The Printernet meme may mean the end of the “End of Print” meme

By | May 11, 2009

The title of my most recent column at PBS/ is PressTerra Tests a Newspaper Printernet on the Iberian Peninsula. In that venue, the visitors are from the world of new media and journalism. On March 30, it was picked up by Andrew Piper, a media studies professor at McGill, at his Book Report blog. The visitors there are focused on the problems of authorship in a networked society. I’ve been using the thought model as I’ve been blogging about the possible effects of Xerox’s Color Cube at my blog, Tough Love for Xerox.

A few weeks ago, Andy McCourt, in Australia, explored the same concept in the venue of the commercial print industry. His article appeared in a physical edition of Print21. The text of his article appears below.

A look at the Pacprint website and print advertising reveals a new word in the lexicon of graphic arts.


Is this just a fancy slogan or is there some deeper meaning to be explored here? Whilst Printernet serves the promotion of Pacprint well, offering the faux dictionnaire definition as “the art of linking print to the internet,” understanding its true meaning could be the defining factor in most print businesses in 2009 and beyond.

The term Printernet is not entirely exclusive to Pacprint. Rip manufacturer Xitron has a product called PRINTERnet which, as the name implies, is a web job submission application. It also handles pre-flighting of PDFs, online proofing, job ticketing and so forth. Does it sound like workflow? You bet.

There’s even a website which belongs to Berowra, NSW-based Bradprint and sister company, website developer Funnel Web – there’s plenty of those around Berowra! Despite the great name, does not offer web-to-print, it’s still in old ‘Quote and Hope’ mode with a ‘Request a Quote’ button.

Over at the Digital Nirvana US-based commentator (and semi-retired printer!) Michael Josefowicz tracked down this neat summary of ‘Printernet’:

Massive parallel manufacturing with standards-based interfaces, real time production information and easy access for everyone. Each printer — the combination of the machinery and the intelligence that manages the machinery — is a print output node. Each node is both part of the network and self-sufficient. When the nodes are working together mass customization of print product becomes commonplace at previously impossible speeds and quantities.”

If that sounds a tad complex, let me simplify it for you. Printernet is your future. You absolutely can not and will not prosper in the long-term by ignoring it.


You are most likely a Printernet node already, even if you don’t acknowledge it. If you’ve ever accepted a PDF by email, you’re a node on the Printernet – but you are not on top of it; you are using 1% of what it can offer your business.

Skip back 45 years to the teachings of one of the greatest media minds in modern history – Marshall McCluhan. In his Gutenberg Galaxy, he wrote about: The Plight of Mass Man in an Individualist Society, calling on centuries-old philosophical writings of Blake, Descartes, Rimbaud and Pope amongst others.

It’s deep but if you don’t get it and you are a traditional printer, you’re in trouble. What McCluhan attests to is that, when a disruptive technology (such as print in the 15th century, electronic communication today), manifests itself in a way that changes mankind’s sense ratios. Mankind itself is changed forever. When any one sense or bodily or mental function is externalized in technological form, societies change.

Now we have the internet and social networks; an alphabet-soup of Facebooks, MySpaces, Twitters, Blogs etc. If you do not believe this is changing humankind, ask an 11-year old! Private conversations and intense emotional expressions are now ‘externalised’ in a new reality where, just as in physical society, people laugh, cry, fall in love, read, buy, sell, vote, get mugged, get ripped off and even die.


Printing’s number one challenge is to determine where it fits into this new reality. As a musical tragic myself, the lyrics of Kevin Johnson’s great 80s hit about an aging, failed rocker: “Rock ‘n Roll I gave you all the best years of my life,” fit printing to a tee. He sang “You were changing your direction, and I never even knew; I was always just one step behind you.”

Ask yourself, is printing changing its direction? Do you know about that? Are you one step behind, parallel or a step ahead?

If we try to extend the definition of this newfangled Printernet, we must go beyond Pacprint’s ‘link between print and the internet’ statement. It’s more than a link. It’s embedding your print business so deeply into online culture that the two are seen as homogenous.

One sector of printing that is uniquely positioned to take full advantage of this is the franschised outlet chains. Kwik Kopys, Snaps, Worldwide Onlines are collectives of small, efficient print/graphic businesses that have the spread, financial model and network to gain so much out of Printernet. As we are bombarded with sad news of job cuts and closures at the ‘high-end’ of consolidated printing, we hear of no such down-sizing in the franchised network space.

Networks-within-networks such as IPMG are also in a strong position. So are all-W2P model firms such as Vistaprint, Lightning Source and the half-and-halves such as Perth’s CJ King.

So, whatever you go to Pacprint for, make sure you leave with a full and deep knowledge of Web-to-Print offerings, Internet-based complete workflows for both existing and new customers, non-print ways of cross-media handling and any new, edgy or disruptive ideas that fall into the category of what is shaping our industry – and our world. And that, friends, is Printernet.

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3 thoughts on “The Printernet meme may mean the end of the “End of Print” meme

  1. mike shields

    This article provokes thought.
    Thanks for writing it.

  2. Barry Walsh

    The Printernet name goes back to the mid 90’s when a Southeastern based print supplies dealer used that name to launch an online site.

    This site was the second online site to serve the print industry.

    The first, Printer’s Periscope, was launched in 1990 by industry leaders Jack Smith and Chris Lyons, before most anyone had heard of dot and com in the same sentence.

    Chris Lyons maintains that Printer’s Periscope was the first commercial B2B online site serving any industry, and was clearly years ahead of anything else in the print industry.

  3. MichaelJ

    thanks for the history. Old words, new uses. Probably the way it’s always been.
    It’s especially nice to bring up the history that shows the printers were/are usually on the cutting edge. I think it’s the combination of real world problems, the ink in the blood stream and working closely with words.

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