Russell Jones, managing director of Catford Print Centre, realised that the impact of the internet might not necessarily be benign for his company almost a decade ago.
The rise on online services would strip margin from standard printing products and email would make print less attractive and relatively expensive.
“If people were using email to communicate, they would no longer need letterhead paper or compliment slips. The idea of sending a letter requesting a price list and two days later receiving the printed brochure in the post, would vanish.”
In order to survive the printer would need to change. And it has.
While still taking on straightforward jobs for a community of local customers, Catford Print Centre has begun printing books, not for the large groups, but for the army of would be authors who might not otherwise ever see their books in print.
“People would be comfortable spending £50 on leaflets with an online provider, but when they come to printing a book, they want a conversation with a supplier to support the online automation.
“Now we will print from 20 copies of a book to 200,” says Jones. “It’s rare that we will print more than that. It’s a service for those people who ‘have a book in them’, perhaps thinking that theirs will become the next Harry Potter if they can get it into print.
“Others will be writing for a known but limited audience, members of a club, a society or their family. We have just printed 25 copies of a family history for a man in Wales. He wanted to send something to all his family around the world. It had taken him 15 years to write.”
Many of the customers are older and want their book to have the look and feel of an existing title but not know how to specify it, Jones explains. Catford Print will help shape a margin free Word document into something that converts into a good looking PDF for printing. And it will then send a printed sample to allay the anxiety customers will feel while waiting for their books to be delivered.
Any last minute changes will be charged for, but result in satisfied rather than disappointed authors. Most orders will involve some face to face interaction he adds.
The company has an Océ VP6000 Ultra to print the body of the book and Konica Minolta 1060s which are used to print the covers. It has a Horizon BQ270 single-clamp binder to combine the two before trimming on an HT30. It results in a book that will not look out of place on a book shelf alongside a JK Rowling title, Jones says.
So far the company has not unearthed a best selling author to stand alongside Harry Potter’s creator, but books that it has printed have been picked up by the large publishing groups, he says. And sent the print order to their regular printer.