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Friday, September 10, 2010

The Death of Offset...

Color highspeed inkjets are here to stay and it seems to me that the days of toner-based color are numbered.  While these new devices are still quite expensive there is significant market penetration.  I recently read that there are about 300 of these type of devices installed world wide and the number is steadily increasing.

The first machines had a variety of color and quality limitations but these have been addressed in newer systems and I would expect to see full color gloss inkjet output become the mainstay for many applications.

What does this mean for the future?  For one thing there will be an aggregation of business into the largest print-providers.  So something that mom and pop print shop can do today will be done elsewhere and shipped to the consumer via UPS or Fedex -just like everything else.  Fifteen years ago I owned a print shop as part of a mailing business - we had several offset presses and a couple of pressmen.  The purpose of all this was to get laser-ready print to the mailshop in a timely manner.

Today a giant service company can do all of that with one inkjet in one pass - of course there is still the issue of envelopes but for many applications it can be gotten around.

Now its interesting to see that even though print is declining in the sense that younger people no longer use it these devices are currently expanding into that same market.  As I have said before this is based on cost - and probably cost alone.

Personally I do not use much paper anymore - and I am in the business of serving print providers.  This is an interesting phenomena.  I still receive two paper publications - one magazine and one newspaper - and I buy books.  But, as soon as there is a slightly larger iPad screen I will be converting those.  Recently I needed a reference book on data compression - I ended up purchasing it from Amazon electronically.  I found this experience to be quite unpleasant because the Amazon viewer is very lame - the index did not work, you could only jump around by chapter, and the page length depended on how large the viewing window was so you could easily lose your place.

What will happen from here?  The color/toner/digital press will phase out as too expensive over the next few years and the industry functions they serve will get consolidated into larger companies or moved onto highspeed inkjet devices.

The little offset printer down the street will go out of business - someone once told me they thought 25% of these companies printed for the cost of paper.

It will be easier and cheaper to buy your place mats online, have them printed and shipped to your door for less than mom and pop can do the job.

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