My stream of consciousness

September 1, 2006

Johnson’s World by Steve Johnson

Thanks to all who have so far submitted entries in the “Stevie” award competition. If you have not already submitted an example of your own, please consider entering. Here's a quick review of the rules:

Next month, I'll begin reviewing the entries in this column.

An important disclaimer: I did not dream up the moniker, “Stevie award.” The editorial staff of this fine magazine, antagonized by my consistently tardy “Johnson's World” submissions, were unable to resist resurrecting a name I haven't been called since the passing of my late German grandmother. As a child, I knew that if someday I were elected president of the United States, Grandma Wilma would be at the inauguration to ask, “Do you want a cookie, Stevie Johnson?”


As the hotel industry finds it prudent to avoid the 13th floor, perhaps book printers and publishers should eliminate chapter 11.

Consider this question, which is both difficult and uncomfortable: “If I were hired away by a competitor, what could I do that would inflict maximum damage on the company where I work now?” The response will identify areas of vulnerability that should be addressed in your year-end business planning.

Several years ago, I allowed my subscription to a respected newsletter to lapse. It is a very expensive publication targeted to a clearly defined niche audience. The content is worthwhile, but I could not continue to justify the expenditure because I already receive news from so many other sources.

Guess what? I now have the best of all possible worlds. I continue to receive this newsletter as though nothing has happened. In its pages I read about database printing, asset management and return on investment. I'll leave it to you to figure out the irony.

Lightning Source, the inplant printshop of book distributor Ingram, claims to have print on demand down to a science. No waste, no scrap, no inventory. When someone orders a book, they digitally print just one copy and send it out.

Almost. Recently, I was told Lightning actually prints six copies: one out to fill the order and another five for the warehouse, “just in case” someone ever orders another. That's progress for you — apparently, “ondemand” means extensive inventory and up to 500 percent scrap, to Ingram.

Life is too short to care about what others think. From now on, I'm going to use Palatino for all my correspondence.

In 1992 or 1993, the owner of a small print shop (“the whiner”) accosted my plant manager in church. He accused my company of “unfairly” hurting “real” printers like himself by using digital technology to gain a competitive advantage.

In 2005, a large Chicago-area commercial printshop decided to get serious about digital. They narrowed the vendor field down to two high-end color digital press models. The sales rep for one of the two competing digital vendors was the same fellow who had whined at my plant manager 12 years before!

Apparently he changed his mind about digital printing. Or maybe not; the big printer was unconvinced by the whiner's shrill sales pitch and bought its digital press from the whiner's competition.

I caught up on my trade and technical reading this weekend, which amounted to about 100 lbs. of paper. It's proof positive that print is alive and well, although Monica, my 95lb. secretary, looked a little worse for the wear after loading it all into my car.

One of my top 10 favorite jokes of all time, and probably the only one that can be told in public:

René Descartes walks into a bar.

“Care for a drink?” asks the bartender.

“I think not,” replies Descartes, and disappears.

Think about it.

I once stepped into an elevator, only to find it already filled to capacity with industry gurus. As the doors closed, Dr. Joe Webb opined, “If this elevator crashes, the printing industry will lose huge percentage of its knowledge base.” “Perhaps,” Prof. Frank Romano replied. “Or maybe,” he sighed, “they'll just have a whole lot less to read.”