The Shocking Tale of BookLocker v. Amazon

Bangor, Maine based BookLocker has won a suit against which claimed Amazon violated anti-trust law. The complaint was that Amazon used intimidation and other mafia-like tactics to shut down a publisher’s ability to use their own printer by attempting to force these publishers to use Amazon’s own POD printing business, BookSurge (now called CreateSpace).


You will respect Amazon's authoritah!!!

Let’s say you are an independent publisher, a niche publisher or a small digital printing company. Continue Reading →

What Do You Mean by “On Demand”?

Not everyone agrees on the definition of “on-demand”. They’re all right, AND they’re all wrong, too.

How many ways can you make change for a dollar?

The phrase “on demand” is pretty self explanatory. Software makers use it, video services use it. Even “print on demand” has been pretty much lumped into the book publishing domain.

Digital printers and marketing service providers have taken “print on demand” a step further to include things like web to print, short run reprints of marketing collateral (maybe digital, maybe not), pick and pack fulfillment, and there are others lurking in the shadows. All of these processes are different in a lot of ways. (BTW, there are 293 ways to make change for a dollar. And probably more ways to define “on demand”). Continue Reading →

How “Mine Magazine” stepped on itself and exploded

Please for the love of god keep in mind that this blog is completely my opinion. I really respect and admire the effort Lexus and their marketing/advertising people have put in over the years to create a truly personalized experience for customers and prospects alike. They’ve done some really creative things, things which even I have had the unique pleasure of contributing to while at the now semi-famous Rastar, doing variable data programming work. Lexus truly are cutting edge and have shown how digital printing technology can benefit everyone in the marketing supply chain, when well thought out and well executed.

I read WITH GREAT INTEREST about Time’s new “Mine Magazine”, touted by some in the print industry as the variable data savior of all that we know and love in a very problematic era. The idea is very sound: allow readers to choose their own interests and create a magazine that is directly relevant to those interests. A magazine publisher with many titles (like Time) could potentially get more subscriber interest this way. I like Travel & Leisure, Money, Food & Wine, and Time news. I don’t really care about Sports Illustrated or InStyle.

So, they can custom-make (not really, but in a way) a magazine tailored specifically to my interests. Panacea! (I like to reserve certain words for proper dramatic effect. Plus, panacea is just a cool word!) Anyway, a couple of weeks after ordering Mine, I get an email:

Dear Jeff,

Thank you for subscribing to mine magazine. We want to let you know that a computer error may have affected the first issue you received this week. It’s possible that this issue did not contain the combination ofmagazine content you selected. Please know that the problem has been resolved, and that each of your subsequent issues will reflect the exact content you originally requested.

In appreciation of your support, we have extended your five-issue subscription to include a sixth free issue ofmine. You can also access real-time mine content through your smartphone device at

We apologize for the inconvenience and, again, thank you for being among the very first to experience mine.

Best regards, 
Wayne Powers
President, Time Inc. Media Group


Wow. The whole point of Mine (sorry, mine with the lower case em for added coolness), is that it is customized to my preference. Botching this one thing is the ONLY POSSIBLE mistake that would ruin the effect. They made the ONLY POSSIBLE MISTAKE that would damage their reputation. Worse, though, is that at a time when printing in general and digital printing in particular need as much good PR as an industry can get, this happens. I can hear the critics now doing the “I told you digital printing is all hype” song and dance. 

I can talk. I have been personally responsible for quality control in digital printing jobs like this many, many times. I have seen mistakes like this that cause $25,000 in postage go up in smoke (another story). I’ve seen Roger’s face get printed on the back of Alex’s card, etc. The thing is, it doesn’t have to happen. Ever. Digital printing, is NOT THE SAME as traditional printing. It’s got that whole ugly database thing embedded. It really is like a landmine. 

I would like to offer my services to Time Magazine as a Variable Data expert. Of course, it’s possible they have laid off all the experts as a cost cutting measure, and perhaps that’s why this happened. Just conjecture, ya know? Just conjecture. THANK GOD they got they variable elements in the Lexus ad correct. That was cool.

Read more articles about mine in the mainstream press and other blogs: 
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Digital Printing and Prepress job trends

Image by MonkeyBoy69 via Flickr

It seems from the chart below that jobs with the phrase “Digital Printing” in the job description (being precise here) were definitely trending up, even ignoring the anomalous spike in Summer ’07. Of course, the trend has turned down now.

The situation for prepress jobs is far more dismal, as this chart shows:

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The Future of Prepress I : Where is the customer? | Prepress Pilgrim

Wheat Harvest 9886
Harvesting wheat, not customers

Great post by DJ Dunkerly at Prepress Pilgrim. I’m looking forward to the next part.

Two things come to mind for me here. First, its not a gigantic leap, skillwise, for a good prepress operator to take other tasks like IT. Successful prepress operators are very data oriented, as opposed to object oriented or idea oriented. This skillset is the same for those in IT. I’m not saying that we are data oriented to the exclusion of the other two, but good prepress people are strong in that skill area.

Second, we are now using the internet and networking in general to accomplish day to day tasks anyway; things like file transfer, proofing, and basic communication think email. In web to print and digital printing (my own gig) almost the entire process exists on remote servers accessed over the net. Harvesting customers using AdWords seems like just another extension of the already heavily “internet focused” effort that prepress work finds its home.

