I had an email from a print rep the other day, saying he was coming to town and hoped to meet with me to show off some new samples.

He was shocked when I replied and told him I was no longer buying printing, but was now a copywriter for the web.

We emailed back and forth about some of the changes in the printing industry. He mentioned that the large, highly regarded company where he works had sold off a couple of its large presses and reduced capacity. I told him about my tour last year of an all-digital plant that didn’t have a prepress department, but did have an HP Indigo web press, one of the first installed on the west coast.

The changes in the print industry away from artisan printing and jobs for print specialists like me were what made me decide to make a transition to my new work as a copywriter.

My print acquaintance wondered whether there would be enough print work to sustain him until his retirement. I told him that I had wondered the same thing for myself and decided that for me, at least, there probably wouldn’t, unless I wanted to move into ugly, commoditized advertising printing (ew!).

The companies I know that are doing well have embraced digital printing and now offer both digital and offset. Mohawk Paper is diversifying beyond paper for offset printing. The company has invested in Pinhole Press, its own digital printing venture, has invested in related software, and is expanding its line of digital press papers.

Disaster avoidance tip

I must say, I’m not optimistic about the future of printing as I knew and loved it. I told my print acquaintance what I’ve told friends who are still in the industry: If the future isn’t looking rosy from where you sit, don’t wait to make steps toward your next career, or to influence the evolution of the one you’re in. Do it now, while you still have some income and flexibility, and before you find yourself right up against that dead-end wall you had hoped you wouldn’t have to face.

What about you? What’s your experience been? What do you think the future of printing will look like? Please leave a comment.

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