Death rattle for the printing industry?
When I was with Apple in the late 90’s, the prepress space was one that the company dominated (something like 87% of all color publishing was/is done on Mac’s). One of the largest companies in the prepress space was Banta Corporation in Wisconsin.
On a tour of their plant in Eden Prairie, MN in 1998, I was stunned to see 80 people in the bullpen working on Mac’s performing prepress tasks. I inquired, “Gee…won’t the ability for companies to collapse everything into PDF (which had just taken off in prepress) obviate much of what these people do?” She replied with an “absolutely yes” and within a year many of them were gone.
I had an incredible knowing even then that the Web was going to continue to accelerate and eventually make much of what ended up as ink on paper be digitally delivered instead. Of course, gigantic, industry shifting changes take many, many years to unfold and I — like many of us — tend to ignore basic and fundamental shifts that take place over a long period of time.
A piece of evidence came across my desk just now that confirms my knowing back then: Banta is closing their Eden Prairie plant altogether as well as five other plants and lay off 500 workers. They’re apparently “in play” as well since a suitor has appeared to buy them.
I’m a bit disconnected from Apple and the importance of what was (printing and publishing) one of the cores and mainstays of their business. Perhaps the embrace of video and audio tools; even lame attempts at Web publishing (with iWeb); and the apparent teaming with Google (with Eric Schmidt now on their board) are all the moves Apple is making to replace and extend this printing and publishing paradigm to the internet.
Or maybe this is just a natural evolution of the printing/publishing tools, PDF and the skills gained over two decades of being in this space. I know that we produce many color publications in our business and do nearly 100% of all prepress activities as a natural course of our preparation for publishing.
About Steve Borsch
Connecting the Dots Podcast
Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.