The price of eco printing

medium_2015_Laurel B.jpgThe weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

Publishers tend to know what they want to publish, although they may not know how they want it printed. It’s a step too far to care about the production of a book or magazine, when you’re tearing out your hair to get the content and sales projections right. This is unsurprising: production and printing are someone else’s outsourced problem.

Over thirty years ago technology made it easier for content creators to get their stuff published. The introduction of desktop publishing (DtP) revolutionised the graphics business, leading to widespread disruption and increased awareness of print’s various dirty secrets. The DtP revolution came about because of technology, but also because the prepress and printing industries were ripe for change. Change has continued to characterise the graphics industry ever since, to the point where small publishers such as Unbound, which chooses what to publish using a crowd funding model, are gaining prominence in today’s printing and publishing landscape

The first Apple Macintosh, a product Steve Jobs notoriously prioritised at the cost of other Apple projects, started the DtP revolution. We were fortunate to have had hands on experience with early Mac models, which smiled engagingly at you from a miniscule screen while booting up. We had had experience with the Xerox Star so the Windows, Ikons, Mouse and Pointing techniques used in the Mac’s graphical user interface were familiar. And having messed about with high end page layout and composition tools, the delights of Aldus PageMaker (the first desktop page layout software) were also relatively familiar. Except that this smiling little box was a machine with a price tag at a fraction of what professional systems cost.

Adobe’s PostScript page description language unified text and graphics into a single output stream, processing rasters to screen and printer. And thanks to the incorporated Linotype fonts, gorgeous typeset pages could be output. Pages could be viewed on screen and printed with the Apple LaserWriter, the first desktop printer able to print true fonts at 300 dpi. Linotype’s Linotronic 300 was the first typesetter to accept PostScript input for 2400 dpi output, sufficient for film and platemaking. It was the beginning of the end for conventional prepress and publishing. DtP technologies created a process awareness and encouraged everyone to use typography and composition in their communications. They laid the foundation for greater awareness of printing and the negatives associated with volume production and waste.

Today the conversation between publishers and printers needs to move on. Publishers have the power to determine how green the printing industry can be. As with any service industry printers mostly rely on customers for their direction. Publishers can dictate for instance that they want printing to take place close to distribution points; they can require printers to use technology with reduced energy, water and materials use throughout the print cycle; they can specify the use of recycled paper and vegetable based inks, and choose to commission companies with zero waste to landfill policies. Sustainable print is in the hands of publishers, large and small, if they are willing to accept that such an approach will come at a price, it’s a price worth paying.

– Laurel Brunner

This article was produced by the Verdigris project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, HP, Kodak, Kornit, Ricoh, Spindrift, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

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