We just received the first 5 advance copies of my book “Imagining Shakespeare” via UPS from Hong Kong. It’s very exciting to see them and realize that 2 pallettes of books are on their way here via freighter. The decision to print these overseas was not an easy one – we prefer to work as local as possible and keep our commerce in-country. In this case, we discovered, like so many others have, that there is a significant disconnect between the world economy and the US economy. Printing estimates for the book domestically were 2 to 3 times as much as estimates we got overseas. That difference in price is the difference between “yes” and “no” with a project like this – it just couldn’t have happened.
The people at Permanent Printing in Hong Kong have been a pleasure to work with, very responsive and professional and the product is everything I could have hoped for. So what’s the issue? I’ve certainly burned some grey matter thinking about it. Is it the cost of doing business here? Is it inflation in materials and wages? Is it that the people in Hong Kong are working for peanuts? Yes, yes and yes. I’m sure that the people at Permanent are happy to have a job, just like anyone, and the quality of their work and service would indicate that they take pride and pleasure in their work.
Printing is a commodity business in many ways – the cost of paper being one of the prime movers. Printing is heavy in large capital equipment which carries finance service over time as well. Labor comes into it – you need good, qualified pressmen. So what’s the fix? I don’t know, but I think that there is a lot of regulation, taxation, requirements and other layers of red tape that have been imposed on industry over the century that have made it difficult for domestic manufacturing to be competitive. Much of this has been a good thing – saving our environment and resources. But I think that if I was running one of these businesses I would be looking at my competition from a global perspective every day, and asking “How can I change this paradigm?”. I was suprised that none of my regional printers opted to broker an overseas job – essentially garnering a commission, or maximizing the return on their prepress and digital departments and foresaking the printing floor.
Anyway, the books are on their way. I just wanted to comment on this issue as a couple of people have inquired about my decision.