In an age of on-demand cable, print-on-demand and instant messaging, it's no wonder publishers say the most important aspect of computer-to-plate technology is faster turnaround times.
Over its 10-year life span, CtP technology has brought the industry as close to on-demand turnaround times as possible, shortening production time and streamlining the manufacturing process. It means publishers can drop pages in their printers' laps knowing they'll be turned around quicker than Barry Bonds swinging at an 0-2 fastball.
Time-sensitive subjects are now brought to market faster. What Martha Stewart knew or didn't know about the stock price of Imclone, or what President Bush knew a month before the Sept. 11th attacks now gets into readers' hands almost as it happens. But, in addition to getting books to market more quickly, CtP technology has changed the way publishers look at proofs and gives them options for their jobs that were difficult to accomplish with a film-based workflow.
"From the publisher's perspective, there are a couple [of] things that are key, and one clearly is faster turnarounds," says John Zarwan, an independent market strategy and business development consultant in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. A CtP workflow, Zarwan says, allows more time for fact checking or designing because pages can be submitted as late as a day before the title goes on press.
Publishers who used to fight with their vendors to get their materials turned around quickly agree that a CtP workflow has made a difference in the way they do business.
"I can get quick turnarounds from pretty much anyone, and I think CtP plays a role in that," says Sue Willing, manufacturing manager at O'Reilly and Associates, a publisher of computer technology books in Cambridge, Mass., that publishes more than 100 new titles a year.
While publishers relish the extra time CtP workflows add to their schedules, printers need to be aware that jobs inevitably run late. And with publishers taking advantage of the last-minute uploading that CtP allows, little time is built in to accommodate delays.