BOOKISHNESS: 3D Printing adds Exceptional Value

January 8, 2014

I started floating the idea of “bookishess” last spring. It’s a simple concept. Ebooks and print books each have notable advantages and disadvantages (they are in fact complementary media, not conflicting media). But print books often get lost in the online battle: Every time Amazon adds a single percent to its market share, a beautiful book cover design is vetoed by management as too expensive. (more…)

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Cloud Computing and the Future of Publishing

July 22, 2012

Last winter The Green Sheet, a printing industry newsletter, published my contrarian look at the hype surrounding cloud computing. The topic continues to spread across all industries as ever-increasingly the software we use moves from dedicated single-use installed applications to shared network resources. This, I argue, is big news for vendors selling cloud-based services. It’s not nearly as important for the rest of us. (more…)

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The End of the Desktop Printer

February 17, 2010

I was pleased to encounter Adrian Kingsley-Hughes’ blog posting this evening, “The Slow Demise of the Printer.” Of course many of my readers could read into the title in two ways: an acknowledgement of my frequently noted difficulties at printing companies, or as a note on the decline in the use of desktop printers. You’ll realize from the title of this blog that he means the latter.

This is a topic that I’ve been following for a decade or more. The champions of paper and printing argued early that the Internet and the web actually were accelerating the consumption of both, as most people were not comfortable with reading long documents on yesterday’s generation of CRT screens. It was true. CRT screens did tend to weary the eyes after hours of viewing, and, at the same time, a lot of very long documents were published, whether as Microsoft Word docs or PDFs. Much easier to print them out and read them at your leisure, perhaps during business travel, back in the days when that was not a complete horror show.

As recently as 2006, an article in Toronto’s Globe & Mail proudly stated, “It’s official: The paperless office, predicted for more than 30 years, hasn’t happened. Less paper? Today’s offices use more. Paper use at home is skyrocketing too, and printer sales are way up. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.” Yet by that December, The Christian Science Monitor was reporting that “…after decades of hype, American offices may finally be losing their paper obsession. The demand for paper used to outstrip the growth of the US economy, but the past two or three years have seen a marked slowdown in sales — despite a healthy economic scene.” More recent reports indicate that the demand for laser printer paper is now declining.

Several things have changed (besides the horror of business travel). LCD screens have significantly higher resolution that CRTs, and the evolution of video cards allows us many more controls to set those screens to a suitable brightness/contrast setting for comfortable reading (of course most people don’t bother with the adjustments, but they’re there). Digital typography continues to improve  through the efforts of Adobe, Microsoft and some of their smaller competitors.

At the same time the web has trained most of us on the art of “skimming.” Yes some documents, books and other printable materials must be read careful, even repeatedly. But the bulk is dross, and if you can make it through the executive summary, you’ve probably aced the comprehension challenge for that piece of malarkey.

I saw early on that for me at least there was far too much interesting information I could access from the web to justify printing it all out and never getting around to reading it. So instead I create PDFs of stories that I think are interesting to me or readers of this blog, and file them carefully. They’re availabe to me through my filing system, but never in my face.

Works just fine.

I occasionally print out longer articles to read while travelling, but just as often copy them to my small laptop to read on-board, on-screen. Also workable.

I do not believe that the future of publishing will include more printed output. The changing landscape is just not tending that way.

Is it different for you?

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Adobe Drives Another Stake Through the Heart of Print

January 17, 2010

No press release was issued by Adobe, but a few press outlets caught the story. I found it the other day in PrintAction‘s weekly enewsletter. Clive Chan, PrintAction‘s associate editor, tells me that he picked up the story from Macworld UK.

Further searching brings me to a blog entry from January 4, 2010 by the excellent journalist Cary Sherburne at PrintCEO.com. She had received notification from Adobe’s PR agency of the news, and it’s from her report that emerges the obsequious statement, “the print segment continues to be important (to Adobe).” Yes, and what a great way to share the love.

Adobe has no release on its site, but if you go to the Print Service Provider page on Adobe.com, you’ll be tersely informed: “The Adobe Partner Connection Print Service Provider Program has been discontinued. If you have any questions, please contact the Partner Programs Helpdesk (log-in required).”

