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Combining DTP with PDF...a glimpse of where printing is going

Direct to Plate” (DTP) technology is something Thomson-Shore has been utilizing now for several months. We purchased the equipment to print via DTP just over a year ago and after several months of working with it, it is now the fastest growing part of our business. 

A big reason for the growth in direct to plate is the arrival of PDF as a major format for preparing text copy. The combination of PDF and DTP is a real dramatic breakthrough for text copy preparation and book printing. We’ve written about PDF a lot in recent issues of Printer’s Ink but haven’t done much with direct to plate so here’s the latest on how we feel DTP stacks up. 

Direct to plate simply means that a printer can take a file and, instead of producing a negative of a text page (or imposed negatives of 16 pages if the printer has the equipment), you can bypass the negative completely and impose the 16 pages directly on to a plate which is ready for printing. 

This obviously saves the cost of making a negative and that is really a significant financial saving. However, this saving is largely offset by the fact that the printing plate that is used in the DTP process is much more expensive than Combining DTP with PDF a glimpse of where printing is going a conventional printing plate. 

The people who make printing plates obviously see a huge opportunity there because they can sell a much more expensive plate to the printer but it also means the company who is able to develop a plate that will cut this cost will get the lion’s share of the business and virtually everyone who makes plates is working on this. 

In order to produce a book using DTP technology, the job needs to go to the printer in file form and the customer must be willing to see a digital blueline (since there is no negative we can’t make a regular blueline) . . . or, if you’re using PDF to produce your file and you’re confident with the image you saw on your monitor when you proofed the text pages, you can “shoot the moon” and go without proofs. As DTP plates get less expensive and PDF encourages you to print a book without proofs, there will be savings in time and money. This is going to be the future of book printing and we already have several customers who are providing PDF files and have enough confidence in them to go to press without seeing any proofs. 

This is about as innovative and exciting as things ever get in the printing business. PDF and DTP are going to have a big impact on book production . . . particularly short run book production and that’s the business we’re in. 

Come to our PDF seminar and find out how you can benefit now. 

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Thomson-Shore Dominates AAUP Book Show Winners Again

The Association of American University Presses’ annual book show is again history and Thomson-Shore, for over ten years running, printed far more of the winning entries than any other book manufacturer. This year there were 28 “typographic” books selected as being outstanding in design and manufacturing. Thomson-Shore printed and bound 12 of them. That’s more than twice all the other Michigan printers put together. 

Since we have always stressed quality to our people at Thomson-Shore, it is pretty satisfying to see some positive results from our efforts. It almost makes you think we know what you’re doing. 

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Somebody must be reading this… 

Incoming Work on PDF Files Doubles in 3 Months

 as Customers Realize Benefits

Earlier this year when we began learning about and working with PDF (Portable Document Format) files, it seemed like this new technology was too good to be true. You had the feeling that some weaknesses would appear that would limit or even negate some of the benefits PDF offered. 

Well, six months into its evolution, PDF continues to live up to its potential and we are more sold on it than ever. At its current rate, we will be receiving more jobs on PDF files than on regular electronic files by the time you read this and it wouldn’t be surprising if PDF has completely supplanted conventional electronic files by Y2K time. 

We’ve listed the PDF benefits before but they seem significant enough to repeat so here is a brief listing of reasons we believe you should ask your typesetter to use PDF for your book’s text copy files. PDF Benefits: 

1. A PDF file size will be from 1/10 th to 1/100 th the size of a regular PostScript file. 

2. All font’s and graphics are contained in one file that is viewable in individual, complete pages, with everything in place just as it will be on the printed page. Thus, when you use PDF, you do not need to make laser proofs for each page (or any page for that matter). Once the editor approves the page proofs, the file is ready to send to the printer. 

3. PDF files can run equally easily on IBM/PC, Mac or Unix platforms . . . and PDF can actually cross platforms. 

4. PDF files are much more stable and can be viewed on screen without having to know the various page layout programs available. 

5. For the printer, a PDF file can be preflighted in about 1/5 th the time that it takes to preflight other file formats, which gets the job into production faster. 

6. Typesetters tell us they like PDF because the conversion software is easy to follow and any problems the file may contain can be identified in the conversion process. 

