It was a dark and stormy night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets. No. It was a bright and windy afternoon in the City of Big Shoulders. I had just landed at O’Hare and was waiting for my hotel shuttle.
The fifty-ish business woman to my left had no secrets. She was engrossed in a discussion on her i-Berrydroidpod oblivious to the world around her and with whom she was sharing her conversation, namely me. Now I’m not a habitual eavesdropper, but this was so blatant I couldn’t help but absorb her end of the dialogue. I’m sure you’ve all been there.
She started out with instructions to her subordinate– edits pertaining to some document: “Move this paragraph here; add the sub-head for Obstetrics there; start a new chapter on page 87; be sure and link the footnotes” & so on. By now it was obvious this had something to do with the medical profession and was some type of publication, to what purpose I could not discern. Then came the kicker—“I guess we should get a thousand printed”, she said matter-of-factly.
At that moment, my old printer instincts kicked in and my ears perked up. Although I muffled the impulse to be a good-printing samaritan and come to her rescue, calculations started rolling through my brain bucket. Let’s see, this publication whatever its purpose is most likely a minimum of one-hundred pages; times one-thousand copies is one-hundred thousand digital 8 ½ x 11 clicks at the very least. A decent job for any short-run facility.
Did she have a use for that many, or was it simply a Pavlovian response to cost-per-piece-effectiveness training she received in an earlier life?
I thought by now the digital printing industry would have finally conditioned all customers to think print-on-demand until the cows came home. It hasn’t penetrated everywhere. This job could have been suited for short-run offset, or toner-based or high-speed ink-jet digital depending on the real, albeit unknown situation. The issue was that it didn’t sound like there was any fleshing-out of the true needs of the project. “I guess we should get a thousand printed”. A nice round number.
At face value It didn’t sound like a situation that warranted a variable data application, but who knows, with the right coaching it could have turned into a marvelous project incorporating a PURL and the opportunity for users to custom-build a piece based on relevance, or to personalize an event-specific version for a particular demographic. It may have even had TransPromo applications (more likely PubPromo), all of which could have saved a tremendous amount in terms of cost and waste.
In one of my past lives many moons ago I played a game with my clients called “let’s look in the closet”. Every print buyer had a closet of one kind or another. Sometimes it was a walk-in, sometimes a warehouse. The point was to discover their printed material graveyards and guide them to more cost and resource-effective digitally-enabled behavior.
The point is that even today, while we busy ourselves with transpromo, social media and cross-disciplinary integration, we tend to forget that there are still basics to be dealt with out there in printbuyerland, and the distressing fact is that the path of least resistance remains alive and well.
As the woman hopped into her shuttle, still stridently chatting about her project without missing a beat as she handed the driver her bags, I couldn’t help but wonder if her printer, in-plant or commercial, would question the wisdom of “I guess we should get a thousand printed”. Would you?