Digital Directions: "In-sourcing" Production and Design
Publishers historically have been an inventive lot, with a broad array of skills and a can-do attitude. In the early centuries of publishing, they did whatever was required to put words on the page and into the hands of readers. Gutenberg was a goldsmith by background. This gave him the ability to create moveable metal type, the core technology behind the press. Subsequently, for generations of publishers, the smell of hot lead was in the air.
In the late 19th century, Cincinnati was a media epicenter with a robust book publishing industry to rival New York. Publishing entrepreneurs realized that Cincinnati had two critical ingredients: a transportation infrastructure (in the form of the Ohio River) to distribute print product and copious amounts of pigs' blood, an essential component of 19th century printers ink, thanks to the thriving slaughterhouses of "Porkopolis." Enterprising publishers saw the opportunity, mixed the ink, printed the books and shipped them off on river barges. They had vision, gumption and plenty of elbow grease.
Times changed. Cincinnati lost its mantle as Pork Capital to Chicago, and that of Print Capital to New York. And so it goes.
Another significant trend over the following century was the realization that publishing organizations did not in fact have to do it all themselves. As publishers refined their business models and sought higher levels of economic performance, they realized that doing everything in-house was not always the most profitable path. It was often more economical to use the services of an external vendor. To achieve greater profitability, publishers created and maintained a rich network of vendor relationships.
The most obvious example of this is printing. As the complexity and expense of printing presses increased, it became less practical for a publisher to own its own print operation. It was advantageous to use the services of a commercial printer. Publishers typically did not generate enough consistent throughput to offset the capital expense and operating costs of complex printing operations. Commercial printers represented a shared infrastructure that could aggregate demand and therefore drive down the costs of printing to the publisher.