All over the map

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As the role of production departments evolves in the digital world, layout programs are becoming increasingly better. While plenty of companies still sketch out pagination by hand, there are some that are finding layout software simplifies workflow.

Advanstar Communications, which doesn't use any book-mapping software, is currently looking at a number of layout programs it could use if it chooses to switch to InDesign from Quark. "We've considered doing it a number of times, but it's been difficult to cost justify before this," said Keith Hammerbeck, the company's director of manufacturing services.

Hammerbeck said printers often give publishing companies such software, because the mapping system generally has much of the information a printer needs. But they likely won't provide the software gratis if the company is too big, he said. "They don't want to have to provide too many copies and take too much out of their own pocket," he said.

Kelly Bracken, director of production at Bobit Business Media, remembers being offered a proprietary mapping system from the company's printer, which she declined.

"We didn't want to feel obligated to use their system," she said. "It felt like once we hooked into it, we might never leave it." Instead of going with the printer's option, Bobit chose the Impoze mapping system.

At Reed Business Information, which is currently using Impoze but plans to switch to a German product called dataplan, John Blanchard, VP-manufacturing, said he sees the book-mapping process as "key to the development of great print products, automated content placement, manufacturing optimization and integration of all systems used to manage our print titles." He called it the "hub at the center of our process linking print orders, press run and versioning control."

Versioning is one of the key reasons Hammerbeck is looking at different products. "We have to revise our folios many times for different reasons right now," he said. "So this would ideally make things easier."

Advanstar now uses Excel to map its books. Hammerbeck said it is difficult for an editor or publisher to read the map in this format when a decision needs to be made on specific ad placement. "With a mapping program we could show a thumbnail of that ad, and that would make some of those decisions easier," he said.

A production director at a smaller publishing company, who asked not to be named, isn't impressed with mapping software. "Mapping software doesn't know what my publisher likes, what my sales guy likes and how to fully handle the placing of ads of competitors," the production director said. "There are lots of parameters that the programs don't understand as of yet."

Bobit's Bracken disagreed. "It makes things far more efficient for us," she said. "Even with little glitches like that." If a magazine needs to be reconfigured due to an ad dropping out or being added, Bracken said, she can do it in a third of the time it would take to do by hand.

Bracken also noted that with increasing digitalization, more programs are designed to dovetail with other programs. "You can get a lot more functionality out of your book-mapping program when you have other programs that work with it," she said. "It may all be basic information that self-populates, but it sure beats doing it all by hand."

Hammerbeck hopes the book-mapping software will help make things much more efficient. "Whoever creates the folios could pull out the correct templates and build the magazine ahead of time," he said. "That way the designer has a book prebuilt for him or her and doesn't have to spend a morning doing that. It's all ready to go. Pickup ads can self-populate, and you can have a good idea of your book size well in advance."

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