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Marketing Spending in 2009: Where’s the Money Going?

Wordle Cloud of the Internet Marketing Blog - ...
Image by DavidErickson via Flickr

In November 2008, BtoB Magazine, a magazine for marketing strategists, did an exclusive survey of marketing executives. The results were reported in their December issue. Among the results are some encouraging numbers for vendors to the industry.

According to the article’s author Kate Maddox, of 211 b-to-b marketing professionals, 31% plan to increase their marketing budgets, while 43.5% will keep their budgets flat. Only 24% will decrease their budgets in 2009.

From the article: “Significantly, of those planning increases, one-quarter intend to raise them by more than 20%, and nearly 9% plan increases between 15% and 19%.”

Some traditional media platforms will also see increased spending next year, including direct mail (36.9%), events (31.0%), telemarketing (21.8%) and print (20.6%).

However, while some marketers plan to increase spending on these media, others plan to cut spending. The survey found that 33.2% of marketers plan to cut spending on print; 30.5% will cut spending on events; 25.6% will cut direct mail spending; and 21.3% will cut outdoor advertising spending.

Where’s the money going? You guessed it: “social media” and the internet. According to Dr. Joe Webb at, printers can win some of that spending by exploring the “role of new media in strategy development and tactical implementation”. Print is a crucial media component in the marketing mix.

See the whole article here.

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Print Industry Hubris

Naruto whirlpool
Image by MShades via Flickr

So, I’m reading the always amusing PrintCEO blog, and almost had to re-swallow my lunch in reaction to the cloying, rose-colored insanity that I tripped over. Check it out, if you dare, by clicking this.
Here’s the comment I did not reply with, but wanted to.

Before a chorus of “Amen, Brother” starts, I’d like to say this:

You say “our industry can and will not only survive but thrive and prosper as never before.” What evidence do you have of this?

How exactly will that happen? Employment is falling, newspapers are closing, magazines are dying, high schools and colleges are no longer teaching the craft, most of the money advertisers have left is going to the internet… THE SKY IS FALLING.

The industry can no longer “hope” its way out of a bad situation (on all fronts) nor can the industry rest on its legacy as the most important vehicle for communication between people. We are not the kings, anymore. The industry has rested on its laurels for too long, and we’re being swept into a whirlpool by the internet and mobile phones.

I’d imagine a similar piece could be written by the prognosticators of the typewriter, telegraph, or horse and buggy industries.

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I wish I’d thought of it

Image via Wikipedia

Check out this genius idea: When I first saw it, I didn’t know what to say. I’d love to see the results, and I’d love to see a scientific study of this.

From the printer’s perspective: Digital printing is now approaching offset quality in a lot of ways. Book printing is especially suited to digital, and digital truly democratizes that process, as this demonstration proves. Without LuLu, or Lightning Source, or any of the other quality shops (Vistaprint and its ilk are not designed to do high end design work), you’d still be paying megabucks just to get  job set up, and you are left with the question of where to store the 5,000 copies you didn’t sell.

{Thanks again to Zemanta for bringing this up in the related articles tool. Brilliant as usual!}

[email protected]

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Convincing CSRs to “sell”

Used Car DudeThis is an interesting discussion on Manager Tools:

IMO, a CSR can, and (maybe?) is, obligated to treat every customer contact as an opportunity to upsell/cros-sell. But then, I’m into marketing, so what do I know re: sales? And they can be compensated accordingly. Not cold-calling or hardcore selling, but simply providing addt’l information to the customer, when appropriate, which might help them. If not, no biggie. BUT, now they know. In new business development, I heard way too often from our top 10 clients: “Oh, I didn’t know you guys did that!”

People in sales do posess a unique and valuable personality type, one probably not measurable in DiSC terms, according to this article from the July-August 2006 Harvard Business Review:

We have to admire salespeople’s resilience in the face of endless rejection, their certainty that things will work out in the end.At the same time, we’re repelled by what their job can do to them. (Think Death of a Salesman and Glengarry Glen Ross, dramatic portraits of hollowness and moral capitulation.)

Just what type of person goes into sales, and how do salespeople cope with their jobs? For insight into these questions, HBR approached G. Clotaire Rapaille, a psychologist, anthropologist, and marketing guru who researches the impact of culture on business and markets. In particular, he studies archetypes – the underlying patterns in psychology that illuminate the human condition – and shows organizations how to use those patterns to sharpen their sales and marketing efforts. He points out, for instance, that a keen understanding of the Great Mother archetype has helped Procter & Gamble achieve great success with Pantene hair products. By promoting nutrition – and reminding consumers that hair must be nurtured– the Pantene brand appeals to the maternal instinct.

Rapaille says that salespeople have their own archetype: They are Happy Losers who relish rejection and actually seek out jobs that provide opportunities to be turned down. That, of course, has implications for how they should be managed. Rapaille’s research shows that the leading motivator in sales is not money; it’s the thrill of the chase.“Hold huge company meetings where you give a salesperson the gold medal of rejection,” he advises. “Jonathan sold 500,000 computers last month, but he was rejected 5 million times! It may sound ludicrous, but this is the way to get fire in the belly of your sales force – particularly in America, where beating the odds is highly prized.