A new battle is brewing between Adobe and Quark, the page layout software giants. Both companies have radically changed their support programs for the print industry. Adobe killed its program for low-cost page layout software and Quark quickly moved to fill the void with a free copy of QuarkXpress. What started as a business decision for Adobe may quickly turn into a market share battle with its top competitor.
For some printers, the new year started with a shock. Adobe announced it has ended its Print Service Provider Program. The program allowed printers to receive special discounts on Adobe print software and offered free technical support. Printers had been paying as little as $600 a year for Adobe’s Creative Suite and were provided upgrades at no charge. According to Adobe, the membership numbers were lacking and “no longer sufficient to sustain the activities and technology investments that can deliver upon the program’s initial goals.” The program ended February 4.
On various blogs and websites, printers voiced their concern about Adobe dropping the program. Some lamented the loss of the steep discounts for Adobe CS4. Others complained that the service support would suffer with the program. Others threatened to take their business to Quark.
I hated to see the program go because it really helped a number of cash strapped quick and small commercial printers stay on top of the latest software. The yearly membership fee was well below the aggregated upgrade costs other users paid. Another bonus was the fast technical support and a steady flow of information from Adobe. It put small shops on level ground with large commercial printing companies.
It looked like it would be a win/win for all involved. Yet by Adobe’s standards, not enough printers took advantage of the program to make it worthwhile to continue. I have already heard printers comment that the news on the program’s demise was the first they heard of the program. Quick Printing has promoted the program since its inception and this column has carried news about its advantages for printers for years. I have spoken to printing groups around the country about the savings the program offered. But for some reason, the offer fell on deaf ears and the numbers of active members dwindled.
I expect Adobe to continue its support of the printing industry, especially with its website and forums. A printer can have almost any Adobe question answered at www.adobe.com/forums.
Filling the Void
Quark used Adobe’s decision to attempt to strengthen its support in the printing industry and provide printers with a free copy of QuarkXpress 8. Quark has announced special offers that allow eligible printers to join Quark output provider programs at no cost. Adobe Service Network (ASN) members, current QuarkAlliance members, and printers interested in Quark Promote have been invited to take advantage of complimentary QuarkAlliance and Quark Promote memberships. Membership benefits can include priority technical support, a free copy of QuarkXPress 8, and increased market visibility.
Existing ASN members who register now will receive a complimentary one year enrollment to both the QuarkAlliance Output Provider Program as an Authorized Partner and the Quark Promote Output Provider Program (U.S. only) as an Authorized Partner (at the provider’s discretion). Current members of the QuarkAlliance Output Provider Program are eligible for a complimentary one year membership renewal that now also includes enrollment in the Quark Promote Output Provider Program. All output providers are eligible for complimentary enrollment in the Quark Promote Output Provider Program.
With everyone looking to save money, printers should take advantage of the program to get a free copy of QuarkXpress and the additional support. Quark has lost market share over the years because of poor customer service. The special program should allow printers to take another look at the page layout software. Most printers should have a copy of QuarkXpress on hand to help provide support of designers who use the program. There is a June deadline for joining the program. For more information and to apply, visit www.quarkalliance.com/.
According to sources at Quark, printers are taking advantage of its other program, Quark Promote (www.quarkpromote.com). This is a new online Web-to-print service that hopes to send online customers to local printers. Unlike other Web-to-print services, Quark says it is not an output provider, but partners with printers to allow the customer immediate delivery options. Using templates, customers go to Quarkpromote.com to create documents and buy printing over the Internet.
I had been under the impression that the templates were for use with QuarkXpress 8, but I have since learned that Quark uses a proprietary system that provides the print provider with a PDF file to reproduce. This could open opportunities for printers who don’t use QuarkXpress but are seeking new customers. The templates were originally created in QuarkXpress, but neither the person ordering nor the printer has to have Quark software to take advantage of the service. There is a webcast for output providers that shows how the Quark Promote program works. Send an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org to see the webcast.
Customers go to the Quarkpromote.com site, pick and design the product, and then choose whether to order the printing by mail or from a neighborhood printer. Printers can elect to either deliver by mail or to allow customers to pick up completed jobs at their shop. In either case, the output provider is determined by the zip code the customer has provided.
According to Quark, if the customer wants the order delivered by mail, the zip code is used behind the scenes to find a prints-by-mail provider in the region. The customer is not provided the opportunity to choose the printer and there is no relationship between the provider and the customer. Packages are shipped blind to the customer.
In the case of neighborhood printing, the zip code is used to display a list of printers near the customer. Matching shops are displayed on a Bing map and in a list. The customer chooses a shop and then completes a typical online ordering process. Prices, including shipping, are set by Quark. The customer also has the option of choosing a printer at a location other than their own if it is more convenient.
No one can predict the levels of support for print providers from either Adobe or Quark, but it should be interesting to see how both companies handle professional printers in the coming months.
Most vendors keep a wealth of information socked away on their website for printers to use. The problem is that most users don’t realize the information is available. For instance, many printers already own powerful VDP software, but they just don’t know how to use it. They need some help to understand the power they have.
The EFI web site is a good example of valuable online information. The company provides its FreeForm VDP technology in many of its RIPs. To help printers, the company provides a FreeForm Kit to explain how to use the software. You can download the kit free at www.efi.com/FreeFormKit/.
The Fiery FreeForm Kit demonstrates how to use this technology to create personalized marketing pieces. It comes with templates of typical jobs in metric and inch versions that can be used as is or modified to produce marketing pieces such as real estate flyers, direct mail cards for retail, fundraising mailing cards, and certificates and awards. The kit also comes with sample databases in Excel spreadsheets with simple, step-by-step instructions on how to use and modify the templates.
Since training is so important for the success of most printing companies, Printing Industries of America is offering new prepress training to help printers understand the latest developments.
Printing Industries Press has added a Prepress Skills Training Curriculum by Joe Marin, senior analyst, digital technologies and instructor for Printing Industries of America. This newly revised curriculum covers topics such as PDF creation, uncovering digital file problems, soft proofing, color management, and working with camera RAW. The curriculum focuses on six main areas: Orientation to Desktop Publishing; Composition; Job Engineering; Image Capture; Press, Binding, and Finishing; and Digital Output. For more information, visit www.printing.org/news/5779.