Sherburne’s column produced 18 comments. Several were of the “oh well” variety, but more typical is:

The discontinuing of the program is a trend in marginalizing print. They dropped the printed Adobe Magazine, brought it back for a short term in electronic form. That too is gone. Seminars at trade shows, especially when new software was rolled out, was eliminated well before Seybold folded. The ASP logo gave the potential client some assurance of competence.

And:

For Adobe to do this now, in this economy, is a stab in the back, since it was really the printing industry (that) helped get Adobe on the map. If it wasn’t for printers, graphic artists and prepress, Adobe wouldn’t be where it is today. So thanks Adobe for shooting us when we are down….This is the thanks we get for supporting Adobe all these years.

And finally:

I’m shocked to have to find out about it online as opposed to a letter from Adobe to its members. Is our loyalty of so little importance that we don’t even rate that? I have personally pushed Adobe InDesign over QuarkXPress to my customers for years in part because I felt Adobe was sensitive to the needs of print providers while Quark took a ‘here it is take it or leave it’ attitude….Watch out Adobe, snubbing customer loyalty is how Quark lost the top spot!

That last comment is I believe apropos and reveals what I can only imagine is Adobe’s thinking:

1. Adobe InDesign has essentially vanquished QuarkPress. Yes, there are quite a few legacy QuarkXPress customers, but Adobe wins the vast majority of new installations.

2. Print is an ever-declining source of revenue for Adobe, while as I’ve often noted, Adobe has a very clear strategy for moving forward on the web. No, Adobe is not abandoning print, it has merely dropped quite a few rungs down the ladder in Adobe’s list of priorities.

3. Don’t cry for me, print! I don’t blame Adobe for recognizing the reality of print’s rapid decline and placing its corporate priorities where it must. I just wish it would indeed recognize in some tangible way that these folks that it is tossing overboard did indeed help to launch the company into the enormous success that it has become. Of course eventually we have to pull the patient off life-support, but it can be done with dignity.

4. Adobe’s claim that membership was dropping and the cost to Adobe was becoming too high somehow doesn’t ring properly for a profitable $5 billion company that does manage to offer numerous other support programs, many directed towards web-related technologies (although there is a support program for the multiple media Creative Suite).

Enough of this. I rest my case.

Update: On January 20th Quark very wisely stepped into the breach, announcing,  “In continued support of the print community, Quark announced today special offers that allow eligible printers to join Quark output provider programs at no cost. Adobe Service Network (ASN) members, current QuarkAlliance members, and printers interested in Quark Promote are invited to take advantage of complimentary QuarkAlliance and Quark Promote memberships. Membership benefits can include priority technical support, a free copy of QuarkXPress 8, increased market visibility, and potential revenue opportunities….”

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A Look at (Un)Employment in the Publishing Industries

November 12, 2009

Dr. Joe Webb is one of the long-time leading economists focused on the printing industry. In his column today on WhatTheyThink? (membership may be required) he looks at the employment drop in the printing industry, but offers a charts the reveals comparisons to other publishing sectors.

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Only newspapers and direct mail advertising are dropping staff faster than printing companies.

Dr. Joe (as he’s known) relates these figures to the official U.S. unemployment numbers released this week: 10.2%, but 17.5% once underemployed workers and those who’ve given up the search are included (which surely they should be).

Of course these numbers show YTR changes in the number employed and so can’t be compared to unemployment figures per se. And it’s difficult to make easy comparisons to the total unemployed. While the seasonally-adjusted total number of unemployed American has increased by over 50% YTR (to over 15.7 million), the unemployment rate has increased from 6.6% to 10.2%.

The most relevant figure is that the number of Americans employed in October 2009 was 4.4% fewer than in October 2008 (again on a seasonally-adjusted basis). Only ad agencies match that percentage decline. The others all exceed it, in the case of newspaper workers, by some 320%!

Another indicator that ink-on-paper publishing’s decline far exceeds the indicators for the challenges to the U.S. economy as a whole.

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