Re: "Print on demand" and "Docutech"

Subject: Re: "Print on demand" and "Docutech"
From: "Jan Stanley" <janstanley -at- earthlink -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 20 Jun 2000 18:32:53 -0400

I've been involved a couple of times with manuals that were
Docuteched (probably not acceptable as a verb, but what the
heck). It's been three or four years since the last time, and I
suspect the technology has changed some, but for what it's

>1. I always thought that small runs would be prohibitively
expensive. Does the Docutech make it reasonable to
print 10 or 20 books at a time?

I would say a resounding "yes," but the only way to be sure is to
ask *your* printer exactly what it would cost *you*. An
important chunk of the cost is up front: Your ps file is
converted to the format that the Docutech uses (this is called
"ripping" or "RIPping," for "raster image processing"). Ripping
happens only once; once there's a ripped file, documents can be
printed from it indefinitely. Your printer might also charge for
storing the ripped file so that it's available for on-demand

There are color Docutechs, but I don't believe they can print on
cover-weight stock, so if you bind your docs in covers, you'll
need to have (larger runs of) covers printed the traditional way
and store what you don't use immediately.

>2. We use FrameMaker, not Word. I assume that Docutech
works with Frame as well - is that correct?

>3. Instead of providing the printing house with the printed
pages, I would instead generate a ps file from Frame, and
send them that ps file - is that correct?

Yes and Yes. You can give the printer either pages or a ps file,
but providing a ps file will be less expensive for you *and*
produce better-quality final documents. If you provide pages,
the printer has to scan 'em, which degrades the image.

>4. We use the Acrobat Distiller printer driver to produce a ps
file for Acrobat. Can we use the same printer driver, or do we
need a different one?

Your printer should be able to provide you with the driver they
want you to use. There are many different Docutech models, so
there are several drivers; the printer I worked with had me
create the ps file using an Apple driver (though I worked on
PCs). Once the driver is installed, creating the file is as easy
as store-bought pie.

>5. Are there any major pros or cons that I should know about?

Pro: (In addition to the biggest, print on demand)
Documents produced with Docutech aren't copies -- each is
an original produced on a high-speed printer; the quality is
therefore higher than that of photocopies. Screen shots, for
instance, look pretty darn good.

Con: In the projects I was involved with, the Docutech output
was slightly different from the original documents because the
fonts used by the Docutech were ever-so-slightly different from
their counterparts in the original FrameMaker and Word files.
This led to such problems as poor letter- and word-spacing
(especially with display fonts) and wrong line- and page-breaks,
which made a mockery of the time I had spent creating careful

>I spoke to our printing house...They told me they'd get back to
me with more info later this week.

I could be misreading this, but the fact that they have to get
back to you suggests to me that they aren't very knowledgeable
about Docutech. I recommend working with a printer (not only the
company, but the Docutech *operator*) that has a lot of
experience with the technology; preferably someone who can tell
you how to prevent the mismatched fonts problem I mentioned!
Docutech machines are sophisticated and their operators need to
be well-trained.

If you do decide to Docutech, ask the printer -- preferably the
Docutech operator -- about *everything*. For instance, if you
want blank pages, should you insert them in your Word or
FrameMaker file, or does the operator want to insert them? If
your docs are going to be cut down to a smaller size, should you
print crop marks or not? Ask the operator what you should ask

janstanley -at- earthlink -dot- net

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