Recent results from HP, Lexmark and Xerox (see page 24) highlight the challenges facing the printer industry as customers implement paper-saving digitisation programmes. A new report from AIIM shows how the pace of digitisation is accelerating and how quickly paperless processes deliver a return on investment (see page 8). One reason why digitisation has been patchy to date is that people still love paper – for reading, for annotating, for scrunching up and chucking in the bin. How long will employers tolerate such habits when the savings offered by paperless working are so clear-cut?
One of the strategies printer companies have adopted to maintain demand is to make it easy to print, on the basis that people can quickly lose the printing habit if it becomes too complex or expensive. This explains why they are doing so much to simplify printing from smartphones and why they are exploring alternatives to the traditional model of cheap hardware and expensive consumables. There is some evidence that by removing anxiety about ink replacement costs, products like the HP Instant Ink consumables subscription service and Epson EcoTank printers do lead to a revival in printing. But what if you never had a printing habit in the fist place? Since installing an Epson printer with extra large ink tanks I have been printing like it was going out of fashion. Yet, our Millennial editorial assistant hasn’t printed a single page. If it can’t be carried in a smartphone, she’s not interested. And that’s a demographic and cultural change that appears to be irreversible.
As well as attempting to stimulate demand for printing, printer manufacturers have been trying to reduce the environmental impact of printing through cartridge recycling programmes and paper reduction initiatives, including the development of erasable toner and reusable paper. As we go to press, news is coming in of an alternative approach. Instead of erasing printed paper so that it can be used again, the Epson PaperLab creates new paper out of shredded waste, without the use of water. It can produce paper of various sizes, thicknesses and types – from office paper to coloured and scented sheets – at speeds of 14 A4 sheets per minute or 6,720 sheets in an eight-hour day. Epson is targeting PaperLab at businesses and government offices that consume large amounts of paper and have space to accommodate the self-contained shredding/papermaking unit. It is certainly ingenious, but is it 20 years too late?
James Goulding, Editor, email@example.com
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