chapter  8
20 Pages

Brave New World

The latter half of the twentieth century has been a traumatic time for printers. Printing technology has changed at a bewilderingly rapid rate as a result of the increasing automation of printing processes. One result has been the deskilling of printing activities. The once proud band of compositors has diminished with startling rapidity in the last two decades of the century. Another problem has been the rapid obsolescence of state-of-the-art hardware and software. This is not only expensive; it also entails continuing changes in staff training and activities. At the same time, improved transport communications have made it feasible for printing to be carried out at remote locations. Even allowing for additional transportation costs, this means that overseas printers have become better placed to offer attractive contracts to British publishers. Putting all these points together, it was already evident by the 1970s that the future of the printing industry in the UK was likely to be troubled. By that time only some 20 per cent of publishers (or their parent groups) still printed and bound their own publications.1