More Print Than Not
By the time the project got to the blueline stage, the supposedly last round of changes and revisions were identified and approved. Then the final proofs would come in, with yet another reminder of how much further changes would cost in time and dollars, and those would be substantial. Author’s alterations could become contentious as to who’s fault it was, client or printer, but good printers prided themselves on how they always had signed-off proofs at each stage of the process. They could charge appropriate rates to go back and restart the work or augment what had already been done. Some older typographers would claim, privately, that author alterations were half of their billings, and the most profitable part of their business.
These topics are brought up now, because it is often assumed that non-print activities comprise more of the print shipments dollar than ever. This is now part of the industry’s common wisdom. It is clearly not true to anyone who can remember all of the time and monies clients would have to spend just to enter the print process at all. All of the camera work, paste-ups, mechanicals, proofs, scans, more proofs were not billings for ink-on-paper, even though that was usually the job of printers. Because desktop publishing has extracted the equivalent tasks from the printing industry and put them in the hands of designers and non-printers, it is actually more likely that ink-on-paper actually comprises a greater part of the value of commercial print shipments than ever before. None of the “value-added” services that are frequently discussed in the business come close to the costs of design, production, and other prepress that were naturally embedded in all print billings of the time.
When one studies the productivity of the industry, there is a curious crossover period in the 1990 area. Prior to that time, our industry’s productivity exceeded that of other manufacturing businesses. After that, it has been consistently lower. It is not a coincidence that significantly improved versions of Adobe PhotoShop and Illustrator hit the market at that time. The loss of high-margin prepress tasks is something that the industry still seeks to economically replace. Most of the “non-print” or “value-added” billings that are regularly referenced in today’s industry literature and publications do not have the same economic impact, nor the reliable flow of daily revenue.