I hope that headline didn't sound so high tech that you lost interest in the story because we have something new, unique and important to tell you about.
In early 1995, Thomson-Shore will have installed a new combination of hardware and software that will allow us to handle halftones and line art on disks in a way that no other short run book printer in the solar system can. For that matter there is probably only one other book printer of any size that can claim to have the equipment and talent that will equal what we will now be able to do in electronic pre-press...or desktop publishing if you prefer.
We are installing a system that is known as the "AGFA Solution". It consists of an AGFA Sun OPI server on a Sun Sparcstation 20 computer containing 8 gigabytes of on-line storage (and expandable up to several times that number) and an AGFA Avantra 44 Imagesetter with an on-line processor.
You probably don't know what any of this stuff is but then neither do I. However, I do know what it can do and that, I believe, should be of interest to you.
Basically, what we and everyone else in our business have not been able to effectively do until now is handle halftones and line art that are embedded in a publisher's electronic disk. We have told you we could handle text copy going directly from a disk to negatives imposed in 8 page flats. However, if you had art or photos in the book, because it took much longer for the "old" imagesetters to output a halftone at 2540 dpi vs. text copy at 1693 dpi, and because we didn't particularly trust the publisher or their Service Bureau to give us good scans, we asked that you have us shoot and strip halftones and other art. We would make a conventional negative and then strip it into the text negative created by the imagesetter.
Now, we can change that, speed up the process, maintain great quality and either hold down or lower the cost of the whole thing.
With this new system, you can send us the photos or art in advance, we will scan it ourselves with a state of the art Dupont scanner, create a low resolution and high resolution file and send the "low res" file back to you (possibly over the Internet if you have access). You can place it in position on the page, size it, and crop it. Because of it's small file size, handling the graphic will be quick and easy and it will print on your laserwriter much faster.
When we receive your file, our software is able to swap our high resolution file for the low resolution file, duplicating the cropping, size and placement you gave it. We can then output a fully composited page negative.
This new equipment can output that page and the halftone at a high speed, impose it and using new break-throughs in balanced imaging, get the best possible reproduction. We will be able to create a one piece negative, up to 35 x 44 1/2" in size, with 16 pages positioned and ready to make the plate. The plate ready negative will be punched for press register...ready to put on a vacuum frame to make a signature blueline or expose on a plate and print.
Even with halftones included we can make a press ready plate in just a few minutes, from start to finish.
And, looking a bit (but not much) farther down the road, the imaging can be done direct to a polyester plate, eliminating the negative altogether. In this case, there would be no blueline so it's going to be a while before you, or we, will have the nerve to go this route...but the capability is there.
Because of this "full format" size, top quality reproduction and high speed, we will use this equipment to make most all of our text plates for disk jobs...whether or not they contain halftones. However, it is the job with halftones where this is really revolutionary. This will allow us to move all disk jobs through the pre-press area with no stripping, compositing, opaquing, negative cutting, negative sequencing, or window cutting.
The publisher should realize a cost savings, assuming trouble free disks, after we have had some time to judge what our costs are.
And...I humbly add...there ain't no one else out there that can do it. Others may eventually follow, but with the steep learning curve that exists with this stuff, we intend to stay in the lead for a long, long time.
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Here are some of the things you should be aware of if you are interested in pursuing this.
First of all, in order to assure that your files are compatible with our PressWise imposition software, we need your file to be converted to PostScript. If you are using a Macintosh computer, you can do that with the print driver that comes with your computer. Or we can handle the PostScript conversion (for now, a free service) if you are a PageMaker or XPress user. If you use a PC with Windows, you need to use an Adobe Print Driver to convert any of the following Windows applications to PostScript: WordPerfect for Windows 6.0; Pagemaker 5.0; Ventura Publisher 4.2; Word for Windows 6.0.
