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Economics & Research Blog

Renewing the Printing Industry... In Print!


By Dr. Joe Webb
Published: December 3, 2008

Finally, the print version of “Renewing the Printing Industry” is available. There were well over 1,000 downloads of the PDF version by the end of October. It is not known how many pass-along copies of the report have been sent around the industry. It was odd, but fitting, that a book about transforming the business be in electronic format. It can still be downloaded for free.

The print version has additional features. There have been some minor updates and additions to the text and the addition of workshop materials to help print business owners and executives work through the various strategic options discussed in the book.

Production of the book is by the on-demand service Lulu.com. Its selection as the provider was based on their wide range of output options. Amazon.com's Booksurge was too limiting, with very strict production requirements. We had already settled on the size of the pages when we began production, while Booksurge wanted to get raw files and flow the text itself. Since we had charts and tables, we wanted more control as to their page positions.

Working with the Lulu.com system was easy, and faster than I expected. We did have minor problems getting our cover spine to be aligned correctly, but everything was handled on the desktop publishing side after ordering a proof copy and working through the site a bit more. The on-demand process has also allowed the availability of black & white and color versions.

For those who are wondering, Lulu.com fits into the strategic framework of “communications logistics” as outlined on page 108 of “Renewing.” The primary reason for that classification is that it provides an e-store back end for handling fulfillment, and also has wide range of distribution and promotional options. A business such as Vistaprint fits the “commodity print” strategy, also in the same chapter, because of its obsession with low costs through automation, its pricing strategy, and that its distribution and marketing transcends geographical limitations. To classify both businesses as “Internet printers” misses the point of two distinctly different strategic orientations, even though they may use similar tools. The example I've used is that carpenters and orthopedic surgeons both use hammers in plying their trades; you don't want your carpenter doing a hip replacement, and you don't want your orthopedist building your house. We should not confuse similarity of tools with the grander context of business vision.

Being in print also meant that the document had to “work” differently. The free PDF version just had to work on screen; you can't “see” the entire work, nor flip through it as you can with a book. The print version had to use better production tools (the PDF was basically done in Microsoft Word and OpenOffice Writer; the print quality PDF supplied to Lulu.com was created in Adobe InDesign and Acrobat). The download version could use color whenever it wanted to. The color print version had to use color as part of its total look and feel. As a PDF it's just a business document, but when it's in print it becomes more than that as physical dimensions take over.

Whether or not you go for the free download, or buy the print version in black & white or in color, the most important thing is to take the step to look differently at your business and the business environment. Opportunities are there for those who create them.


Dr. Joe Webb is one of the graphic arts industry's best-known consultants, forecasters, and commentators. He is the director of WhatTheyThink's Economics and Research Center.



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