I love a mystery

Since 1991, ILS has published the industry's most comprehensive buyers guide to companies offering industrial laser products and services

A glance at the photograph below will give you a clue that I like to read. I read so much that when we moved into our current home my books took up a significant portion of the moving van. Once, as a surprise, my wife had our living room remodeled while I was on a three-week trip to Japan. She had the carpenter build floor-to-ceiling bookcases, on both sides of the fireplace, just to hold my non-fiction books. The bookcases are now full.

Shown in the photo is just part of my technical library, which occupies every available shelf in my office, plus more in the adjoining hall. Then there are the books of fiction and hobbies that take up the shelves in the family room. It's here that I store my mystery book collection, which gets culled out every once in a while to make room for new additions.

I'm a big fan of good mystery writers, with a decided preference for living British writers and a number of American writers who write in a humorous vein.

I'm not the type of mystery fan who tries to outguess the book's detective. I read for entertainment, especially on long airplane trips. When I fly overseas, I'm good for one book over and one back, selected from those that can be read quickly with little or no deep thinking involved.

This is not to say that I don't enjoy a well-crafted, convoluted plot. In fact, that is why I tend to enjoy some of those British writers who seem to have the knack for holding my attention.

So what, you may ask, is the connection between my reading preferences and industrial laser processing? It is the Buyers Guide portion of the magazine you now hold in your hand or, in the case of on-line readers, what is shown on your screen.

Since 1991 ILS has published the industry's most comprehensive Buyers Guide to companies offering industrial laser products and services. Prior to that the company directory listing appeared in the Industrial Laser Annual Handbook, which I co-edited. From 1991 until 1993 the Buyers Guide was a 13th issue of the magazine, then known as Industrial Laser Review. Today it is part of an expanded monthly issue.

In the 1991 edition more than 800 companies were listed, about half of the then available database, providing the above services. In those days we used to list international job shops, a practice we stopped when the lists got too long.

In this, the 2003 edition of the Buyers Guide, we list 685 companies out of about 2500 who were sent questionnaires. This 22-percent response is disappointing because for the past five years we have been averaging 31-percent returns.

So here's the mystery: Why would any company, offered a free listing in the most widely read guide of companies in the industrial laser market, not take advantage by simply returning a correctly filled-out questionnaire? The Buyers Guide team has made a major effort to increase the listings by contacting non-responders several times, even right up until a few days before printing this issue.

Compounding the mystery, in my mind, is why any company would allow its competitors to promote their products and/or services to the ILS readership, of which 69 percent tell us they plan on buying these products this year. As they sang in the movie musical "The King and I," it's a puzzlement.

This year you will find only one directory listing for all companies. No mystery here: This is the format used by most industry buyers guides. The dot charts and a quick- reference guide will help you select a vendor. If your company is not listed, we hope to see you in next year's Buyers Guide.

Users of the Buyers Guide can let me know how you like the new directory format this year.

David A. Belforte
belforte@pennwell.com

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