The Pace of Change

November 4, 2009

My intention this evening was to point to some article or other or some statistic or other that would suitably comprise a subject for a blog. I’ve got dozens in my files…many to chose from. But as I scoured through them I thought that a recap might be more appropriate than a narrow-subject issue.

I was with a client yesterday, a long-time client with whom I’ve worked not for years but for decades. In this case it happens to be a printing firm. Many of my readers will click to another subject upon that revelation. But as I continue to argue, publishing is an ecosphere, and to focus on only one aspect, such as social networking or Google dominance, is great folly. It’s essential to recognize the ecosphere as a whole, and at the same time to recognize, not unlike the flapping wings of the apocryphal butterfly in Africa, that indicators from any and every sector of the publishing business reflect upon the whole if you’ve got the wherewithal to recognize the effect.

My client is an exemplary firm, with exceptional staff and very loyal customers. Its sales have continued to grow through a recessionary time, albeit, of course, with diminished margins. But most important this firm has not lost the faith: its intention is to be there for the long haul. And so it does not shy away from the changes that affect every aspect of the publishing industry.

It was an unusual consultation. I had visited just two weeks before. And yet I felt it imperative to once again call together the board of directors to deliver a revised forecast. I had warned them that I felt that the pace of change was not in any way slowing but was increasing in its intensity. What I said that two weeks ago never led me to imagine that I would have vital new data to present that would cause me to revise a 14-day-old forecast. But I offered half-a-dozen data points that supported my revision.

I was not embarrassed by my report. It only supported my earlier claim that the pace of change in the publishing industry is without precedent.

Regardless of what place your firm occupies in the publishing ecosphere, be mindful. If you do not have sufficiently qualified staff onboard to keep you abreast of these near-daily changes, then retain one or more consultants (self-serving, but quite true).

Anything you constructed in your publishing goals or workflows one or more years ago is due for a further revision today. Please take my word for it.

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Sometimes the Web Drives Me Mad

March 26, 2009

These days I’m living in West Vancouver, British Columbia. I’m house-sitting for some dear friends. I’m lucky because it’s so beautiful here.


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The Eco-Calculator Widget

January 14, 2009

Found this interesting new widget this morning while waiting for a phone call. It’s available here.

There’s a section of this site on The Impact of Environmentalism on the Future of Publishing. I’ve outlined the issues there, but I see it’s due for an update and some extra information I’ve been collecting on the story.

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FedEx Kills Kinko’s Brand

June 20, 2008

In today’s edition of PrintAction‘s weekly newsletter, I

found the headline: FEDEX KILLS KINKO’S BRAND. I had read this elsewhere, but

had not previously encountered the embittered remarks of the company founder, Paul


I could paraphrase the accompanying article, but as I’m a

contributing writer to the publication, I hope that editor Jon Robinson will

not object to my quoting it in full:


In a surprising move by the

shipping company, FedEx will be rebranding all of the FedEx Kinko’s stores into

entities known as FedEx Office. This move came just before the company

announced a $241-million loss, mainly attributed to Kinko’s. The name will cost

nearly $700 million.


“Kinko’s was primarily a copy and

print-service provider when it was acquired in 2004,” said Brian D. Philips,

president and chief executive officer of FedEx Office. “The name FedEx Office

more accurately represents our broader role of providing superior information

and services through our company-owned, digitally connected locations around

the world. We are a back office for small businesses and a branch office for

medium to large businesses and mobile professionals.”


Kinko’s founder Paul Orfalea issued

a statement about this move. The first Kinko’s store was founded in Isla Vista,

California in 1970; Orfalea left the company in 2000. “Friends, acquaintances

and journalists have been asking me for comments on FedEx’s recent decision to

drop the Kinko’s name from their copy and print centres. Although I sold my

financial interest in Kinko’s several years ago, this news hit me hard. I have

mixed emotions, because Kinko’s as I knew it has been gone for a very long



“For 30 years, I worked with tens

of thousands of fellow Kinko’s co-workers to grow an innovative customer-driven

business. Every stage of life required Kinko’s: being a student, business

owner, bride, job-seeker, sales person, event planner, soccer parent and much

more. We took pride in helping customers achieve their goals and always put

customers first.


“Those of us who built the company

from a single site in a hamburger stand near the campus of UCSB in 1970 to an

international network at the millennium assumed our grandchildren would know

what it meant when we said we created Kinko’s. Sadly, they won’t. At Kinko’s

our motto was ‘In Ideas We Trust.’ Those ideas, expressed in the way we shared

power, shared profits, and shared knowledge, touched tens of thousands of

coworkers and millions of customers from 1970 to 2000. The signs may be coming

off the building, but when you next meet a former Kinko’s coworker and he or

she brightens up to tell you how it used to be, take note of the fire in their

eyes. That’s the Kinko’s I’ll remember.”


I think that most

business owners realize that when you sell your company, you’d best focus on

enjoying the payout — the new owners will do their best to remove any evidence

of your legacy as soon as humanly possible.

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The Adobe-FedEx/Kinko’s Non-Event

July 31, 2007

Many of you will have by now heard of Adobe’s great gaffe in the Acrobat 8.1 of licensing FedEx/Kinko’s to add a little button to the Acrobat toolbar making in a no-brainer for users to send their output files to that large and well-respected chain of, dare I say it, “quick printers” The button can easily be removed through the options menu, but you’re still stuck in the File menu with the same “feature,” which Adobe admits can only be removed with more extensive system surgery (for example, in Windows, using resedit).

Adobe has a proud and essentially unassailable history as a non-partisan vendor (at least in matters resembling this). It’s a great company. When I first got requests from the press about the story I said: “Forget it. It’s a tempest in a teapot. Someone made a big mistake, and Adobe will fix it.”

Sadly (for Adobe) the press moves more rapidly than Adobe does, and the company did not fix the problem quickly (most likely having a lot to do with the agreement somebody signed with FedEx/Kinkos) and today the story hit the Wall Street Journal, of all places.

There are printing industry associations calling for bloodletting, and no end of commentators looking for more.

This will pass like a summer’s storm. Forget about it!

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