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Day Three – Saturday

Rain, rain, rain… the first bad weather we encountered in Europe in two weeks. And the temperature plummeted to below 15°C. Such sudden cold that my teeth ached and I could feel the skin on my face stretching.

This resulted in a late start – I didn’t arrive until 11am, one hour after the gates opened. This was perhaps not a bad thing, as the day before I had arrived early, at around 9.30am and had settled down with a cup of coffee inside the entry vestibule, after passing through the turnstiles. I could not gain further access, as only trade exhibitors were allowed access to the exhibition halls before 10am. Engrossed in reading the morning’s “Drupa News” magazine, I glanced up some half hour later, having been distracted by a sudden increase in the background noise. It was 10am, on the dot, and a wave of humanity was surging through the turnstiles and was literally charging past my lounge chair like a herd of buffalo, and then heading in both directions towards the just-opened exhibition halls. It was ugly. All that is abhorrent in crowd mentality came to the fore – people were not just jostling for position in the fast-moving queues, but were pushing each other out of the way, talking loudly in probably more than a dozen languages, running along the terrazzo hallway and squeezing onto the elevators. I watched in amazement until some 10 minutes later, the situation had calmed down and it was safe to stand up and enter the tidal flow.

I made a short return visit to the KM stand, to discuss possible expansion of Colours’ printing capabilities and to meet a few Australian colleagues.

And then I bit the bullet and made the decision to visit halls 13 and 15, predominantly filled with finishing equipment. The only problem was that these halls were probably a 15 minute walk away and it was still raining. So I took the long route, through halls 9, 10, 11 and 12. Most of the exhibitors in these halls were heavy machinery manufacturers, so although I wandered a little, there was not a great deal to specifically interest me.

I stopped for a moment around hall 11 to purchase a mineral water (at a ridiculous price of €4.60 – about AU$6), to recharge myself, and pushed on to the outer suburbs.

The following is only a small list of the stands at which I stopped to “sticky-beak”…

Horizon occupied a large portion of Hall 15. A great many of their new machines were on display, including a small PUR binder, a simple case-maker for book-binding, and several newly-designed stitching lines.

Caslon, a UK distributor of small finishing equipment, displayed a range of card-slitters, with options for round cornering and creasing on-the-fly. They also demonstrated the Maxit gluing system, for photo-book covers.

Cyklos, a small Czech manufacturer of desktop finishing equipment showed a simple, table-top die-cutting machine that used standard knives to stamp under pressure, and thus cut hand-fed sheets.

ODM (On Demand Machinery), an American manufacturer of book-binding machinery were showcasing their entire range – the Super Sewer, the Spreader, the Slider, the Slicer, the Sticker, the Stomper, the Smasher, the Squeezer, and the Separator. Yes, the names sound corny, but they are solidly built and functional. These machines form the basis of PhotoCreate’s binding facility, in Glen Innes NSW (Australia’s largest photobook printer), and are distributed in Australia by Currie Group.

On the return journey towards halls 7 and 8, I bumped into Colin Longbottom and had a long chat. It was good to hear another Ozzie accent.

Lunch in hall 7a was followed by a session with Chilli Publisher – a supplier of on-line design and editing software. I could see a great many possibilities, beyond even those offered by Taopix, for photobooks. I have planned an in-depth investigation for tomorrow.

Nearby were Callas and Atomyx – both offering software solutions for pre-press PDF workflows. Callas PDF Toolbox has different features to Enfocus Pitstop which may be more suitable to Colours’ pre-press needs, including built-in imposition. Atomyx has created a web-submission system based on open-source Drupal modules to allow customers to validate PDF files using Callas PDF Toolbox server.

Hall 7a was full of web-to-print offerings. From small one-person booths to larger stands hawking the most feature-laden solutions, integrated with whatever you want. W2P is certainly on everyone lips, and the consensus of opinion is that we must embrace it or lose out to those who do it first. I suspect that a serious note of caution is needed, however. “Build it and they will come” is not an adage that is effective in our industry any more. W2P needs to be used to enhance our customers’ experience of dealing with us, make it easier for them to buy from us – not necessarily as a marketing tool to offer a broader range of products with more features and bells and whistles.

In contrast to all the small offerings in W2P, many large machine vendors, such as HP, Agfa and Xerox, and many large MIS vendors, such as Tharsten and EFI, are fully integrating “digital store fronts” into their systems. These are generic ecommerce front ends, which will no-doubt increase in features and capabilities, and simultaneously become more affordable. But they have the advantage of being offered by large players in the market, not one-man software development companies that may not be able to offer support and upgrades.

I spent some time, at a one-on-one demonstration of Fiery’s DSF solution for B2B and B2C. It is likely that this will be distributed by KM, so perhaps there is an opportunity to access a demo version when I return to Australia.

I realised, suddenly, that the day had come to an end – perhaps seeming shorter because of the later start. Knowing that my train connections were limited on the weekend, I decided to call it quits and return to our hotel before the rain started up again.

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