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Our use of paper spike in the ’80’s with the introduction of personal printers. Desktop publishing unleashed the ability for virtually anyone to be able to create a level of quality print documents that previously were only possible by the publishing companies.
But technology like eReaders and retina-quality mobile devices are making it less likely that people will opt to print out digital documents and images. A study by AIIM found that offices gradually are reducing their dependency on paper — 35 percent of companies, especially larger companies, are using less paper than previously.
Many people still prefer paper over digital, and for certain applications, paper is just more convenient and practical. But other times the use of paper is more a force of habit or because of a need to comply with regulations. In some industries, like legal, for example, 80 percent of documents received electronically are immediately printed, and 79 percent of documents that are exchanged are done so as hard-copy.
Still, the feel and look of paper, compared to digital, can be appealing. In fact, a case study by Millward Brown that compared digital media to paper concluded “that physical material is more ‘real’ to the brain. It has a meaning, and a place. It is better connected to memory because it engages with its spatial memory networks.”
A new step in the evolution of printing is happening as more and more printers become connected to the internet. Now it’s possible to send prints to your printer not only from your desktop applications, but also from cloud applications, even when you are using your application remotely on a mobile device. Services like “Google Cloud Print” allow your online printer to be access from anywhere. And on-demand print services like HubCast and MagCloud allow your digital content to be sent on-demand to quality high-end online printers. You can even send your 3D digital designs to 3D printers like those of Shapeways.
The ‘Cloud Printing Manefesto‘ describes the benefits and convenience of cloud printing as follows: “Services based on cloud print technology replace a priori mass production by local production on demand, thereby reducing carbon emissions, energy use and the amount of raw materials needed. By accessing professional print as a shared commodity resource, content owners can avoid the cost and complexity of buying and managing the underlying hardware, software and processes.”
Sander Nagtegaal, CTO and co-founder of Peecho, wrote on GigaOm.com that “The potential of cloud print to revolutionize print publishing should not be underestimated. Websites, applications and games could be powered by a single cloud print infrastructure that allows access to a network of professional print facilities, leveraging print as a shared commodity resource while avoiding costs and complexity.”