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Frank: Book Publishers Turn the Page

Published on February 23, 2018

Frank opines about offset vs. digital printing for books and variable art for packaging. Book publishers are changing their warehousing and distribution strategies as a result.

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By Frank Cost on Feb 23, 2018

What I want is a digital book that smells like freshly printed offset. For those of us who judge a book first by its fragrance. Maybe a scratch-and-sniff strip inside the front cover could work. Perhaps a small niche market. But a man can dream.


By Werner Rebsamen on Feb 23, 2018

Frank - great video. In regards for printing and binding books, you spoke from my heart. Remember, we were the only ones in the late 1970's early 80's who predicted those short-runs? I was quoted in Publishers Weekly in September 1981 on that topic, long before the first DocuTech came onto the market. Interesting times. We can be so proud to have lived and experienced such exiting developments. These are such exiting times.


By Pete Masterson on Feb 23, 2018

I was the tariff publishing officer for Southern Pacific in the mid 1980s. Using proprietary software, we created a "printing on demand" system for our tariff publications (10,000 pages of material spread among about 100 different books). We used CP/M computers, networked to a UNIX mini -- that then transferred the files to the IBM mainframe to be printed on the IBM 3800 laser printers (300 pages per minute). The system was quite effective and was used until sometime in the mid 1990s when newer technology was adopted.

Meanwhile, I left the railroad owned a "ma and pop" print shop, then managed a book-oriented typesetting service, supervised contractor staff in the publications branch at a NASA facility, and finally became a free lance book designer. I've used a mix of offset and digital (and copier) technology at each stop along the way. By the mid 00s hardly any of my self-publishing clients used offset printing ... only those (few) with significant press runs (or very long books where the economics for digital didn't work) or full color books. Almost all my clients were using digital printing and that only became more popular once Lightning Source and CreateSpace arrived on scene.

Per Frank Cost ... I have to admit, I really liked the odor of fresh printing... but the transition to "soy based ink" ended that... (at one point I had 2000 books in my living room that smelled like used cooking oil). Digital printed books don't have much odor and I guess that's ok -- it's better than smelling like soybean oil.


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