7. Because most of these advantages affect the printer as well as the publisher, T-S quotes prep cost 15% lower for copy coming as Output Ready PDF files than for copy coming in camera ready, and 9% lower on Output Ready PDF files than PostScript/ Application or Non-Output Ready PDF files. This can mean a savings from $50.00 to $100.00 on an “average” book if you use Output Ready PDF vs. other formats. 

8. And last but certainly not least, since PDF files are typically trouble free, you may consider having your PDF book produced without having to see bluelines. If you do this, the savings in time and dollars are very significant. At least 1 week’s time will be cut off your schedule (and on average it’s nearly about 2 weeks), and the financial savings on an average book will be about $150.00. We have a few customers that have either eliminated blues entirely or see just first and last signature blues and we have no problems with that as long as they have confidence in the files they receive from their compositor. 

So, there you have our reasons why we think you should “go PDF.” All book publishers will be doing it eventually and we believe that sooner is better. If you do take this step, here are some things you should know. 

While the PDF file format is platform independent, still watch your file naming conventions. Windows 95, 98 and NT does not allow certain characters in file names. These characters are \ / : * ? “ < >. If you use any of those characters in a file name, we have to change the name in order to preflight the file. Also be sure your file ends with a .pdf extension. 

Fonts can still be troublesome. Watch your accent marks, special characters and modified fonts. Print your PDF pages with these characters to a laserwriter to ensure they are reproducing correctly. They may look fine on screen but output incorrectly. 

In order to help you take advantage of PDF . . . or if you need more encouragement . . . on October 28th and 29th , we will be reprising the PDF seminar we put on here in June. You can read about this elsewhere in this issue and we urge you to think about attending. 

Well, that’s all the news we have to print about PDF. 

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How to Preflight Fonts in your PDF files

1. Using Acrobat Exchange 3.x or Acrobat 4.0, go into preferences and ensure “type greeking” is turned off. If Acrobat doesn’t display the font on screen it cannot determine which typeface it will use. 

2. View all pages on screen to ensure proper line and page breaks, pagination, font reproduction, etc. 

3. Go to the File Menu and select Document Info/Fonts. Compare the “Original Font” and the “Used Font” columns. If the files were made to our guidelines you should see “Embedded Subset” in the used font column. If the font is one of the standard 14 fonts, Helvetica family, Times family, Courier family, Symbol, and Zapf Dingbats, then you may see a similar name in the used font column. 

4. Now check the font type column; If you see any TrueType fonts, these could cause problems. Typically this happens with QuarkXPress files. Either change the font or provide another file format for outputting. 

Type 3 fonts have not yet caused us any grief as long as the font name in the used font column matches the original font.

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Tips on Doing Cover & Jacket Files Electronically

Printer’s Ink has featured electronic prepress text reproduction nearly every issue for about 6 years. Now, at the suggestion of readers, customers and T-S employees, we’ll move from the text to covers and jackets and give you several suggestions our own EP people believe could help the designer get closer to what they have in mind, do it with fewer questions from your printer and save both time and money in the process. 

I will start out with 4 major suggestions then move on to some “smaller” suggestions and then conclude with some general updating of EP stuff. 

Suggestion #1: Before sending in a cover or jacket electronic file, fill out the T-S cover/jacket (Windows, not Mac) spine bulk program (this includes a simple program for figuring a book’s spine bulk). This gives us the accurate dimensions for spine, cover size, flap size . . . virtually creating a dummy of the layout. We can fax you a printout of this diagram filled out with your book specs (that you give us) so you, and we, will both have the dummy to work with. Or, this program can be downloaded directly from our Internet site (www.tshore.com) or call a T-S Business Development Rep or Customer Service Rep, and they can fax it to you or help you fill it out over the phone. Hopefully this is clear but if not, give us a call. Our people tell me it’s a piece of cake to fill this out and it is very, very helpful. 

Suggestion #2: Covers and jackets should be set up as one single-page file . . . not as separate files or pages for the front cover, back cover and the spine. Separate files can cause problems when we merge them, namely reflow and/or missing elements. 

Suggestion #3: We have two “EP Data Sheets” that contain a series of questions to be answered (on one side) and then a long series of “guidelines” on the reverse. One of these data sheets is for text copy and the other one is for covers and jackets. Before we will release a job from our Customer Service Department into our electronic preflight area we have to have this sheet filled out. A job that comes in without this sheet will be held up until we contact the customer and get them to fill this sheet out. The sheet is easy to fill out but if you have any questions, your Customer Service Rep or Laurie Briegel (our EP Specialist) will be happy to help you. 

