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Thad McIlroy

Publishing Consultant and Analyst

Writing and publishing are in my blood.

My father, Kim McIlroy, was an author, playwright and broadcaster. My great-uncle, Gordon Hill Grahame, was a novelist (his first novel, The Bond Triumphant, won Hodder and Stoughton's Canadian Prize Novel Contest in 1922). My great-great-great (etc.) uncle was Kenneth Grahame, author of the children's classic The Wind in the Willows (remember Toad of Toad Hall?). As writing did not always pay the bills, my father spent a chunk of his career working for Encyclopedia Britannica. I remember clearly the day the truck pulled up to our house and two uniformed men unloaded our first set of the Encyclopedia, along with the 52-volume Great Books of the Western World

I graduated from high school, but didn't feel like heading straight to college, so instead I undertook a career as a bookseller. In 1977, part-time, I founded Virgo Press, a Toronto-based trade book publisher. In 1979 I co-founded Beatty & Church (with Steve Osborne of Vancouver's Pulp Press [now Arsenal Pulp Press]), a book distribution company, serving small presses in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.

All of this was followed by a brief career in journalism, working for magazines, newspapers, radio and television.

In 1985 I edited and typeset what I still believe to be the first trade book published totally with desktop publishing technology, composed on a Macintosh (without a hard drive) with Microsoft Word (version 1.05!), and output to the first Apple LaserWriter (then costing nearly $10,000).

The book was called The Personal Letters of a Public Man: The Family Letters of John G. Diefenbaker (an intermittently popular Canadian politician and Prime Minister in the post-war era).

This led unexpectedly to an invitation to join a large graphic arts distribution company, McCutcheon Graphics (now Fujifilm Canada) as its first Desktop Publishing Product Manager. (I remember saying to John McCutcheon at my job interview, "But I really don't know anything about desktop publishing." He quickly replied, "No one else does either, so you might as well take the job!")

After three years at McCutcheon Graphics I decided to strike out on my own as a consultant, and decided shortly after that I'd have a better chance of success if I was based in Silicon Valley, rather than in Canada. I moved to San Francisco. As an electronic publishing analyst, consultant and author, I've spent my entire career exploring the technology and marketing issues surrounding electronic publishing, color imaging, PDF, workflow, publishing automation, and the Internet.

Along the way I've authored or edited a dozen books on these subjects, written some 200 articles, while delivering innumerable seminars on a broad range of industry-related topics. I also enjoyed the marvelous opportunity of working for five years as Program Director at Seybold Seminars.

In 1990 I co-founded (with Miles Southworth) The Color Resource, a publishing and distribution company devoted to books and training materials on color design, imaging and prepress.

More recently I wrote the 'Composition, Design, and Graphics' chapter (with contributions from Frank Romano) for the Columbia Guide to Digital Publishing (Columbia University Press, January, 2003). I'm a contributing editor to PrintAction magazine, a columnist for, and a member of the Technical Association of the Graphic Arts, the Association for Computing Machinery and the Content Management Professionals. For three consecutive years I was named one of Canada's 50 most influential people in graphic communications.

Well, that's more than enough about me. I just wanted people to know that I'm from a publishing background. It was my first passion. Trying to understand where publishing is headed is my new passion. Let's continue the journey...

Thad McIlroy


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Acrobat 9: A child grows up

Thad McIlroy evaluates the latest version of Acrobat, and he likes what he sees. In his opinion, the Acrobat 9 product family reflects a fully mature product, with the version 9 release marking its "emergence into adulthood". Read the full review for more.

Enterprise & Government   September 18, 2008

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Thad McIlroy talks about the pricing for Adobe's latest version of Acrobat and discusses whether this expense is justified for existing customers. McIlroy also assesses Adobe's "Top 10" reasons for making the switch.

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Thad McIlroy examines Acrobat's enduring case of "schizophrenia" -- it's appeal to the disparate users in the creative professional and knowledge worker spaces -- and evaluates the release of the expanded Adobe Acrobat 8 product family.

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