As the BPIF – the British Print Industries Federation publishes a really positive infographic in the state of the British print industry, so the BBC published a news piece about the closure of RR Donnelly, a directory printer in Yorkshire, with the loss of 200 jobs in the print industry.
The juxtaposition of these two new pieces in my twitter feed this week hammers home a hard truth. On the one hand the print industry is recovering. but on the other it is changing so rapidly, that companies that are not able to respond to this change will find themselves both isolated and unloved.
It is, perhaps, no surprise that RR Donnelly are renowned as the principal UK printer of the Yellow Pages. Not Yell.com – but the actual print version of the Yellow Pages. I love print. But I cannot remember when I last consulted the Yellow Pages. In fact, I’m not sure if I could lay my hands on a copy either in my office or at home if you offered to buy my copy for the price of a small car.
Print is vibrant. There is no doubt that there is a subtle yet noticeable swing back towards print. Book sales are recovering – after all, how absorbed can you be by a Kindle? Whilst much of our paperwork has now been superceded by online activity we still enjoy the feel of a quality brochure, recipe book or Sunday supplement. But it is not the same industry that could support companies that specialised in mail order catalogues or, as RR Donnelly have discovered, telephone directories.
It is a shame to see these companies go. There is something incredibly romantic about an old print house (for those of us with ink in our veins) but just as we said goodbye to Letraset and CMYK films, so we must say goodbye to those who are not keeping up with advances in the industry. It is not enough to be the best at what we do if there is no market for what we do. Nor is it enough to sit like King Canute denying the inevitable tide.
I wish the workers of RR Donnelly well. They are skilled machine operators and these are skills which are hard or come by. There is work. But it may be hard to find in Yorkshire.