The Do Book Co.

From Paper Mill to ReadmillMay 14, 2013 · Miranda West

This year’s Do Lectures in Wales was a bit different. For the first time the event was themed – Do Startup. Early on the attendees were divided into groups and asked to start a business. We landed in a group captained by Mark Shayler whose brief was ‘How do we reinvent manufacturing in the UK?’. This was fortunate for two reasons: Firstly, Mark is one of our authors, a complete genius and to anyone who knows him: a stand-up comedian. Secondly, because the subject is close to our hearts.

When we were making decisions about the manufacturing of Do Books, we decided early on that we’d try and use UK-based printers and, where possible, printing materials. Most British publishers print black & white books in the UK switching to overseas printers – mainly in Europe and the Far East – for full colour books. It’s just more cost effective, even with the added shipping costs.  Maybe because our books are small it just felt unnecessary to ship them great distances. Plus we felt sure we could produce the same – if not better – quality product over here. But would it be commercial suicide?

This week 'hot off the press' copies of the first five Do books were delivered to our warehouse in Grantham from Gomer Press, a brilliant and busy printer (and publisher) in Ceredigion, Wales. The books have turned out beautifully.  We printed them on Naturalis, an FSC-certified uncoated paper manufactured at a paper mill in Scotland called Tullis Russell. It wasn’t cheap but we saved some money by bulk-buying through our supplier, GFSmith. We also made a saving when our printer recommended a more cost-effective trim size for us.

When we were in Wales we drove over to Gomer Press to see how the printing was going. En-route we filled up on petrol at a small garage in Cardigan. As we chatted to the attendant, we discovered that his sister was volunteering at the Do Lectures and his brother-in-law worked at Gomer. He asked us to say Hello to him. Once at the printers, we had a personal tour of the shop floor and saw the first Do books taking shape. It was hugely exciting.

When it’s local, the process seems more personal. You get to know some of the people actually making your product, connections are formed, and maybe yours isn’t just another thing on the production line. 

Now we've reached the final stages of the books' production in both print and digital forms, it feels as if we’re bridging the old and the new: from sourcing our paper from a paper mill that’s been operating since 1809 to checking digital editions on our Readmill iPhone app – our eReader of choice. Readmill, a smart, progressive company based in Berlin, have produced a beautifully-crafted iPad and iPhone app that lets you read, share and discover great books. The app is free to download so if you do that now you’ll be primed and ready to receive and start reading your first Do books!

Their founder also came up with the title for this blog, purely by chance. So thanks for that, Henrik.