Survival in the book and publications industry has taken some unpredictable twists and turns over the years, but none more unusual than the announcement last month that Wisconsin based Quad Graphics (NYSE:QUAD) is also in the health care business (Quad/Med LLC) and has purchased Indiana based Novia CareClinics giving them ownership of 90 health care clinics in 18 states.
These clinics are unusual in that they are run by QuadMed on a contractual basis. They are on-site at a number of organizations, a practice Quad originated to provide on site health care for its own employees.
It somehow reminds me of the opportunity presented some years ago when large organizations would close their in-house print shop to allow a larger printer to set-up shop on their premises offering more flexibility and generally saving the organization some money. There was no guarantee that said benefits would accrue, but it worked often enough to have become rather common a decade or so ago.
But healthcare? What the hell does healthcare have to do with a PMS book?
It turns out that twenty years ago the founder of Quad Graphics, Harry V. Quadracci, felt that he wasn’t getting good value for the health insurance he purchased for his 9,000 employees. By starting on-site preventive based medical care at his plants he hoped to offer superior medical services while saving some money. It seems to have worked.
It reminded me of the beginnings of Kaiser Permanente ( the largest managed care organization in the United States) and the Kaiser Family Health Foundation, (focusing on the major health care issues facing the nation). It seems that in 1941, industrialist Henry J. Kaiser was in the same position Quadrucci found himself in: high medical insurance expenses for mediocre services and outcomes.
Kaiser owned four large shipyards on the West Coast and in the run-up to WWII had 20,000 employees building Liberty ships. Kaiser asked a Dr. Sidney R. Garfield, a proponent of managed care, to establish health facilities for his employees. Those first employee health care centers were the clinics that eventually became Kaiser Permanente.
After the war, Kaiser went on to build cars as well as forming Kaiser Aluminum and Kaiser Steel. Your grandfather may have owned a Kaiser, a Frazer, or even an economical little Henry J, built by Kaiser Motors. It’s said that they were reliable middle class cars built for the the post war demand, pent up since the last new cars had been built in 1942 and scrap metal drives to make steel had depleted the used car inventory. But competition was fierce between automakers and the last Kaisers rolled off the assembly lines in 1955.
It’s been over 55 years since Kaiser Motors made a car, and Kaiser Ventures is all that remains of Kaiser Steel, but the Kaiser Health System Henry J. Kaiser devised lives on and prospers.
Quadracci once famously said that Quad Graphics “Eats change for breakfast”. The changes that began a decade and a half ago continue to roil the print industry and one wonders if Quad Graphics will still be running presses in 55 years, or will QuadMed LLC be the surviving entity of its founder?
While other printers choose to merge and cling to each other for survival, Quad Graphics may have stumbled onto the most innovative diversification in the industry.
It turns out that the company most identified with graphic design and production, whose software can require a second mortgage, has been hacked and your credit card numbers may be at risk. The disturbing element is Adobe’s “meh” attitude about securing your information.
The NOAA has announced that it will cease production of nautical charts to save money, even though the survey research underlying the maps will continue and the sale of the maps covered their production costs. (?) Further, the U.S.Army has announced that print editions of Armor and Infantry magazines will be discontinued in favor of internet only access and ebooks.
Amazon Strike Spreads
Germany is Amazon’s second largest market and served by eight distribution centers. A strike over wages and benefits at the Leipzig center has begun to spread to neighboring distribution centers.
The printing lobbyist organization (PIA) has endorsed legislation to control “patent troll” companies, ie. companies holding broad patents for products they don’t intend to manufacture for the sole purpose of litigation for alleged patent infringement. Funny thing is that the government sometimes sides with the “trolls”.
While reading a short piece on Five Bookstores to Plan a Trip Around, I was reminded of one of my favorite bookstores that generally doesn’t make any of the “Best of…” lists, probably because it’s quite unconventional. The Strand in NYC advertises its inventory as 18 miles of books and stocks titles that are marketed “by the foot” to assist those building their library. When I brought my children there ten years ago they were overwhelmed by the size and selection. I love it.
Medieval studies students at the University of British Columbia are amazed to study a recently acquired textbook from the 14th century. This article reminds us of the decades-long task book production once was. Imagine 100 years to make a textbook while today one could be out of date by the time it hits the bookstore.
On Cover Design (and Smelling Books)
A book designer (and book lover) describes his job as deciding what a story looks like and how books smell better than tablets. (Video)
Who’s Buying Books?
Harder Than It Looks
After opening a publishing division forty some months ago, Amazon is replacing some of its key personnel amidst rumors that thus far the publishing arm has drastically underperformed. One of the reasons cited is that many, if not most, other book retailers decline to stock the Amazon titles.
When I first mentioned this (National Novel Writing Month) a few years ago I thought it was such an odd event that it would die a quick, painless death. Wow, was I wrong. Over 160,000 writers have signed up for this year’s exercise. And there’s a spinoff, 30C30D (30 Covers, 30 Days), for designers to create covers for 30 novelists. A blogger explains the allure of the challenge.
Print and Digital: A Symbiotic Relationship?
There were no arguments at the “Digital and Print: Friend or Foes?” seminar at Comic-Con last month as participants, from writers and artists to store owners and consumers, agreed that digital format comics simply recruit more purchasers into their market.
If admiring destruction via explosives is your cup of tea, this video’s for you.
Learning vs. $$$$$
My grandma always said that God made libraries so that people didn’t have any excuse to be stupid. Joan Bauer