Suggestion #4: We need current full (100% of actual) size laser proofs for all cover and jacket files. One of our quality checks in electronic prepress is to put the laser proof over the finished negative (on a light table) to be sure they match. We actually do this with each text negative as well and we need current full size laser proofs there as well. 

For covers and jackets we’d also like you to write the color breaks right on one composited, black and white laser proof if possible but a color laser or separated laser proof will also be ok. 

Those are the major suggestions but here are some other thoughts that came up when I talked with Laurie, Sue and Loretta to get the ideas for this story. 

1. On a cover or jacket, the art can be done in Photoshop, see #2 for more info, but with older versions the type should be done in a page layout program. Type done in Photoshop version 4.x and earlier can be fuzzy and it can’t be corrected if the dimensions need to be altered. If you are using newer versions of Photoshop 5.x or greater that allow type layers, be sure to provide the fonts used to ensure proper output. 

2. If you start a new document in Photoshop and click on “File New” you get automatic defaults to RGB and 72 dpi. You need to correct those defaults to 300 dpi and CMYK. We can convert RGB to CMYK but we can’t convert to 300 dpi so the resulting resolution will be too low. 

3. If your design calls for 2 Pantone (PMS) colors to overprint each other to create a 3rd color, you need to setup your file using process colors then designate which PMS will be the process substitute. If this isn’t clear (and I won’t be surprised if it isn’t) you could call Laurie Briegel who can clarify it. 

And, lastly here are a few of the suggestions that are on the guidelines side of our EP Data Sheet for Covers and Jackets. These only are about half of the suggestions on our guideline sheet but they are among the shortest and, I’m told, among the most important. 

• Drop Shadows should be layered text boxes. Do not use style attributes to create these. Using layered boxes gives you more flexibility to change color and offset of the shadow. Using the style attributes prevents the printer from trapping the shadow. • Rule Lines should not be specified as hairline. Use a definite point size (0.25 or 0.3 pts) when specifying line weight. 

• Rule Lines within heavy coverage of a solid ink should be at least 0.5 pt. Anything thinner than this will fill in. 

• Photoshop images should be saved as CMYK, grayscale, duotone, tritone, or bitmap mode (as appropriate) not RGB mode. 

• Our OPI process cannot be used for covers or jackets but we can provide you with high resolution files for your manipulation. Hopefully these suggestions will be helpful to you and not just add to confusion. But if it’s not all clear, please call Laurie Briegel at T-S. We are here to try to help make your job easier and your results better and we’ll do whatever it takes to accomplish this. 

• We are not ready to take cover files as PDF. This is primarily due to adjustments that are needed for correct fit and proper output. 

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New Equipment Update

Thomson-Shore has had several recent equipment additions . . . or updates . . . that are aimed at improving quality and production time. Here is a summary of them: 

Jacketing machine: This is a new addition. We have had a machine for wrapping jackets for several years, but it was getting old and tired. Our new one should be in and operating well before you receive this. 

This Kolbus machine is about 50% faster than its predecessor, it is much better ergonomically, it uses a water score to put a far tighter hinge on the jacket flaps and it can be run in-line with a shrink-wrapping machine. Other than that . . . it’s not much different. 

Halftone Scanner: We just purchased a “Nikon Super Cool Scanner” that is designed to make halftone scans directly from a transparency. This scanner will be used only when the photo comes in as a transparency but in those instances it will be a dramatic improvement from our standpoint. 

With a conventional scanner, a transparency has to be removed from its carrier, scanned and then put back into the carrier. The Nikon scanner eliminates the need for removal, it keeps the transparency completely free of dust, the scan can be provided to you using our p-file process. 

Binding Line Rebuild: Our entire Kolbus case binding line was recently rebuilt and many parts were replaced. The result is that it now can be setup faster than ever and the resulting set ups are more accurate. It will put a better hinge score in the case and it operates somewhat faster than before. 

Each of these additions in its own way will help us move toward our goal of 90% on-time delivery. 

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 PreQualified Typesetter Program 

Thomson-Shore has available a list of compositors that have either tested files with us or have actually provided live production jobs. This can be obtained from your customer care team or from our web page at www.tshore.com. 

