During the last year I’ve moved three times at work, and each time I’ve tried to shed some of the sticky detritus of my career in publishing. It’s cube crap, unused in years, but somehow always avoiding the trash bin. Outdated manuals, mystery dongles, piles of spec guide binders, a small moose made of binder clips. Rule of thumb: if you have more loupes than eyes, it’s time to pare down.
I’m also trying to go paperless as much as I can. Ideally I should be able to carry every bit of career knowledge either in my laptop bag or between my ears. Part of this documentation diet involves replacing paper books with ebooks. One of the old books that needed replacing was the classic, Pocket Pal by International Paper.
For those unfamiliar with the Pocket Pal, it is a pocket-sized encyclopedia of print publishing information. It has chapters on the history of printing, prepress, printing, binding and finishing, and a glossary of graphic art terms. The Pocket Pal is now in it’s 20th edition, edited by Frank Romano. You couldn’t find a more credible and experienced author. He’s been writing books on printing and publishing since 1974. In 1974 I was 5 years old, and the song Band on the Run scared the hell out of me. Nowadays I’m more scared of Ringo than Paul.
I actually have a few versions of the Pocket Pal, but none more recent than 1992. Surely something interesting in print publishing must have happened since then. So that book has to go, but I couldn’t just toss all that information without finding another source, preferably online. Well today I found it. It is PrintingTips.com. I stumbled on a link to it by checking through some old posts on Cari Jansen’s excellent blog, which is required reading for anyone seeking higher level InDesign and/or prepress knowledge.
Printing Tips is run by Tecstra Solutions, YACMSP (Yet Another Content Management System Provider). I’m not sure how providing all this information fits into their business strategy, but their generosity is your gain. The content is free, covers every inch of the prepress, printing, and binding landscape, and being online it has the potential to be freshly updated. It’s also very user-friendly. I promise you will learn something within two clicks. If you have any interest whatsoever in making something to be professionally printed, go ahead check it out.
If this is adieu for the Pocket Pal, what will we do with all that extra room in our pockets? Did you ever get the syndrome where if you think about something mundane long enough, it starts to seem very odd? Somewhere back in history, somebody invented the pocket. They had the idea to sew little bags to the inside of their pants. And they had the good sense not to call them “pant bags.” A book called Pant Bag Pal would never have made it to a 20th edition. Anyway, pockets are probably on their way to extinction. With everything going digital, and ever smaller, I’m betting there won’t be a need for little pant bags any more.