Digital magazines and books are for the masses. Printed copies are for collectors

There seems to be the common belief iPads, Android tablets, smartphones and eBook readers will soon be replacing print altogether. It could look that way to people who only read mainstream publications and who rarely come into contact with less common publications like facsimiles, limited edition books, etc. The future of printing at least partly lies in those specialist editions.

Answer me this: If you want an author to sign your book, how will he do it with a digital edition? Book signing, first editions, limited and numbered print runs; it’s all the exclusive domain of printed matter. You could in theory design a “signing” system for digital media, but it will never have the same personal touch as a signature complete with attribution (and sometimes even a small sketch if the author is also a graphical artist) signed with a pen on paper.

Granted, you probably don’t give a hoot about your course in statistics being signed by your professor — all you care about are your marks. But for art books, novels and other publications with some cultural intent, paper and ink is the one and only medium that matters.

And it’s not just limited edition art books or novels. Printers who specialise in facsimiles will sell few copies, but for each copy they sell they will get more. Which takes me to one of the first printers in Europe to run a UV LED inkjet a couple of years ago. He started as a sign maker, but specialised in inkjet signs and specialised short runs using that inkjet. He wasn’t interested in having his expensive EFI VUTEk running 24/7, claiming to earn more with challenging assignments and rush jobs.

Printers who take the path of facsimiles will also see less copies sold but more profit generated, especially with numbered (limited) runs. A facsimile of a Gutenberg bible will be more challenging than printing a DIY book, but some will actually love the extra excitement. And they will be rewarded accordingly.

It’s the same with playing cards, Tarot cards, some posters (think movie), old advertising panels, even. I personally own a Tarot card deck from the 17th Century. Not the original, which you can admire in one of Italian Tuscany’s many beautiful museums, but a numbered facsimile. That deck cost me in excess of 250 Euros at the time, and it’s a collectors’ item today.

The best part of this story is that printers don’t even have to change their printing systems that much. An EFI VUTEk GS3250LX will print on almost anything in typefaces as small as 8 points. The printer management/driver software can be a Fiery server, which has page imposition and other goodies, including APPE compatibility and the luxury of serving well over 100 brands of printers.