They are struggling to open files!
Ok so the print business is just like the marketing, design and sales business… all you need is some money to buy equipment, a space to set up shop and a sign on the door, right? If you can get these items… viola you are now a Professional Printing Firm… or ARE YOU?
So my wife is doing some freelance design work for a great local non-profit. They have been going through some changes and different people are handling the production and promotion of an event. This is fine until they recommend a printer. I have been in Fort Worth for roughly 9 years and I have worked with many of the printers in town and a few in the Dallas area. I have been solicited by nearly all the other ones who I have not used so chances are if you are a good printer in the DFW (Dallas / Fort Worth) area then I am aware of you.
When my wife mentioned the printer I didn't recognize the name this should have been the first sign, but I try not to get involved in her jobs (she's been around and doing design for some 10+ years). The real sign that the printer was going to be a problem was they were unable to open the files my wife sent over. Betsy (my wife) did all the work in InDesign CS4, so all though this is not the most current software it is only one version back. So it should have nothing to do with the version of software. She sent the files over as a stuffed file with all the files, images and fonts collected and ready to go so this shouldn't be a problem unless this printer doesn't know how to unstuff a document. Betsy also sent a print ready PDF file to cover all her bases.
And this is where the big issue came in. Now granted, I'm kind of an old school guy I still like using QuarkXPress for all my print work and I really prefer to send all the working files and have the printer print from my quark files. This print ready PDF thing is for young whipper-snappers. Hey, kid get off the lawn! Oh sorry, starting to show my age here. More and more printers want print ready pdf files especially since many printers aren't happy with Quark and some have stopped excepting quark files.
So let me get back to the story and how I know this is not going to be a good relationship (with the printer) and potentially a disaster of a print job. Any printer worth his salt has all the tools and software to open up any professional software. More importantly, they do this everyday so they should have people trained that know all the tricks and work arounds to get files open and ready to be printed. I knew things were going south when the printer asked Betsy if she could send over a "PC version of the PDF File".
Ok for those of you not familiar with Adobe Acrobat and the whole reason they created the PDF file, I'll fill you in.
Here is a Wikipedia's definition:
Portable Document Format (PDF) is an open standard for document exchange. This file format, created by Adobe Systems in 1993, is used for representing documents in a manner independent of application software, hardware, and operating systems. Each PDF file encapsulates a complete description of a fixed-layout flat document, including the text, fonts, graphics, and other information needed to display it.
So the point here is this… PDF is operating system agnostic - meaning there is no mac version or pc version, there is just a PDF that will work on all computers. This was the reason PDF was created… to bridge the gap between those silly mac people (like me) and those technical or mass computer pc users like the rest of the world.
What do you do if the printer you are working with asks you for a PC version of a PDF file? If it were me, I would run as fast as I could. These guys have no idea how to print, it sounds like they just set up shop, bought equipment, but have no idea how the printing industry works. Even if these guys were giving me the printing for free I'd still run, my time is too valuable to teach someone how their industry works.
This is a serious branding issue because if you are going to this kind of printer then it means you truly do not care about your brand and the image you are putting out there to the public. Do not go with a CHEAP PRINTER, just to get a deal, it will cost you more than you can imagine. Look for a professional who has been around the block a few times. Honestly the printing industry is struggling right now so a new printer that pops up obviously doesn't understand the marketplace. Unless you have an amazing new twist on the printing business or something unique to offer, starting a printing business today is a bad business move.
I love printing, but don't just give your printing to any Tom, Dick or Harry that sets up a copy/print shop close by. Talk to someone who has been around for years or find a local professional designer and ask them for 3 printer they could recommend. You be better off going this route, most designers will spout off a few printers and even if they aren't the top printers they use, their lowest level printers are still going to be better than randomly picking a printer if you are not a regular print buyer.
Best of luck in your future printer selections!