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Dickeson--Print Communications Made Easy

April 1998
"Print Communications and the Electronic Media Challenge" by Alan Kotok and Ralph Lyman should be required reading for everyone involved in printing management, ownership, and marketing and sales. I don't know about you, but I get baffled by all of the new methods, devices, jargon and techniques that are now a part of daily experience in the printing business.

I just can't keep up with all the RIPs, TIFFs, PROSE and SNAPs. It is such a relief for me to read through this book and be able to refer to it each time one of these concepts comes up. That's why I want to recommend it to you.

If you don't already have a well-thumbed copy circulating in your office, call Graphic Communications Association at (703) 519-8157 and spend some bucks to wind up much smarter than you are.

The Future Is Now
Yes, I was generally aware that run lengths were getting shorter and shorter, and that printing was becoming a boutique business. Matter of fact, I'd read Toffler, Naisbitt and the other "futurists" some 15 years ago and shook my head in disbelief. They foretold what was going to happen. What they said was ahead for us is here and now—that future "is us."

Kotok and Lyman (call 'em K&L) are not futurists. They are now people.

Far more than just commending them for leading us through the wastelands of jargon, I applaud K&L for offering clear, concise explanations and illustrations of the new imaging processes, such as the dry toner engines, liquid ink systems, waterless printing and imaging on press. All are aspects of the short-run, personalized, almost "interactive" industry that printing is becoming.

The thread that ties the chapters together is the totality of the impact. From film (or the lack thereof) to the post office with "ZIP plus four and maybe two more," there is a consistency and pervasiveness to the changes now being experienced.

It's mind-boggling to consider the thousands of editions of a single weekly magazine. Think of all the specifications, plate changes, inserts, mail lists, magnetic tapes, CD-ROMs, makereadies on press and bindery, and the boxes and stacks of imprints, inserts, samples, and who knows what next.

How can we keep it all straight? That's why we must understand PROSE (standardized Production Order Specification EDI), a whole new world of standardized instruction between publisher and printer.

It's explained in understandable, logical fashion by K&L in their work. If you're not familiar with PROSE, just read through Chapter 7 of the book where everything you wanted to know about PROSE but were afraid to ask is explained.

Thank goodness Norm Scharpf and his group at GCA had the foresight to see the needs for standardization and communication that were going to be essential to survival in this age of "smaller is better." Norm's people have been involved in bringing the committees and industry groups together and hammering out the details of how to make the disparate pieces fit.

Kotok, as a colleague of Scharpf, has been at the center of it all, keeping the minutes, scheduling the meetings, goading, wheedling, interpreting for the PROSE, EDIs, EMBARC, OpCode participants—constantly struggling for common understandings and standardization. We're indeed fortunate that Alan Kotok has taken the time to write it all down with such clear expression. What a jewel this man is!

And, likewise for his co-author, Ralph Lyman. What Kotok has done for the administrative and procedural impacts of change, Lyman, a printer/printing professor/author, has done for the aspects of the printing craft. Take, for example, the matter of digital proofing, a "critical quality step that can save the printer and print customer considerable time and money down the road."

Digital proofing, Lyman tells us, relies on the CIElab model for defining color values. The "l," "a" and "b" refer to coordinates for hue, saturation and brightness. CIE is the Committee for Illumination that defined the three-dimensional color space in 1931, Lyman explains. This enables matching some 1,800 points between color proof and press sheet, using the robotized spectrophotometer.

Media Competition
Will the Internet, CD-ROMs—all of the electronic marvels—make our beloved ink-on-paper industry obsolete? The new media can deliver text, photography, video, sound, animation and interactive response to the viewer, while, alas, ink on paper can only lie there, passive and inanimate. K&L challenge thinking on this point. They list the many advantages of ink on paper.

Ever try to use a computer on the bus or subway? If there's so much digital advantage, why is it that millions of copies of Time, Newsweek, and US News are still printed and read despite the fact that much of that same material is presented on their Web sites?

Yes, there's a challenge from electronic digital media, our sturdy authors concede, but, at the same time, there are astounding digital developments taking place within our own graphic process.

Recall how radio changed after television arrived? Well, radio is alive and stronger than ever. What about motion pictures? The other day I went to a 24-screen theater with stadium seating and Surround Sound to view a current release. And has "Titanic," the super-colossal motion picture, met the same disastrous consequence as its famous forebear? Movies, newspapers and books all flourish in this television and digital world.

What truly refreshed me in the K&L book was the listing of the Deming contribution, his 14 points and seven deadly sins. Our writers also do a very credible job illustrating the use of Shewhart charts and Paretos for printing process steps.

Good book. Thumbs up and four stars. Have a look. It isn't on the Internet!

—Roger V. Dickeson

About the Author
Roger Dickeson is a printing productivity consultant based in The Woodlands, TX. He can be reached via e-mail at or; or via fax at (281) 362-7572.

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