Re. Cheap paper, high cost

Subject: Re. Cheap paper, high cost
From: Geoff Hart <geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Fri, 26 May 1995 14:54:20 LCL

Just a few notes from the woodlands sector re. paper prices and
low-quality paper:

1. Paper prices are cyclical, and respond to the economy. When there's
a recession, prices plummet because nobody wants to buy paper and the
companies lower the prices until someone buys. The result? In the
recent recession, the Canadian pulp and paper industry lost an average
of $1 billion per year over the past four years, with a loss of $2
billion in 1992 alone! (Yes, that's Canadian dollars, but it's still a
hefty chunk of change.) When the economy perks up, the industry
increases its prices to cover all that debt and keep its creditors
happy... but there's also a little phenomenon called supply and demand
that kicks in: In recessions, mill workers get laid off, and when it's
time to increase production, companies can't do so until they increase
staffing. Until they do, and can scale up to full capacity, supply
lags behind demand, and those who need paper bid higher for it than
those who merely want paper. Prices increase. I don't see this as
price gouging, but I'm hardly a disinterested party.

Environmental note: Installing a state of the art pollution control
system (or switching to chlorine-free bleaches) runs into the hundreds
of millions of dollars. Switching from paper produced by clearcutting
to alternatives also raises costs. Someone has to pay for this...
guess who?

2. Most writers and editors say farewell to their books as soon as the
text is approved for printing. The next time they see their babies,
they're printed and bound, far too late to do anything but wince. If
they're lucky, they've got a print purchaser who understands that
using toilet paper is false economy (and makes an ironic statement
about the quality of the information). I'm fortunate in doing my own
print purchasing and in working with a great printer (thanks, John!),
so I get the quality the my readers need. Most writer/editor types
aren't so lucky. Don't blame them for inferior production values
unless you know that they buy their own print.

3. Speccing paper is a tricky business. I don't fully understand all
the intricacies, and I've been doing the work for almost 10 years. If
you've got to spec paper, here's my "works every time" rule for
beginners and seasoned pros alike: find some paper you like (in a
sampler or a printed book), show it to the printer, and ask him/her to
match it or suggest an alternative. Explain what you're using the
paper for so s/he can tell you if this will work. If possible, ask for
something with print on it (including halftones and colors if you'll
be using either). Most paper companies and paper wholesalers can
provides examples for you on request. Don't worry about opacity and
whiteness values, calipers, CIS varnishing and all the rest of it.
(It's still useful to understand the basics on this stuff, just don't
get your hopes set too high about mastering it unless that what you do
for a living.)

--Geoff Hart #8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Disclaimer: These comments are my own and don't represent the opinions
of the Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada.

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