Book Biz: The Craft of Printing, Disappearing Ink, “No Print Day” Cancelled

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I intended to email this month’s newsletter on the 1st but then…

A good friend of mine passed away on the 1st And it only matters to you because if you printed a book with me from 1980 through 2005, Diane Burkhart probably burned the plates for your title. And if you had proofs, Diane burned and folded them too.

None of this is remarkable, except in this digital age, not many craft people like Diane exist anymore.

Diane came up through the pre-press ranks. She could strip covers and text and run both ends of the camera when needed, so if she was waiting for a new neg and no one was around to help, she’d shoot it and strip it in herself.

Even better, she’d catch everyone elses’ screw-ups. If you owned a dog and got a few stray hairs on your negs, Diane cleaned them, burned the plates, then hunted you down to let you know that she expected better. If you windowed a page a little short and left some type covered up, she’d pull the flats off the burner, haul it over to a light table, open the window, check it for opaque, roll it back up and make the plate. If you labeled your flats wrong, windowed them wrong or listed them in the wrong burn order she’d probably catch it. It was rare that a pressman would catch a problem that Diane had missed.

God forbid you used the plate frame in her absence and left some telltale signs that you neglected to clean up after yourself. The sign in her work area was always the same: “I’m NOT your mother! Clean up after yourself!”

I wasn’t always glad to see her at my door. If the exposure times on the plate frame grew inordinately long she let me know we needed a new bulb, which wasn’t always at the very top of my to do list. Then she’d become a reliable daily visitor to let me know that I was paying her extra money to stand and wait for plates to burn because I hadn’t ordered a new bulb yet.

We were a tight group back in the day. The annual Graph-Expo print show in Chicago generally saw a contingent from our shop spend a day or two walking McCormick Place by day and exploring the night life of Chicago after dark. (You probably knew that going back at least to Ben Franklin’s days printers had an appreciation for ale.) Diane loved the show and always returned with bags of colorful posters that were printed and dispersed by the press companies. Back at work she’d set them on a light table to share with everyone.

When her only son Jon died in an auto accident, her life changed dramatically. Her laugh was not so spontaneous. She never joined the gang after work for a quick beer. She spent a lot of time driving to see her mother in mid-Michigan, frequently bringing her along for a weekend at Jon’s house in Black Lake.

Diane was a professional. She knew how a book was printed and did her part with technical skill typical of the best crafts people I worked with.

And she was just a nice person. I knew her when we were all young and beautiful, and I knew her when our hairs turned to gray.

She leaves behind a brother and his family and a wide network of friends and co-workers who called her DiBaby.

New Google Tablet Targets Kindle Fire

The fight for dominance in the tablet market gets even hotter with Google preparing to take on Amazon. Is there an underdog in this fight?

Authors Guild vs Amazon at DOJ

The Authors Guild has filed a letter strongly objecting to the Department of Justice’s proposed settlement of the eBook price fixing lawsuit. The point by point presentation of Amazon’s monopolistic tactics deserves thoughtful analysis, but expecting that from the DOJ may be foolhardy.

Consumer Federation of America Sides with DOJ

The Consumer Federation of America, best known as a shill for the genetically engineered food industry, has sided with the DOJ’s price fixing agreement.

Library Budgets Stabilize

56.9% of libraries reported flat or decreased funding this year, down from last year’s 59.8%. Overall library funding is expected to fall 4.9% next year.

Print Lives

Disparaging the argument that “print is dead”, this industry consultant argues that print is alive and well, and that publishers are the ones struggling with the digital transformation.

Novelist Russo Also Argues for Print

Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Russo’s next publishing project will not be available digitally or online, saying, “Readers can’t survive on e-books alone”.

As Does Steven King

Best-selling author Steven King has also announced his next book, due out in one year, will only be available in paper and ink editions. King said he “loved the paperbacks I grew up with as a kid”.

eBook Best Sellers

It’s frequently pointed out that tracking eBook sales is difficult because they are sold through so many disparate channels. Now Media Bistro is attempting to report the top independently published eBooks by reporting weekly Top 10 sales from three different sellers.

Toshiba’s No Print Day

Just back from selling print equipment at the Drupa trade show, Toshiba has shown it’s commitment to the industry by declaring Oct. 23 as National No Print Day. Toshiba’s reasoning is skewered by the print industry commentator at Dead Tree Edition.

Late word: Toshiba has surrendered and canceled No Print Day. In the words of Emily Litella, “Never mind.”

One (Comic) Book, 56 Different Covers

IDW Comics issued Mars Attacks #1 with 56 different covers, each cover gracing 1,000 copies, plus a boxed set of all 56 editions with a bonus 57th cover included. 55,000 of the 56,000 printed have been sold so if you see one at the newsstand…

Disappearing Ink

In a very strange promotion to encourage readers to explore and enjoy newly published authors, an Argentinian publisher has released a book printed with ink that disappears two months after being exposed to light and air.

Bankrupt Dorchester Backlist to Amazon

Two years after announcing a switch to eBooks and the Print-on-Demand publishing model, the bodice busting backlist of bankrupt Dorchester Publishing will be purchased by Amazon.

3D Paper

HP, 3M and UC Santa Clara are co-developing a paper that will show printed graphics in 3 dimensions. For instance, by looking at a picture of a flower from different angles the background and shadows will move correspondingly.

eBook Espionage

Did you highlight a passage in 50 Shades of Gray on your Kindle? Did you give up on finishing Killing Lincoln on your Nook? These are some of the simpler bits of data uploaded from your eReader.

Final Thought

To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life. W. Somerset Maugham

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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.