The printed page has served us for a long time; from the earliest wood block printing of ancient China through Gutenberg's first presses and into the present where a humble desktop printer has the ability to produce print work that would have astounded previous generations. Yet, even as printing technology has come into its own and become accessible to so many people, some have begun to look forward to the day when we will be able to cast aside ink cartridges and paper and exist entirely in the digital world. So is this even possible? Is the paperless society on its way?
The fact of the matter is that the paperless office has been a prediction for longer than many of us realize, indeed the idea of purely digital documents has been around since the seventies and if those predictions were right we would have stopped printing long ago. In fact paper production in Europe is actually growing by around 2.1% every year. Locally we produce almost one million tons of paper used for printing and writing, and our imports amount to around four hundred million dollars of paper and paper board each year. These figures make a simple point that printing isn’t going anywhere. Yes, there might be fluctuations in the market but despite many wonderful innovations we don’t seem to be ready to let go of all the things printing can do for us, and with good reason.
Let's face it - computers crash, data gets corrupted and batteries run out. A printed page has the advantage in that you will never have compatibility issues, and with the information on it being immediately accessible, you can hand it to anyone.
Business cards, brochures, flyers, they all have a comfortable familiarity that we aren't keen to give up and that leads me to the feature that I think keeps printed media relevant in the modern world: printed work has physical presence. The screen is a window into a digital world but printing gives that world something we can touch in our own. A business card feels more personal than an email, art feels more real off the screen, official documentation like receipts or the boarding passes that you printed out at home have a certain substance that isn’t shared by a digital copy in cyberspace; which brings up another feature offered by printing: security.
Sure, digital security gets better every day but when a document is really vital to your business you're going to print it and keep it somewhere safe. How many of us would be happy keeping birth certificates, employment contracts or really any of our important documentation solely on a computer?
Not only that, but with innovations like the 3D printer, the future seems to offer more printing rather than less. Printing's physical presence gives it something that cyberspace simply can't compete with and I've got to ask why does it need to? Your printer is a vital part of your ever-growing ability to communicate; the printer is not there to compete with new technology but to complement it.
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