If They Can, We Can Too
Reprints suppliers, determined not to be left out of the technological frenzy, ponder new solutions for developing innovative programs.
The goal of a reprints supplier is essentially the goal shared by most print manufacturers—to produce an affordable, high-quality piece in a short span of time. Reprints vendors share something else in common with the print production industry—a keen interest in new technologies that promise to make the reprints industry even more lucrative in years to come.
Who's doing what?
The capabilities and services of reprints vendors run the gamut. Some offer consulting services to help publishers launch in-ternal reprints divisions, some provide marketing services and others focus on the manufacturing side. No matter what type of service a publisher needs, there is a reprint vendor that can do the job.
Publishers Custom Reprints, The Woodlands, TX, for example, offers both marketing and non-marketing programs and full-service printing, but limits design offerings.
Diane Goff Yupatoff, sales representative for Sheridan Reprints, based in Hanover, PA, says that her company—which specializes primarily in black-and-white journal-related reprints—offers consulting services for publishers with in-house marketing programs and handles manufacturing and billing.
Yet another option for publishers is a full-service vendor. In 1990, Reprint Management Services (RMS), Lancaster, PA—the nation's largest marketer of reprints for publishers—pioneered the concept of reprint services as a profit center for magazine publishers. RMS offers marketing and production services to publishers, and partners with a number of printers for manufacturing. While RMS initially works with the publisher to define guidelines for reprint projects, publishers' involvement from that point on is limited—they need only collect a check at the project's completion.
Cynthia Osborne-McKean, principal, PARS International, New York City, explains her company's role in the market: "Publishers outsource their reprints programs to us entirely. We proactively market each article, and … we traffic and produce the order from the beginning to the end." PARS provides a range of design services based on standardized formats and publishers' guidelines.
Finally, for publishers that wish to market their own reprints, leaving only the printing to an outside supplier, there are a number of vendors that focus solely on printing and binding, including Publishers Press, Shepherdsville, KY; ASAP Reprints, Houston; and FosteReprints, Michigan City, IN.
Tools and trends
Reprint vendors are not unlike commercial printers in that they also feel the heat generated by the digital craze.
For Reprint Management Services, the trend has been to receive fewer jobs on film. Within the last year, President Michael Biggerstaff has seen more and more jobs come in as native application files on diskettes, Zip disks or as FTP transmissions.
One thing that Biggerstaff has encouraged his clients to do is to submit complete magazine issues, rather than on an article-by-article basis. "If we can get the whole magazine, we can store it. When someone buys a reprint, we're able to react to that purchase right away. We can get it out to the buyer a few days faster than if we call the publisher and have to wait to receive a file," Biggerstaff points out.
At Publishers Custom Reprints, jobs are coming in more frequently in a digital format. "We're getting work in a lot more often on disks, and we're also getting a lot more jobs sent to us over e-mail," says Manager Richard Wright. Typically, Wright receives Quark application files with a handwritten form from the publisher that communicates the contents of the disk to Wright's prepress operators.
To facilitate digital submission, Wright installed a T1 line. Unfortunately, he says, he has not gotten as much use out of the T1 as he had originally hoped, only because many of his clients don't have connectivity access yet.
Telecommunications solutions seem to be gaining interest, agrees David Blair, the general manager of Publishers Press' commercial division. In addition to accepting digital files on diskettes, Blair can now receive files via several ISDN lines and over the Internet as FTPs.
Beth Gomez, FosteReprints' vice president of sales and marketing, believes that the reprints industry is currently in a state of flux regarding the digital-versus-film debate. While many of FosteReprint's clients have made the transition to a digital workflow, some have not. To accommodate clients working with film and digital media, FosteReprints installed a Creo Renaissance scanner. "People are in the process of changing over from film to disk, so we now have (the ability to copydot) scan film and accept digital files," Gomez reports.
Plant Manager Dan Kelly explains that the Renaissance "will scan separations, or it will scan any film you'd use for offset lithography. We can register those files in the computer and combine those files with any customer-supplied files and output final film." With 10 to 15 percent of FosteReprint's jobs coming in as digital files, Kelly says that it made sense to implement the equipment.
"We felt that we could be more efficient if we could combine film and digital files at the computer instead of on the light tables. There are so many things you can do with files that you can't do with film."
