NOW I CAN DO SMALL RUN PRINTING …. It’s been a long road and while I’m still some distance from a viable long term solution I’ve found a viable short term solution for printing my Sydney Opera House book. I’ve discovered that with commercial printers the cost of doing a test copy, or only a handful of books is tied up in the economics of the printing business. The machines that print large quantities of high quality prints cost millions of dollars, and the process of preparing files to print on them, or even checking print files supplied by customers requires the attention of a worker with both graphic design skills and the technical aptitude to operate the machines. Say it takes an hour to check my book file to get it ready for the machine … the $45 I’ve been paying for tests is less than their usual hourly rate … and even the $75 I was initially quoted may be considered cheap.

Conceptually this is a step I don’t need. If the cost comes from preparing files for and running these expensive machines, I need different machines. The steps I’m taking to control the printing process are a medium to high end desktop laser printer and seriously good paper. The cost ends up being about the same (as printer ink is expensive) but the value comes from being able to do tests, and being able to produce the books in small batches, without having to wait until a large enough print run becomes economical. And, as I’ve done, with the final test model, I’m able to cut down thin grey boxboard to print for the spines (which looks like concrete when I treat it) and on the Tudor eco greyish brown manila folders that I cut down. I can’t take those materials to commercial printers.

I hope I’m just slightly ahead of the return to analog trend here, and that by the time I get my larger studio open the Xerox colour printers from the 1990s will have been re-released, the analog ones that were still relatively malleable to program, and didn’t have the ridiculous computerised features that I can never figure out. Feature creep the computer industry calls it, although that always sounds like a voodoo rockabilly band to me, something like the Cramps.

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