Starting with IPEX 2002, this blog covers events relevant for UK print, including Seybold and DRUPA. See also website at

Monday, January 31, 2005

Simon Eccles, emphasis added

The Printweek from last Thursday (27 Jan) included a letter from Graham Pearce of Island Printers complaining about Adobe and the release of new versions of PDF that his software could not cope with. At first I could not see what the problem was so phoned him to talk about it. (Google found a phone number on the second suggested site)

Island Press has not yet invested in Mac OS X. This seems to be the crunch issue. To buy a new Mac and Creative Suite may cost £5-6,000. There are still many files in Quark 3.2 that work perfectly well. The few customers that have bought InDesign are prepared to supply PDF, so that's ok. They don't have Windows XP but do have Acrobat 5 running on Windows 2000. On the Mac they have Acrobat 4 and obviously could not buy Acrobat 7 without buying Mac OS X.

The problem seems to be that some customers have found out about Acrobat 7 and are sending in files in the new format. It might be possible to insist that customers saved in 1.3 or 1.4 and use the PDF/X pre-press standards as a basis for this. But some customers just create PDF without much training and don't really understand the best choices for print or web. Some customers may expect a print services company to be able to change the format version of a PDF.

However, is it reasonable to expect Adobe to stop with the features of Acrobat 4 just because this meets most of the requirements for print?

Printweek also features a review of Acrobat 7 by Simon Eccles (p 28) that covers the potential consequence of JDF for print workflows but without any sense of urgency or excitement as far as I can make it out. The opening question is 'who needs another PDF format?' coupled with the view that 'whenever Adobe updates Acrobat, all the service providers have to go out and buy a copy anyway'. 'If customers supply files in the new format, you need to be able to open them.'

About two thirds of the way through there is mention of the JDF feature, the ability to create JDF files with the PDF. "It's the first time this has appeared in a mass market application in a reasonably usable form.It lets you write a job ticket which defines the 'creative intent'". Actually although most print customers will be concerned with the 'creative intent' I think Acrobat 7 could create a JDF ticket at any level of detail required.

This has just as much potential to change the print industry as Postscript or PDF. The conclusion that this will make 'quite a difference' to 'some customer-supplier' workflows is a bit under-stated.

My impression is that PDF became established in UK print following discussions such as at the Digital Ad Lab. Publishers and agencies became aware of what PDF made possible, greater control over design, faster communication and reduced costs. Later print service companies responded to customer demand. Obviously this is a simplified view and there were some exceptions. Possibly JDF will be adopted in a similar pattern. Adobe seemt to think that most copies of Acrobat 7 will be bought by large organisations and architects or engineers. Some of these people will eventually discover the pre-press features or mention them to people in publishing.

Maybe I'm going off topic here. Obviously there are print service companies that can support JDF and offer training to customers. In the UK it seems most of these are the 'print management' companies that have created a link between customers and print. TripleArc are reported as moving into the 'data management sector' ( same Printweek, page 26). As mentioned previously on this blog, TripleArc were at IPEX 2002 trying to sell JDF software to the British printing industry. It has taken a while for JDF to become more obvious but there is no fundamental reason why print service companies cannot offer a JDF style directly.

If print companies do not want to invest in software they can still carry on printing with the same technology available now. There may be an issue with margins however if print is seen as a commodity and the value creating services are not seen as part of 'print'.

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