Niko Pfund (one of the good guys) gives an upbeat interview on Bloomberg.
Flats are once again causing trouble.
A flat is the product of a stripper’s work: pages of negatives, in imposition order, attached to a sheet of goldenrod with little windows cut from them so that the negs can be exposed onto a plate.
Here’s a stripper cutting a window into the goldenrod after the negs have been attached to the other side.
Flats always used to cause us fits. You had to pay to store them: printing plants had thousands of them which they had to keep available in case the publisher placed an order for a reprint. They would make a charge for the storage, and we always would agonize over the cost. A regular monthly charge, fairly small for an individual title, would add up to a significant sum, and twelve times a year. We knew we needed to reduce the charge, but couldn’t figure out how to. If only you knew which books were going to tank and never reprint. But if we knew that we’d never have overprinted them in the first place. One or two books embedded in the print out accompanying the invoice, might in fact already be out of print, and the flats for those titles could have been destroyed, but picking them out from the haystack was almost always too time-consuming, so we’d just continue paying to store them.
Digital came to the rescue. When you send your books to the printer in digital format, they can make plates without using film. Strippers lost their jobs, or more often retrained. As our flats holdings were no longer growing, we began to winnow them down.
Now however we come to a point where many printers are getting rid of platemakers which unitize film, keeping only their digital platemakers. Many have digitized the film, but there are some books where quality concerns make you want to reprint from the film — generally the problem is with the halftones which will tend to darken up in scanning, and if they are critical, you will probably not want to print the book from the scanned digital files, but from the original flats. So now you need to find someone who can make plates from the flats, ship the flats to them, and maybe restrip because they use a different imposition scheme. Film flats have returned to costing publishers money.