Adobe embroiled in War of the Fed-Ex Kinko Button

Printers of America slam PDF madness

America's printing companies aren't too happy about the new FedEx Kinko's button that's turned up on Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader. Well, printing companies other than FedEx Kinko's.

In June, Adobe and FedEx Kinko's announced new versions of Acrobat and Reader that include a button for sending PDF docs straight to FedEx Kinko's stores for printing, and competing printers have mounted a protest, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Little more than two weeks after Adobe's announcement, the National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL) and its sister organization, The National Association of Quick Printers (NAQP), fired off a letter to Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen, expressing their concern over the prominently-displayed FedEx button. The letter was backed by more than 7,000 printing and graphics companies, including quick printing franchises like Speedy and The Allegra Network.

"We fully understand Adobe’s wish to make document production as efficient as possible for the end user - an objective shared by our membership, ranging from quick and small commercial printers to some of the industry’s largest graphic communications companies and franchise organizations," the letter read. "However, by aligning with only one provider as a means of offering these efficiencies, Adobe has, in our view, provided an unfair competitive advantage to FedEx Kinko’s."

As the letter points out, the printing industry at large has certainly played its part in promoting Adobe's PDF format over the years, as so many many printers turned to the internet and electronic docs as a way of driving business. "The advantage gained by FedEx Kinko's through this agreement with Adobe comes at the expense of the many other printers...who have played such a pivotal role in establishing Adobe as the defacto standard among many end users for reading documents and printing file submission," the NAPL-NAQL letter continued. "Many of our member companies have, with the encouragement of Adobe, actively promoted the use of Adobe Acrobat products - and a PDF workflow - with their clients."

"A lot of our members have been official Adobe business partners," NAQL president and chief executive officer Steve Johnson told The Reg. "They pay to be part of the Adobe solutions network. They use Adobe software. They've got the Adobe logo on their web sites. They've got it on their front doors."

On July 17, at Adobe's offices in San Francisco, Chizen arranged a meeting with several of the printing executives behind the letter, including Johnson. They demanded that Adobe remove the FedEx button from both software apps. "The only thing that will be acceptable to us is for Adobe to just remove that button and issue new versions of the software and level the playing field for all the printers in the country," Johnson told us.

The day after the meeting, a blog post from Adobe senior vice president Johnny Loiacono said the printing executives were "big time tough" on the company and acknowledged that Adobe had learned "a number of painful lessons" in the wake of its deal with FedEx, which purchased the Kinko's printing chain for $2.4bn in 2004.

"They told us exactly how they felt and the hard truths of what this deal means to them. We heard them. And they clearly told us what their expectations for next steps are," he wrote. Loiacono also said that the company would respond to the executives' concerns "within two weeks".

The company did not immediately respond to our requests for comment, but according to the WSJ, Adobe will make an announcement about the new button tomorrow. ®

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