. (114KB)
5. About . . . PDF: The Portable Document Format (PDF) is creating quite a stir in the publishing industry. This format is becoming increasingly popular as the preferred method of transporting document to the service provider. When compared to its counterpart, PostScript, there are many advantages to PDF. (82KB)
6. Guidelines for Configuring & Using Acrobat Distiller 3.x (Mac & PC). (120KB)
7. About. . . Digital Bluelines: One of the major problems to be solved with direct to plate systems (DTP) was how to handle proofs when there are no negatives. The Digital Blueline (DBL) was developed by our platesetter manufacturer to address this issue. (99KB)
8. Electronic Prepress Data Sheet: This is our main EP Data form that conveys all the information we need to know about our customer’s electronic book job. A completed EP Data Sheet is required to be submitted with every electronic job. (67KB)
9. EP Data Sheet for Covers & Jackets: This data form conveys all the necessary information for submitting electronic cover and jacket files. The back page contains many useful tips on preparing your files. A completed EP Data Sheet for Covers & Jackets is required to be submitted with every electronic cover or jacket file. (63KB)
10. Standards for Submitting Clean and Trouble Free Text Files: Technical Document which outlines our requirements for submitting trouble free electronic files. (95KB)
11. Electronic Prepress Test Jobs: Procedure for submitting a test job to Thomson-Shore. (79KB) Updated March ’99.
12. Client Guidelines for Electronic Prepress-Supported Removable Media: A listing of the different removable media disks and cartridges that are accepted by T-S’s EP department. If you don’t have any of our supported media available, it may be possible to have your data transferred by an outside supplier. Please contact us for more information. (48KB)
13. Client Guidelines for Electronic Prepress-Application Files/ Macintosh: Guidelines to follow for submitting files in native application format on a Macintosh platform. Applications we support include QuarkXPress, PageMaker, FrameMaker, FreeHand, Illustrator, and Photoshop. (41KB)
14. Client Guidelines for Electronic Prepress-PostScript Files: Guidelines to follow for submitting PostScript files from any application or platform. We also have additional guidelines for printing PostScript files from the following application files for Windows 3.x: PageMaker, QuarkXPress, Corel Ventura 4.2 & 5.0, Word 6.0 and WordPerfect 6.0. Windows ’95 support is yet to come. (84KB)
15. Thomson-Shore’s Adobe Type Library
16. Client Guidelines for Electronic Prepress-Connecting to our FTP server: Two sets of guidelines are available for connecting to our FTP server, one for the Macintosh platform and one for the Windows 3.x platform.
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We also have guidelines for configuring Windows ’95 and Windows 3.x, prior to making PostScript. In addition we have PostScript conversion guidelines for IBM PageMaker 5, 6.x; IBM QuarkXPress 3.32 and also for Word and WordPerfect. Call us if your application isn’t listed. We might still be able to help you.
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If you publish a book that has bleeds in the copy and you use PDF files for your text, you should not make your PostScript file to the exact document size. In PDF we can’t extend the page so we’d need a page to be done in a size somewhat larger than the trim to accommodate the bleed, and then indicate in writing what margins you would like.
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When providing PDF files it is can be difficult to determine what margins should be used for the text. Often the PDF files are created with an oversize page to allow for bleed. We recommend that you provide a written specification for margins to avoid delays.
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We have discovered a bug when using TIFF files with PageMaker and supplying PDF files. The files become very distorted when output. This is due to a problem with the conversion between Acrobat 3.0 and the stripping software. A couple of ways to work around it are:
1) Save your TIFF files as Photoshop EPS files.
2) Use Acrobat 4.0 with Acrobat 3.0 compatibility selected.
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This year, for the first time in 15 years, I didn’t play in the Annual “Printer’s Softball Tournament”. My excuse for missing it is age related . . . I forgot. T-S had two teams entered and they played each other in the quarterfinals. One was eliminated then and the other team lost in a pitcher’s duel in the semi’s, 28-27. Ours was the only co-ed team.
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Cutting down on the length of the production schedules we give to customers on their orders and meeting those schedules has been a very high priority for T-S in ’99. We have had a series of employee committee’s design different department wide and company wide initiatives to help us accomplish this and they are now paying off.
In the past several months we have cut 8 calendar days off the average production time for both hard and soft bound books and we are shipping between 80 and 90% of all our orders on or ahead of schedule. Those that do ship late are usually held up by proof delays or missing material. The average “days late” on those orders is just 2 1/2. PDF files should help us to continue improving on delivery schedules as they have the potential to save more than 1 additional week of production time.
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Since the merger in late 1998 between the 2 largest cloth manufacturers, ICG and Holliston, service and availability of book cloth has seriously deteriorated. Combining their manufacturing and distribution facilities seems to have posed a much greater problem than they expected.
T-S has a cloth stocking program that, for the 28 cloths we stock, has eliminated this problem. We keep each of the 28 cloths in our own inventory and we make sure we do not run out of them. The 28 stock cloths include 13 in Roxite B, 5 in Arrestox B, 7 in Pearl Linen, 2 in Roxite A, and Black Kennett. We have these colors all on a sample brochure and if you’d like one, just let us know.
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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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