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Printbuyers ONLINE-December 8 2003
At a dinner party several weeks ago, I was sitting next to a young lady who was a sales representative for a large pharmaceutical company. She told me that it was astonishing how some physicians still prescribed older class drugs even though newer drugs with better results and fewer side effects have been around for years. Of course, she put most of the blame on the doctors who failed to keep current. But she also felt the patient had a responsibility to more carefully evaluate treatment, instead of blindly following the doctor. She’s right, if you’re caught in today’s medical system, second opinions and a little research on the Web may be crucial to your well being.

It amazes me how many print buyers I meet that fall into the same rut. For example, PDF has been around for a decade and has made great strides in the last few years. I thought by now everyone knew the advantages of PDF for print. Yet, quite often, when I am talking about Adobe InDesign as a viable desktop publishing option, someone always tells me that their printer doesn’t like files from any desktop application except QuarkEXpress. Now, I have nothing against Quark, but a printer has to adapt to the needs of their customer. However, my usual answer is send your printer a PDF. When I hear, "Oh I can’t do that because my printer doesn’t like PDFs or doesn’t think they work," I am as astonished as the pharmaceutical rep, articularly when I hear that the printer doesn’t know how to handle a PDF. If that’s the case, unless the printer is your brother-in law, find another printer. Fortunately that’s an infrequent situation. The dominant reason a printer may be hesitant to accept PDFs is that he needs a properly made PDF and lacks confidence in the client’s ability to transform the native file into a PDF made to the printer’s workflow specifications.

There is no question that for a PDF to flawlessly flow through the printer’s workflow it must be made right. But today there’re so many ways to ensure that happens it no longer remains an excuse. Of course, the oldest method is the printer simply sends the customer custom tailored settings along with a little education. Many buyers object to this because they feel it confines them to a specific printer, however in many cases the settings are useable by a number of printers. A better alterative is PDF/X. With PDF/X, a print buyer can ensure that their PDF files comply with a worldwide set of standards for making a printable PDF. Enfocus, the maker of PitStop -- an Adobe Acrobat Plug-in that expands PDF editing, preflighting, and auto correction capabilities -- offers another solution,, an online resource for PDF specifications. This resource is available to all members of the graphic arts community. Your printer can also automate your PDF creation by buying a Web document submission solution that has Adobe PDF Transit at the core. This offers the print buyer one click, decisionless PDF creation made to a specific printer’s specifications without the need to buy a copy of Acrobat.

Why is it so beneficial for a print buyer to get his organization on the PDF bandwagon by mastering the creation of printable PDFs? The answer is simple. A well made PDF eliminates many of the problems associated with a native file format workflow by bundling all the image files and fonts into a smaller, self-contained container. A PDF can speed through a printer’s workflow with less problems and will help ensure an easier trip through the RIP (Raster Image Processor). Less problems for the printer means fewer problems for the buyer and gives the buyer more leverage in negotiating price and turnaround. Moreover, PDF files are easier to store and repurpose as they are true content-on-demand files.

Print buyers no longer need to naively follow the dictates of a particular printer without thoroughly exploring all avenues. Does that mean that the print buyer needs to get their doctorate in printology? Of course not. The print buyer simply needs to understand the overall concepts and how these concepts affect their situation. PDF is just one, albeit a major one, of the industry alphabet the buyer must be familiar with. There are, others like JDF. But this audience already knows that or you wouldn’t be a member of Print Buyers, which offers a wealth of resources to help you do your job.

Harry Waldman

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