If you don't have an Adobe Print Driver (it does not come with your PC so you probably don't) we can send you one free of charge, along with our guidelines on how to convert a file to PostScript...if your job is coming to Thomson-Shore. We mentioned this in the last issue and have sent out over 20 of these drivers but we still have a large supply available.
Secondly, if you would like help with how to proceed, we can put you in touch with the appropriate person at Thomson-Shore to answer your questions over the phone, or, if your need is great, we could have someone from here visit you for an on-site consultation.
If you also are interested in help on how to handle editorial and design on a disk...things that need doing before your file is even ready to go to the printer...we can also put you in touch with a person who has a lot of experience in this area. This particular person works for a publisher and has handled over 100 titles that have been done on disk from manuscript through bound books.
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This stuff probably doesn't have the impact on you that it has had on me but then I've never had anything quite this unique to write about before. If the printing business can ever be exciting, then this is EXCITING. And, either in the next issue or the one after that, we should be able to tell you of some additional new state of the art equipment and software we will be installing to do 2, 3, and 4 color covers and jackets from disk. That area is very tricky and I may have to learn some new words to describe it but I'll do my best.
But for the moment, why not call us to learn more about how to proceed in the fascinating world of desktop publishing. I think you'll be glad you did.
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Paper prices are increasing so fast this information may be outdated by the time you read it. However, as of early November, natural text paper prices will have gone up 14% in the last 6 months and white text paper will have gone up 39% in that same time period.
Basically, natural text stock is close to where it was two years ago and white is actually close to it's all time high price of about 4 years ago. For the paper manufacturers it's "Happy Days are Here Again".
The difference between white and natural text stock (natural was 23% higher than white in January) is now about 8%.
In addition to these dramatic price increases, shortages are beginning to occur. International Paper, the nation's largest producer, and Champion Paper, one of the largest producers of white text paper, actually declared "moritoriums" for a week in October. This means that for that period they would not accept new orders because they were essentially sold out. Glatfelter, the country's largest manufacturer of natural text paper, has put their customers on "Allocation" which means you can only order as much paper as you ordered in the preceding year. International and Champion are also now on Allocation. As a matter of fact, they are actually talking about making the allotment 90% of last year's usage and that would cause a problem.
We have always gotten through these periods of paper shortages in the past without disruptive problems. I assume we will manage it this time as well, but the potential of running out of paper on a specific job is there.
What causes glee for the paper companies can cause grief for the printer.Return to Contents
In the order acknowledgment process at T-S, we fax (or call) the customer the day we receive the order, telling you it arrived and giving you the job number we have assigned to it and, for new customers, the name of our Customer Service Representative that will be working with you.
After your job has been thoroughly reviewed, planned and scheduled, we fax or mail you two additional confirmations. These two come together. The first one is a confirmation of all the job's specifications and the dates that proofs, if there are any, are scheduled to be sent and, the tentative shipping date.
The second confirmation is our price confirmation. This is actually in the form of our original quotation and, if there were no changes from the spec on your original quote, it will virtually be a duplicate of it. However, since close to 90% of our jobs come in with some changes from the original quote, the new, "final" price will be shown and it will be broken down in the same manner as the breakdown on the original quote.
This procedure gives you what your ultimate price will be, reflecting any changes you may have made, and it gives you this at the time your job goes into production so if there are any surprises, you will learn about them beforehand, not after the job is done.
From our perspective, this has all worked out very well. It eliminates the "why didn't you tell me how expensive that was?" questions that can occur if you are not told, and our customers seem to very much appreciate it.
However, the system is not able to handle the job where we have to begin production without knowing all the specifications. If you don't tell us the final cover or jacket specs or what cloth you want or if you haven't given us your 4 color art so we can confirm whether or not it will require additional charges to reproduce, then we cannot give you this firm and final price confirmation.
In these cases, we don't send the price confirmation until we have the missing information, and this could be halfway through the production time.
