Book Biz: Paywalls, Pantone, Phablet, and World’s Smallest Book

Printers seem to be born innovators. I remember many employees who “customized” the equipment they ran for more efficiency, perhaps better ergonomics, and (most commonly) to increase quality and production.

While watching the short video in this newsletter about Mergenthaler and the invention of the Linotype, I was reminded that Alois Senefelder had invented lithography a hundred years earlier when he made some notes with a crayon and went on to perfect lithographic printing to the point that it was commercially viable.

And what we call central air-conditioning was invented by a printer trying to control humidity in his shop during the summer months. Since paper is organic, it absorbs water from the atmosphere (causing wavy edges on the stacked sheets and permitting the sheets to stretch during multiple press passes) or conversely give up its water content in the dry winter months (shrinking the sheets and making the skid tight and difficult to feed through the press). Willis Haviland Carrier found a way to control high humidity for the printer he worked for and surprisingly learned that his apparatus also cooled the drier air.

Another invention in the 1960s offered no such wide spread societal benefit but greatly helped printers around the globe to offer their clients accurate, repeatable color reproduction while stocking less than twenty different colors of ink.

Lawrence Herbert, who owned the Pantone Printing company was working on a display card for a hosiery manufacturer, mixing specific inks for each shade he was to reproduce by trial and error. He wondered how it would be possible to place an order for the same project many miles away and be assured that each color matched the colors he’d printed. He then devised a card which he sent to ink makers on which he’d printed a number of different colors and listed the proportionate amount of different color inks to mix to reproduce each color in any print shop, anywhere. The rest is history.

pantoneToday, his Pantone ink matching system is just a small part of what the Pantone Company produces. These experts in the study of color track products from paint to fabrics, molded plastics to tinted glass and defines and classifies them, right down to an annual pronouncement for color of the year (emerald for 2013).

The ubiquity of four color process printing (CMYK) has somewhat reduced the importance of Pantone Color Matching system as Herbert created it, but there a re a number of aides available that will help a printer reproduce a Pantone color by screening back cyan (C), magenta (M), yellow (Y) and black (K) inks.

The discussion of color reproduction became complicated with RGB computer monitors that displayed colors that were not possible to recreate using 4 color printing. If some of you have encountered problems translating between the two modes, let me know and perhaps I can try to explain the differences and why they matter.

I happen to have a couple of old Pantone Matching System swatch books here and would be glad to part with one to anyone who has a story (happy ending or not) of a print job which specified printing with Pantone mixed colors. I’ll even offer a choice of a brand new book (circa 2004) or a shop worn example with tons of street cred. And if you remember the Pantone colors involved in the story. I’ll try to rustle up a sheet of rubylith for you.


Paywalls, Resignations and a DeathIquit

As publishers struggle to find ways to distribute their content while earning enough money to pay the bills, their staffs and critics debate the value of intellectual property and the best way to disseminate ideas. Editors of the Journal of Library Administration resigned to protest the paywall securing its content and the authors’ loss of control over their articles. An editor explained that the editor’s decision was partly influenced by the death of internet activist Aaron Swartz.

RR Donnelley Posts Loss, Closes Plants

RR Donnelley, North America’s largest printer, posted a $849 million loss on sales of $2.7 billion in the fourth quarter. Two weeks later it announced plans to close two plants in Ohio, releasing approximately 225 employees.

First Sale Doctrine and International Sales

The Supreme Court has ruled that Supap Kirtsaeng, a California university student, had a right to have his family purchase less expensive Asian versions of textbooks, then ship them to him so he could resell them profitably on eBay.

Metadata and ONIX

The benefit of understanding metadata for the publisher is that it can be used to easily provide relevant information to book buyers. The most common way to make the information available online is the ONIX format (Online Information Exchange) that helps to organize data storage.

Frommers Finished, Lonely Planet Soldfrommers

After purchasing Frommers last April as a complement to its earlier purchase of Zagat, Google has announced it is ending publication of the Frommer Travel Guide series. It’s been a tough year for travel guides as the BBC has sold Lonely Planet, the tralonelyplanetvel guide publisher, for less than half of what it paid just two years earlier.

Greenpeace Media Assault Ends

Asia Pulp and Paper has met with Greenpeace and other interested NGOs to work out details for protecting the Indonesian rainforest from further deforestation by the company. Greenpeace has stopped its media assault on the company, at least for the time being.

Aw, C’mon! A Phablet? Really?

Amazon needs to keep its ebook buyers devoted to all things Kindle and so it will introduce a smart phone/tablet early this summer with a 4.7” screen, with a price possibly as low as $100 (but probably closer to $150 or so).

Coated Paper Goes Green…Really

The European Union has sponsored research to eliminate petroleum based paper coatings with a mixture of seaweed extracts mixed with starch.

Need Meets Genius: A Short Video


A stenographer looking for a quicker way to transcribe his notes inspired inventor Ottmar Merganthaler to revolutionize typesetting in the 19th century.

Counterfeit Cash

Most printers are keenly aware of the counterfeiting laws in the US and enjoy hearing about failed attempts by amateurs and pros alike to simulate US currency. But this counterfeiter took amateurism to a new level as he tried to return his used computer printer to WalMart and sheets of paper printed with $100 bills on one side fell out during the scuffle.

Showing a bit more expertise and creativity, two men were arrested in FL after “washing” $1 bills and re-printing them as $100 bills. And yes, WalMart was again a target.

Smallest Book Ever

I think the question,”When is a book not a book?” needs to be asked after Toppan Prining in Japan produced a 22 page book roughly the size of the eye of a needle.

Hi-Tech Bookmark

I should have posted information about the Amazon purchase of kindle bookmarkGoodreads and the uproar from many authors over the sale. I offer instead this widely tweeted picture of a Kindle being used as a bookmark.

Final Thought

There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”
Joseph Brodsky 

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About Wayne Johnson 69 Articles
I've worked in book manufacturing for over 30 years, closing my company Baker Johnson, Inc. in 2005. Currently I work freelance with a large group of publishers, advising them on the printing options available to them as the book industry endures major restructuring. My wife Cathy is a retired psychologist and spent most of her career working with the youth at Maxey Boys Training School. She is a small mammal rehabilitator with Friends of Wildlife. Our daughter Whitney is a PharmD working in the Denver area evaluating the pharmaceutical requirements of nursing homes. Our son Eliot lives in Waterloo and is an editor at Mathematical Reviews in Ann Arbor.

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