In the 25 years since incorporating PageMaster, there have been significant disruptions. The intention was never to become a commercial print or graphic design shop; but to provide efficient, high-quality services around publishing. This is a reflection on the past 25 years in publishing, and how the company has rolled with industry changes and opportunities.
Three rolls come to mind as I think of the past 25 years in publishing. The first is that of a fighter; second a wheel still moving; and third, the rock and roll of rhythm. The header photo is about the evasive roll, and the contrast of technologies through different ages. This Harrier and F-14 were at a show in Saskatoon in 2002.
Photo by Dale Youngman
From type to press
An area of significant change has been how type made its way to the press. The hot-metal and handset type I began with in 1976 had been relegated to a back corner. Cold type, which had been a huge driver in the development of community newspapers, gave way to desktop publishing as the new standard for graphic production. Easy access to typesetting tools also brought a proliferation of output from those unfamiliar with typesetting and design concepts.
PageMaster’s initial production was newspaper and magazine assembly to be printed on web offset presses. Throughout the printing industry shooting paste-ups, gave way to direct film output. Running our own film provided additional control, time-savings and convenience for our clients. But technology and disruption continued.
As digital technology matured, direct to plate eliminated film. The PDF format significantly improved and became the standard for passing work to the next service provider. At the same time, digital printing moved from photocopies to efficient short-run manufacturing. So PageMaster rolled, expanding digital printing past the proof and office functions.
Short-run book production
By 2000, efficient printing and binding books in small quantities became possible, and in 2001 PageMaster added a perfect binder and entered print-on-demand book production as a service.
True POD technology became available to print one book at a time with reasonable quality. Instead, PageMaster embraced a small batch model. Paper use is efficient, and it finds a good balance for author or training session copies.
Digital printing quality matured, surpassing offset. PageMaster added a digital press in 2005. By the time PageMaster was 10, high-quality digital printing and photo-capture for art were included in our services.
A medium format digital camera and wide gamut archival inkjet output further enhanced our art publishing options. As we also printed books, art notebooks and art books which fit naturally in our offerings.
The web and marketing
Back in the ’90s, I realized the internet would be huge. PageMaster’s first web site was on connect.ab.ca/~pagemaster in 1997. CIRA initially restricted “.ca” registration to national companies, and as PageMaster is an Alberta corporation, we were registered as pagemaster.ab.ca. and then as pagemaster.ca when rules were relaxed in 2000. Our web presence has expanded much from that first on-line brochure.
PageMaster.ca has rich content. An online book catalogue, built in 2005, developed into a full e-commerce site to sell books. PageMasterPublishing.ca grew to include art prints, cards and art notebooks in 2016, and currently has 1,196 products available worldwide. Our on-line portal and customer care system served us well coming through “the great lockdown” and the challenges of 2020. We also build sites for publishers, authors, artists and musicians.
Book distribution was expanded with POD through Lightning Source to combat shipping costs, and through e-book platforms, to further support our authors. Media kits and marketing material round out our offerings.
Finding our fit
Our old $20 bill quoted Gabrielle Roy, “Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?” I love the wide variety of work and approaches shown by our clients. Tools for creating, polishing, marketing and distributing change, but core processes and values remain.
Today there is proliferation of self-publishing services, hybrid publishing options, and the publishing industry in disruption. Opportunities and challenges abound. Growth has not been a straight line and there have definitely been rocks in the road. A lot has changed in 25 years of publishing and printing. But at PageMaster, great work, produced efficiently, are unchanging core values.
The mission of, “a complete Canadian publishing service, championing life, diversity and hope,” rings true and guides decisions. Calls come in that would fit our equipment and tempt me to spread out. But our role is to embrace artists, authors and associations in publishing.
Our goal is to push back globalism and “help 5,000 Canadians successfully publish by 2025.” Thanks to all those that have joined us on this journey so far.