We have had some cases where a customer was unhappy with this delay. There was a major page count change, which we would have re-priced for them, but we didn't send it out because jacket specs were also missing.
In order to avoid this, if you realize that your job has changed significantly from the original quote, we believe it is a good idea to ask for an updated quote before the job gets sent in. We can do the quote and fax it back, usually within 24 hours, so you will not be left in the dark wondering about price changes.
Here's another aspect to our price confirmation. If you send your job in with all specifications complete, then make a change while the job is in production, we will make out and fax a second, revised price confirmation. This one will highlight what has changed from your original confirmation and show you the correct, revised price. This way, regardless of how many times you change a job's specs during the production process (we certainly don't encourage your doing this but realize sometimes it can't be avoided), you should always know what your final price will be.Return to Contents
Except for producing books from disks, there is probably no area of book production that is changing more...primarily for the better...than printing books on coated stock.
Just a few years ago, books printed on enamel and matte coated sheets had to be printed one side of the sheet at a time and when you bound the books, they wouldn't hold together unless they were sewn. The sewing wasn't a big deal if the books were hard bound because we generally sewed those anyway but for soft bound books that are typically perfect bound, sewing more than doubled the binding cost, and single sided printing had a similar effect on the presswork cost.
Then, recently, with the technical improvements in the new Heidelberg presses, we have begun to be able to successfully perfect (print both sides of the sheet at the same time) coated sheets so that solved the printing problem. And now, with the new glues and a new notch binding process, we have been able to eliminate sewing as a necessity for the soft bound books. Those are really major pluses and they help make coated stock books much more price competitive.
And now for the bad news...
While matte and enamel stock used to be readily available from the paper merchant's inventory, that is generally not the case now. The catalog market has grown so large that they seem to absorb all the normally available coated paper stock and we have had to begin putting these sheets on our floor in large amounts just so we will have it available when we need it.
This has the effect of lowering our cost but restricting our supply. We currently stock 60 and 70 lb. Mead Moistrite Matte for 8 1/2 x 11" and 70 lb. Mead Moistrite Matte for 6 x 9". In the gloss enamels we stock Rich Gloss in 70 and 80 lb. for 8 1/2 x 11" and 70 lb. Sterling Gloss for 6 x 9".
We do not stock any coated sheets for 7 x 10" or dull enamel for any trim sizes. So, if you specify a particular enamel like "L O E dull", we would have to order it and this usually requires a minimum of 2500 lbs., but in some cases the manufacturer's minimum might be 5000 lbs. and in some rare cases, it's 10,000 lbs.
Special order stocks, assuming you have enough to reach the particular manufacturer's minimum order, are going to be somewhat higher priced than our floor stocks and will usually take about 5 weeks to obtain.
For a 7 x 10" trim, we could either special order the stock, or cut our floor stock down from the 8 1/2 x 11" sheet.
All of the above nets out, we believe, to a significant plus for doing books on a coated stock today, vs. a couple years ago. And, when you combine this with being able to use the illustration swapping technique we described in the story on page one, these books become still more attractive.
On the other hand, coated stocks are still much more expensive than regular offset paper and they still take somewhat longer to print and bind. They are best used, as always, for books where the quality of the illustration is particularly important.Return to Contents
The 1st issue of Printer's Ink went out in November of 1984. That makes this an Anniversary Issue of some sort. The 1st issue went to about 2000 people. This one is going to over 20,000 people. That's progress... I think.
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In past issues we've mentioned that plates made from a disk are the same price at Thomson-Shore as plates made from camera ready copy. However, when you send in your copy on a disk, you should always see blues and, if you don't normally see blues when you produce a book, then that does create an added expense for sending your copy on a disk. Also, for pages that are corrected at the blues stage, if you send in your correction as camera copy, we charge $6.00 per page to re-shoot and re-strip it. If the page correction is done on a disk, we charge $15.00 set up plus $8.00 per corrected page. The savings that come from providing copy on a disk, come in lowering your composition expense and in eliminating the cost of creating repro proofs. These savings, we are told by publishers who use desktop publishing, can be very significant.
