Session 2: On-Demand Printing

Prepared by William D. Rose

Evelyn Inglis, Natural Resources Canada, convened this session, which assessed how savings could be achieved by issuing maps and reports to conform with current demand rather than following the conventional practice of printing hundreds or thousands of copies for stockpiling over decades to satisfy perceived demand.

The speakers were Bob Davie, Ontario Geological Survey, Vic Dohar, Natural Resources Canada, and Rex Buchanan, Kansas Geological Survey.

The Ups and Downs of Print-on-Demand at the Ontario Geological Survey

Bob Davie, Manager, Publication Services Section, Ontario Geological Survey

Bob Davie's subject was "The ups and downs of print-on-demand at the Ontario Geological Survey." Bob explained that the survey's publication budget was eliminated in 1995, including funds for warehouse space. The survey thus had to recover all publication costs in order to continue issuing the results of its research. First of all, the survey negotiated a cooperative agreement with nearby Laurentian University to use its Docutech equipment to produce publications in short runs to meet current demand. In addition, notices of new publications have been posted on the World Wide Web. Distribution of some publications on CD-ROM is planned for 1997.

Bob listed several advantages of print-on-demand: (1) faster turnaround, (2) no up-front offset-printing costs, (3) lower warehousing costs, (4) costs for reproduction and distribution passed along to purchasers, and (5) correction of errors in later reproduction runs.

Some disadvantages were noted: (1) documents might not be always considered formal publications, (2) the Docutech system does not handle color, (3) potential problems with file compatibility, and (4) high costs of reproduction hardware and software. Bob noted that reproduction software has recently become affordable, because most software now runs on PCs.

Bob said that output resolution has improved considerably during the last 5 years and that further improvement will depend on advances in reproduction technology.

Options for Geological Map Publishing Output

Vic Dohar, Cartographer, Earth Sciences Sector, Natural Resources Canada

Vic Dohar spoke on "Options for geological map publishing output," drawing on his experiences at the Geological Survey of Canada. He said they have only two options for printing: (1) offset and (2) output to their SYNERGY electrostatic plotter. On-demand printing seems to be working well for publication of their maps. PostScript files are processed to native plotter language, and files are submitted to a plotting queue. Maintenance and plotting are handled expertly by cartographic personnel, and the SYNERGY plotter, with a resolution of 400 dpi, seems to perform better the more it operates.

Several advantages of on-demand map printing, according to Vic, are (1) client needs easily met, (2) updated data easy to release, and (3) quick proofing. He mentioned some disadvantages: (1) lower paper quality and resolution, (2) problems in trimming multiple copies, and (3) restriction to standard CMYK colors. Like Bob Davie, Vic felt that some of these disadvantages could be overcome as technology improves. Vic concluded by observing that hard copies of maps will always be required and that the GSC's on-demand system has proved to be successful and efficient in meeting this requirement.

Customer Reaction to On-Demand Maps

Rex Buchanan, Associate Director of Public Outreach, Kansas Geological Survey

Rex Buchanan's topic was "Customer reaction to on-demand maps." Explaining that the Kansas Geological Survey has been printing on-demand maps since the 1980s, Rex thought it was high time to assess customer reaction to this method of printing and distribution by means of a survey. (The maps are being produced by an electrostatic plotter with a resolution of 400 dpi, as well as by ink-jet plotters.)

A total of 25 customers responded to the questionnaire that was sent out. The responders comprised three categories: (1) highly technical specialists (geologists, e.g.), (2) managers, and (3) the general public. Rex acknowledged that the sample was too small for reaching definitive conclusions but felt that the responses nevertheless were valuable.

Most of the responders rated the quality as follows: maps, high; paper, okay; type, high; and color, high. Most thought that the price was about right.

It was plain, Rex said, that customers recognize the difference between conventionally printed maps and plotter-produced maps, but they also recognize the advantages of getting information in a more timely way, even if prices are higher. Some map users would like to have digital data as well.

In his concluding remarks, Rex stressed the importance of finding out just what our customers like. He found that customers really appreciate being asked what they think and having an opportunity to voice their opinion.