When PDF files started to break their way into the production flow, we asked all of the compositors on this list to be able to provide Output Ready PDF files. Our current list contains the names of the compositors that are willing and able to provide this service. 

Thomson-Shore is not recommending any specific typesetters, in fact we urge you to get quotes, check samples, and references. When checking scanning quality, be sure to see printed samples on the stock that you intend on using. 

If you are providing scans to the compositor, indicate if they are “for position only”, high resolution for output or OPI. Good communication leads to trouble free files. 

It is the responsibility of the compositor and the publisher to determine the appropriate file format for your project. 

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  New PreQualified Typesetter  

Publishers’ Design and Production Services, Inc
349 Old Plymouth Road 
Sagamore Beach, MA 02562-1480 
Ph: 508-833-8300

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Paper Pricing is on the Move  

As inevitable as death and taxes, when the paper market gets strong, prices go up. And . . . we must be in a strong paper market now be-cause just about everything we buy that has pa-per fiber in it is going up in price. 

Cartons are up 9%, binder’s board is up 9%, natural text stock (our biggest item) is up 5.5 %, white text stock is up 4.5% and coated paper has gone up 3%. That’s just about everything. 

There are some natural paper alternatives to the Glatfelter Supple Opaque sheet on the market that we are considering, but it will take some experimenting time to see what the best direction is. In the meantime, even though white text stock has gone up, it is still about 20% below natural text stock, so if you like white . . . or just want to save money . . . you could certainly use white stock, and save money. 

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Next PDF Seminar Set for October 

Our next seminar will be held on October 28th and 29th. If you were one of those people who were not able to attend in June, we certainly hope you’ll choose to come this time. 

The seminar is aimed at thoroughly covering copy preparation in the PDF format but we also include a plant tour where you’ll have a chance to talk with our production people. We’ll have a session on scanning techniques, something on covers and color and, in an effort to accommodate people who have no experience . . . or just want to become more confident about electronic prepress technology . . . we will offer a workshop to help those folks “get up to speed” so they’ll be able to get more out of the actual seminar. This last part will take place on October 27th and will be limited to the first ten interested registrants. 

At any rate, we certainly hope you’re interested and if you are, there’s a postal reply card in this issue of PI that will get you more information should you choose to send it in.

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Thomson-Shore is Making Changes to Improve Delivery Dates

For the past 12 months, T-S has had a goal of getting over 90% of all of our jobs shipped on or before the scheduled shipping date. In years gone by we were considerably below that percentage but now we are close to being there. For the past two months our on time shipping percentage has averaged 88%. The number of production days we include in a schedule is also declining so overall, our production time is getting shorter and our schedules are more reliable.

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Our internet web site (we’ve had a website nearly 4 years now) is still generating many “hits” each day. You can see a picture and brief biography of each of our customer contact people, get a tour through the Thomson-Shore plant and, if you want, fill out a request for quote form that is immediately e-mailed to our estimating people. About 15% of all our quote requests now come over the internet. 

* * * * * 

The “long range” plans for Printer’s Ink has me (Ned Thomson) writing this issue and the next one and then, assuming the world is still functioning after January 1, 2000, Printer’s Ink will no longer be my baby. By January 1 st my wife and I will be in Arizona along with Harry Shore and his wife for the winter and my contribution then will be to contribute a column for each issue while the rest of the copy will be prepared by employees who will be writing about things in areas they specialize in. So, the next issue is the last one that will contain purposeful grammatical mistakes in it just to see if anyone out there is paying attention. 

* * * * * 

Another area where T-S is showing improvement . . . and I’ll attribute this one to the fact that the company is now 98% owned by our 325 employees and with ownership as an incentive, motivation for improvement is high . . . is in the area of “reworks.” A rework occurs when a production mistake causes something to go wrong and it needs to be corrected. Because book manufacturing is basically custom manufacturing with each job being a unique challenge there is a lot of opportunity to make a mistake. Industry wide rework cost runs over 3.5% of total production cost. We have always been below that number and in the last year have cut our rework percentage from 3.0% to 2.1% . . . with a goal of 1.5% by year end. 

* * * * * 

This may be my last opportunity to predict the upcoming NCAA National Football Champion so here it is . . . Michigan! And this year I’m really confident about it.  

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PI Information

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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