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If your practice is to furnish composited cover and jacket negatives to your printer (instead of mechanicals or an electronic file), be sure you have your dimensions figured accurately. If you miss the correct spine size or the allowance for a bleed, on a mechanical, the printer can usually fix it fairly easily. We don't usually even charge to do this. But, if you furnish composited negatives and miss something, then it becomes difficult or even impossible to correct. We can provide cover and jacket layout diagrams for the publisher or their designer to use and we strongly urge you to ask us for this if you are going to supply composited negatives. It's also not a bad idea to see this if you're furnishing a mechanical.
Another potential problem spot for us when the customer furnishes cover or jacket negatives is how the trapping is either not done at all or is not done properly. If you, or your supplier, have any questions about how trapping should be handled, please call us and ask for Renee Krull. She'll be happy to help you and she's good at this stuff.
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On all covers and jackets that a customer sends to us on a disk, we need to receive your separated laser print (one of each color) or preferably, a composited laserprint with color breaks thoroughly marked. It's difficult for us to look at an electronic file and tell just what the designer had in mind...without a hard copy proof.
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Thomson-Shore no longer has a Post Office Box. We used to receive mail at Box 305 but we have become too large a customer of the Post Office to get our mail in a box. The Dexter Post Office has never delivered mail to Thomson-Shore (we pick it up at the Post Office) but we always needed to have a box number on the address. Now, however, since we can no longer have a box, we have to get the box number off all of our mail. We actually had some mail that was addressed to us returned to the sender because the label had a box number on it and we, at the Post Office's request, no longer have a box.
At any rate, our address is 7300 W. Joy Rd., Dexter, MI 48130. No box number please.Return to Contents
Several days ago I finished off this issue of Printer's Ink, putting down everything I knew about book production that seemed important enough to print. However, the paste up person just told me I had too much copy. Either eliminate something or write more and expand to 6 full pages.
Having already exhausted all my technical knowledge, I am forced to reluctantly (since I had pledged not to do this anymore) fill up this remaining space with something philosophical. So, for the last time...
A little while ago I spoke at an annual meeting of the American Society for Quality Control. The subject was the importance of quality and how we tried to achieve it.
I don't recall what I said but I was recently asked to give the group a couple "insightful comments" that they could use to promote this year's conference... something quotable like "Quality Is Job One" or "Progress Is Our Most Important Product" or whatever slogan we use to motivate our people to achieve the ultimate goal of high quality that will insure business success.
In thinking about this, I decided our definition of success and how we try to achieve it is probably not consistent with what the A. S. Q. C. people believe. Success, I believe, is more of a moral issue than a performance issue. Success is measured by having a set of values and struggling to reach the standard that those values mean.
The value we preach at this company is simply living by the "Golden Rule". If you can treat your fellow employees, your customer, and "The Company" in a way that you would like to be treated if you were in their place, then you are, in my eyes, achieving success.
Successful people can make mistakes and they can have bad days but as long as they are doing their best to treat their partners with respect and consideration, they are still going to be successful.
If we can convince the people at Thomson-Shore of this simple truth then things like top quality, on-time delivery, and good profits will come about as by-products of their efforts. The effort is aimed at doing things right and not specifically at quality or speed or accuracy.
If a person beats their spouse, swears at their neighbors and hates their co-workers, there is nothing they can do on their job that is going to convince me that they are a success. Success is more than a performance issue, it is a moral issue. I believe respect and consideration for your partners (in our case the partners are your co-workers, customers, and company) will bring about the effort that will create those desirable by-products. And, in doing that, it will create a culture that allows you to enjoy and get satisfaction out of your job.
Well, having said that I feel better. I think I'll go home and tell my wife and the dog that I had a pretty good day.
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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, 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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