Not Just Surviving but Thriving

October 5th, 2011 | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Not Just Surviving but Thriving

Martins the Printers, historical image.

It’s good to know that the remaining printing companies in the UK are not just surviving but thriving in the current landscape of the publishing industry. Our visiting speaker on Thursday 29th October was David Martin of Martins the Printers, who kindly enlightened the MLitt Publishing Studies students, on the print and production aspect of book publishing in the UK and within Martins the Printers company.

Martins the Printers has been doing business since 1892[1]. The business has undergone plenty of change in this time and finds itself operating in a shifting and developing industry with the current advancement in technologies around the e-book, and the new developments of digital printing machinery.

The principles of printing seem to remain unchanged. Martins the Printers operates Litho printing machinery and digital printing. The choice depends on the size of the print run, the size and format of the book, any special binding requirements and paper stock. These factors are weighed up and agreed upon at the end of the day against the bottom line of how much is it going to cost. The result is a constant battle between the design ideal and production costs. Importantly too for the environment the company is fully accredited with the International Environmental Management Standard, and fully recycles 98% of its waste. [2]

David Martin explains how the current global economic circumstances have had an unexpected effect on business for Martins the Printers. As the doom and gloom spreads around the globe of the crashing financial markets, bad news for most of us, Martins the Printers is busier than ever working 24 hours a day 6 days a week. This is due in part to the current struggles of the euro. A UK publisher who would normally have their print run order placed in Italy or Spain are now finding it cheaper to order with a printer like Martins the Printers in the UK. As for competing with printers in Asia and Europe, Martins the Printers competes on the basis of time, rather than cost, where they can turn a job around in roughly five days from receiving the file or disc.  When you compare this to one to two weeks print turnaround plus delivery time for Europe and twelve weeks turn around time for the Far East, it’s not hard to see why Martins the Printers is doing so well. Most of the orders Martins the Printers receive are for newly published books, where the aim of the game is to get the finished printed copies out on the shelves as soon as possible. David Martin has found that for reprints in general, where there is time available, the publisher will go to a company in the Far East.  However in some cases for example, where there is a dramatic underestimate in the original print run, and the publisher needs a reprint made quickly the publisher will turn to a UK company like Martins the Printers.

There is understandably a hint of anxiousness detectable about the impact of the e-book on the printing business. However there is plenty of optimism coming from David Martin about the current state of their business and the outlook for the future. As the class attempts to get to grips with folding large sheets of printed pages in the correct order to form a traditional book section, I can’t help but think how important the presence and object-hood of the book can be to the reader of any age, and that there must, hopefully, always be printed books.

Louisa Preston.

Image credits:

Historical image:

Page folding, David Martin and students: Louisa Preston.