Commercial printers love to extol the versatility of their presses. From the thinnest bible paper to the heaviest paperboard, whatever can be fed through the press is fair game. When it comes to software, however, these same print service providers willfully ignore a wide range of possible applications.
The most dramatic example of unused potential must be Adobe’s ubiquitous Creative Suite. Its latest version (CS5.5) provides substantial upgrades to the essential prepress programs Photoshop, InDesign, and Acrobat along with improved integration between those apps and a smorgasbord of other artistic tools. Website design, Flash animation, video editing, audio book, and e-book production are but a few of the potential services available to users of CS5.5.
Skeptics who cannot imagine why a printshop would need to write HTML code or edit digital video have their heads buried in the sand. Offset lithographic print volume continues to decline. Digital printing has been the largest source of non-litho revenue, but a powerful new trend is emerging: non-print services.
“I don’t even talk about print anymore,” says Randy Abramovic, president and CEO of ProSource Integrated Marketing. “If it’s a logical part of a client’s campaign, then we’ll introduce the idea of using print.”
ProSource was a typical commercial printer when it was located in downtown Pittsburgh, but Abramovic decided to pursue a more marketing-centric approach when he relocated five years ago. Constructing a new facility allowed Abramovic to isolate his creative services department from the hustle and bustle of print production, and now that creative team offers graphic design services, variable data campaign design, website development, and more.
ProSource can also design websites for smartphones and tablets, thanks to Dreamweaver’s improved support for HTML5 and Device Central browser previews. The next step? Turning websites into fully functional Android and iPhone apps with Dreamweaver’s new PhoneGap feature.
From print to Web to mobile devices, cutting-edge firms know that future growth will be dependent upon mastering a broad array of distribution methods. “Our non-print revenue has gone up dramatically and print continues to decline,” observes Abramovic.
Despite confidence in the future of his creative services offerings, he is quick to offer words of caution for others entering this realm. “You’ve got to know your stuff,” notes Abramovic, “because the market is always changing.”
It was exactly those uncertain market conditions that recently lead Crown Printers to jettison its in-house design department, but that hasn’t kept Crown from continuing to fulfill its customers’ creative needs. “We stopped doing it internally, but we’ve partnered with a number of independent designers,” explains Denny Shorett, president of Crown Printers. “We’re still offering those services, and they’ve become an extension of our team.”
Offering photography, copywriting, and graphic design services in addition to offset and digital printing, Crown Printers is an established example of moving beyond ink on paper. “We’ve gone in a lot of different directions over the years,” notes Shorett, “And really, the sum of all of it is the answer for us right now; our success is not driven by any one thing.”
The ability to pick and choose creative partners with skill sets that complement each new project has been an important benefit for Shorett, who still believes in offering a broad menu of services to his customers. “Partnering has been the easiest part of expanding our offerings,” he notes.
Freelance book designer Fiona Raven exemplifies the depth of talent that awaits printers who search for creative partners. Having designed books for more than 15 years, she is now offering e-book creation in addition to page layout for print. InDesign CS5.5 is her program of choice for producing both print and non-print editions.
“Most of my e-book business comes from my print clients,” Raven explains. “I’ll do a print book for somebody and they’ll say at the end, ‘Oh, can you make an e-book too?’”
Those requests are now easier to fulfill, thanks to InDesign’s new features, such as drag-and-drop creation of in-line graphics (essential to reflowing e-books), the ability to preview export details related to Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) creation, and an improved Table of Contents workflow.
The ability to produce both ink-on-paper and digital books from the same page layout file should make offering e-books a no-brainer, but there is little evidence to suggest that the printing industry has seized this opportunity. Raven says that e-books, like her designs, are most likely to be produced by print-on-demand firms rather than traditional offset printers. “The traditional printers—I get their newsletters and things, but I haven’t seen any sign they’re getting on board for e-books,” she observes. “Print-on-demand companies, however, often include e-book creation as part of their printing service.”
Non-print output options for InDesign CS5.5 include more than just e-books. Magazines, newsletters, and brochures can be published to Apple’s iPad using the Folio Producer tools. The Folio Builder panel enables the addition of interactive content (video, audio, slideshows, and 360-degree panoramic images). The Professional and Enterprise editions enable publishing to other tablet platforms as well as the iPad.
As dramatic changes sweep across all forms of communication, the printing industry must master new capabilities in order to thrive. It’s time for printers everywhere to embrace interactivity and learn to communicate across multiple channels, even if that means hiring new people and/or finding new outsourcing partners. CS5.5 makes it possible for prepress technicians to easily master the new skills that print buyers demand. It’s a call to action that will enable the printing industry to retain its vital role in information distribution.