Outsourcing & the Karmic Egg

So Melissa and I have finally decided to officially start our own publishing company.

She thought of the name “Karmic Egg” (the “egg” being short for “egghead”, I presume). We registered the domain karmicegg.com a couple days ago, set up a Twitter account, Facebook fan page, and I transferred my development wiki to the new domain.

Melissa designed this really awesome logo, as well! I’m not totally settled on the typography, but the graphic itself is wicked awesome.

Our Publishing company will be an outlet for both of our collective hobbies involving publishable media (ie. not her crafties, but any books, writing, cards, games, etc. that we may produce). She is currently shopping around for a printer for her Melissa Lenormand divination deck / art project, and I’m in the playtesting phase of one game and nearly there with another (two others are still in early development).

The company is still in its infancy, but we’ve already had an absolutely surreal experience.

As I mentioned earlier, Melissa is shopping around for a printer for her Lenormand deck. She’s had one print run done by company specializing in producing game prototypes, but the registration wasn’t consistent enough to be realistically used. She’s gotten price quotes from local printers CS Kern (about an hour west) and Mound Printing (Miamisburg, OH) — more pricey, but they guarantee the registration to be much more accurate.

She’s also gotten a price quote from a printing company in INDIA. They specialize in printing cards (Poker sized), and do printing for US Games and a few other big companies. They quoted her the lowest price (almost half what CS Kern and Mound quoted), and it includes shipping! Turnaround would be 2 weeks.

This creates a very interesting ethical dilemma for us: Do we outsource our printing overseas to save money, or do we bite the bullet and keep our money domestically?

She and I both feel very strongly against our country’s penchant for outsourcing — we try to buy American where possible (it’s getting harder and harder, though!), and avoid stores, such as Wal-Mart, that heavily outsource to China. We both recognize the losing proposition that is inherent in outsourcing — save a little now but pay more later. But we’re also in a bit of a bind; we’re a fledgling business, not even incorporated yet, and don’t have a lot of free capital to throw around. Can we ethically outsource this work to a printer that specializes in this product, can do it much cheaper, and has a standard of quality  that is good enough for it to be used by a large games distributor?

We have not yet made a final decision — we are still shopping around for this, of course, but it just seems so downright WEIRD that we’re even having to consider this issue so soon. I’ve always pictured that the Indian firms focus on the Dells, HPs, etc. of the world.

Is this something that the free market should decide? If US printers can’t compete with price, then they will necessarily fail? But when considering the actual cost of outsourcing the printing, can we realistically ignore the implicit long-term cost of contributing even an iota to the trade deficit? At what point does it become righteously justifiable to outsource?

Melissa did ask the fellow at Mound printing why the Indian company is so cheap. He explained that since they seem to specialize in that particular product line (poker-sized playing cards), they would not have to change plates. They would also likely have large quantities of the print media available, which would allow them to have purchased it at a bulk discount. They also probably own their equipment, so would not have to factor in leasing costs. He said that if we were to ask the Indian company to print envelopes, full-sized books, or flyers, they would probably not be nearly as competitive in their price: it is only because of their specialization that they can charge so little and still be profitable (not to mention the cheap labor).

So can we find a company in the US that specializes exclusively in Poker-sized playing cards? We’ve found a few that do digital printing, but only a couple that do offset-printing, and the initial investment cost is a bit daunting.

What do you all think about this? Is outsourcing the answer, or the problem? Any recommendations for printers?