Proofing options are more dynamic and diverse than ever before in the reprint market. At Reprint Services in St. Paul, MN, Vice President and General Manager Corey Johnson believes proofing can have a major impact on reprint production.
Digital proofing, according to Johnson, affords customers a wealth of cost-effective options. Reprint Services produces Kodak Approvals for four-color work; however, for one- and two-color jobs, many of Johnson's clients readily accept lower-grade (and less-expensive) proofs. "Lots of our customers are taking laser proofs, and that has really helped in turnaround," adds Johnson.
There is still some debate over computer-to-plate's (CTP) viability for the reprints market, which, in its purest form, requires short-run, on-demand printing. Lance Luehrmann, vice president of reprints for ASAP Reprints acknowledges that, "in some cases, it would be ideal. If there were no changes to be made to a file, all we would have to do is plate it and print it."
At Publishers Customer Reprints, "our runs are too short," says Wright. "It would be too costly for us to consider (CTP). … When you're talking about a reprint, the average run for us is 2,000. The economics of it don't make sense."
According to Steve Mussman, principal, PARS International, "the most efficient way to produce a reprint is by going—at least at this point—from final film. The film has already been produced by the publisher and if you can reuse that film, you don't have the added expense of going back and reproducing more film."
While PARS rules out CTP at this stage of the game, Osborne-McKean has found another way of saving money. "We have found that printers are moving toward using web presses, rather than sheetfed, for runs above 25,000 now, which is very helpful. It used to be almost strictly for runs over 100,000, but we're now able to do four-page units of 25,000 on a web press," she calculates.
To generate larger orders that qualify for a web press, Osborne-McKean and Mussman encourage clients to look at the big picture. "What we try to do on the client end is coordinate more internally with different departments at the buyer's company," explains Osborne-McKean. "We try to explain to them that it's more cost-effective to order as much as they think they'll need in one order, as opposed to ordering smaller, separate runs. Therefore, the quantities are averaging higher now, and that brings the web more into play."
Vendors adding value
As technology evolves, it allows reprints vendors to create collateral services that expand publishers' revenue potential. According to Wright, the most recent project at Publishers Custom Reprints is its "E-Prints" program. Clients wishing to purchase a reprint pay the publisher for a link from their own Web pages to an in-plant server at the vendor's shop, where the electronic reprint resides. As Wright explains, "They pay for a link, and we store it and monitor it."
Reprint Management Services is also throwing its hat into the Web hosting arena. "We'll host an article on our Web site (www.rmsreprints.com), so if an end user wants to buy a reprint to put on their own site, we will sell them a link to it. The reason we do that is for the publisher," explains Biggerstaff. "It gives them the security that their article won't be manipulated or changed." RMS offers incentive discounts for customers that purchase both the print and digital reprint versions. It will also provide customers with html or PDF versions of a reprint for Web-site posting.
The Web is also playing a more important role at Sheridan Reprints, Yupatoff notes. Customers are now able to place reprint orders online by filling out a request form on Sheridan's site. This service has been well-received: "(Customers) don't have to play phone tag or worry that a fax hasn't gone through," she explains. Three full-time employees are devoted to monitoring the orders that come in over the Web and sending out confirmations at day's end.
A digital workflow has also enabled Reprint Services to branch out with a new product line—Reprint Additions. Inspired by trade-show goodies—personalized corporate coffee mugs, tote bags and mouse pads, to name a few—the program "grew out of publishers asking us for more options to grow revenue," says Johnson.
With the help of Professional Promotions Group (a subsidiary of Taymark, St. Paul, MN), Reprint Services can now repurpose digital files to produce a variety of complementary items.
At FosteReprints, change is evident. In addition to adding a new eight-color Heidelberg perfecting press, the vendor is replacing its Printcom system—a job-tracking package—with a more sophisticated program that will allow FosteReprints to provide more comprehensive, value-added customer service.
The software includes a database that will be shared by the manufacturing staff and sales support staff. This design will allow clients to call a customer service rep (CSR) and check a job's status or request changes. The initial goal is to allow the CSR to access the system, inform the client of the status or input changes that are immediately updated to an electronic job ticket.
Later stages of implementation, Kelly adds, may allow customers to submit orders or request changes over the Internet. "We'll have info about (clients') jobs more readily available without having to send somebody out to look for a job, … and we'll be able to manage the work better," he explains.
What's next, you ask? We'll keep you posted.
-Gretchen A. Kirby