What Print Buyers Want — Delivering on Promises

David Pelkey of Merriam-Webster

WHILE ALMOST everyone has heard of Merriam-Webster, the dictionary, most people may not be familiar with Merriam-Webster Inc., the publishing company. It publishes millions of dictionaries each year in a variety of styles, including hard cover, soft cover (trade size) and mass-market paperback editions. David E. Pelkey is director of manufacturing at the Springfield, MA-based company, where he’s in charge of buying printed materials for all Merriam-Webster dictionaries. Not only does he work with words (as a dictionary publisher), but he also has a way with words when it comes to detailing what he requires from his print suppliers.

When asked the hypothetical question: “What is your idea of the perfect print provider?” Pelkey describes it as “a place where I can receive service, quality and cost in perfect balance. The old adage is ‘you get what you pay for,’ but you still need to receive the best possible product and service that relates to the price.”

Furthermore, Pelkey wants a printer-partner that provides him with the best possible product and customer service available. He doesn’t want “just a supplier,” but a printer that provides the abstracts that can’t be put in a quote or agreed upon in a contract.

What do you look for when considering a new print provider?

I always look for quality, cost and service. But, beyond that, I need to see what intangibles a new printer will provide me that I may not get from my current suppliers. Am I really better off here than where I came from, and do they really want my work or are they looking for a temporary fill in?

What are the top three things that you expect from a print provider?

I need open communication and honesty. I want information when I ask for it, whether it is good news or bad. I like to see printers that are proactive as opposed to reactive. Look for better ways to service my product without me asking, and always have solutions available when problems arise. I also expect every print run to be treated the same, no matter the run size or complexity.

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