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PrintAction - 1415
Media Agility
PRINTACTION ­ March 2004
"We are driven by the printed product because that
is where our revenues come from, and, actually, as the
printed products have gone down and we provide
more and more electronic products, basically what
happens is the printed product has to cost more to
produce the revenue to support these other prod-
ucts," says Richard Leeds, Jr., manager of the
Electronic Systems Development Division for the U.S.
Government Printing Office. "We are in a lot of dif-
ferent areas, and we have been asked by the Supreme
Court for a Real Server, RealVideo, RealAudio area, so
our RealServer is up, and although print-on-demand
is not big, we have had different agencies and con-
gressional entities want to have list servers, so we
essentially put them up so they can distribute elec-
tronically, and although it is kind of like print-on-
demand, it's not.
"Over the last few years with our online products,
because we are one of the biggest government on-line
sites, where we see it, unfortunately, is not only the
hits against our [printed] products, but as our rev-
enue [declines] because the more they get used to
using the electronic side, of course they want less and
less printing.... Printing has really changed from dis-
seminating ink on paper to disseminating through
electronic means."
The presentation of information on-screen as
opposed to on paper carries with it a variety of inher-
ently different characteristics.
The first is that a computer
screen is emissive, with light
emanating from behind a glass
surface, whereas paper is reflec-
tive, using the light in its imme-
diate environment. Further dis-
tinctions are that:
· A computer screen requires a
power source; paper does not,
· A computer screen can display
more colours than can be
printed on paper,
· A computer screen can display
animation and video; paper
· A computer screen is often
stationary; paper is not,
· A computer screen can display
different pages, multiple pages,
and pages in a variety of sizes;
marks on paper are fixed,
· A computer screen can display
any of the tens-to-hundreds of thousands of pages
of documents stored on its attached computer hard
drive whereas paper attains considerable bulk and
weight as its volume increases,
· Information on a computer screen is dynamic and
changeable; information on paper is not, and
· Images displayed on a computer screen do not
deteriorate whereas continued handling of paper
leads to noticeable wear and image degradation.
Numerous studies have been conducted to investi-
gate how reading on-screen, primarily the reading of
Web pages, can be improved to better represent the
experience of reading print.
Jakob Nielsen, a recognized expert in this area,
along with his research partner, John Morkes, found
that Webpage readers tend to scan rather than read,
and that their preference is for text that is short and
concise. These preferences, however, may deal more
with the purpose for which readers used the inter-
net... that is, to locate specific information quickly.
The correspondence between a Web browser page
and a printed page is not 1:1, and many computer
monitors are landscape- rather than portrait-orient-
ed, which further exaggerates the difference.
The case for on-screen reading
Displays have traditionally served as windows for
information. We read information on screen that has
a high relevance, and fulfills an immediate need. If it
meets neither criteria, yet has usefulness, it is con-
signed to storage, either in memory or to media or to
print. Print at this point in the information cycle is
totally under the control of the user. It will material-
ize from a laser or inkjet printer, and remain unread
until the reader finds a use for it... and hopefully
when that time comes, the user will be able to locate
the printed document.
The distribution of information on-screen elimi-
nates the time and
expense of full-colour
printing, a process that
even in its fastest digital
production cycle cannot
compete. In addition, the
gap between the genera-
tion of information, and
its packaging in a printed
form, is growing rapidly.
According to a Gartner
Group prediction, for the
typical enterprise, the
amount of unstructured
information doubles
every three months.
While it took 50 years
between 1900 and 1950
for information to dou-
Richard Saul
Wurman observes that
"the information supply
available to us doubles
every five years," and
that "there has been more information produced in
the last 30 years than during the previous 5,000."
The primary means by which people deal with the
glut of information is through a computer interface of
some kind. Today virtually all information is generat-
ed and processed through computers, whether it is
intended for viewing on screen or on paper. The read-
ing on-screen experience is increasing significantly
due to computer networking and the unprecedented
impact of the internet.
oday's printing and publishing process
involves repurposing content, publishing
through multiple channels, and applying
XML coding to separate form from con-
tent. All of these operations can serve in
one way or another to disassociate print output from
other forms of publishing. The result has been that
information that would have been published solely in
print is also published, or is exclusively published, for
on-screen display.
Although on-screen publication has accounted for
a reduction in the relative volume of printing, it
should be kept in mind that print-on-paper is just
another form of display. As such, printers manufac-
ture displays that are composed of one or more layers
of ink on a succession of sheets of pulp-based paper.
The recognition that printers are display manufactur-
ers is of critical importance for three reasons.
First, it helps to identify where the competition
with print exists. Second, it forces printers to be aware
of the incredible advances that are being made in the
information display field. And, third, it can lead to the
identification of ways in which printers can become
part of the new generation of display technologies.
Printing is the foundation of our information
infrastructure, carrying the content that fuels innova-
tion, records progress, chronicles history, delivers
information, inspires creativity, supports learning,
provides entertainment, and creates delight and
amusement. Print, as an information technology, has
played an important role in every aspect of human
advancement, from the Renaissance to the Space Age.
Printed paper is not just a surface that holds infor-
mation; it is an inexpensive, flexible display carrying a
persistent message. Virtually all forms of graphic
communication and visual media are expressed in
some form of information display: a canvas, a wall, a
photograph, a computer monitor, a television or
movie screen, a PDA or cell phone display, etc. The
relative ease by which readers move from reading on
paper, to reading on a computer monitor or other
electronic panel, and back again, attests both to the
similarity of their functions and to the content that
they display.
Whereas electronic displays can provide highly
accurate renditions of paper-based content, the
reverse is not true. In addition, electronic displays are
characteristically dynamic in nature, supporting ani-
mation and video, whereas the content of printed
paper is immutable and permanent. Print is losing its
market to various forms of digital expression. An
increasing proportion of the work of the U.S.
Government Printing Office (GPO), for example, one
of the largest printers and procurers of printed mate-
rials in the world, is going electronic.
By Michael Kleper
Companies like Flint Ink, in its
new Precisia division (PrintAction
October, 2003) are doing
interesting work. Precisia starts
with a more fundamental
perspective: taking standard
printing processes and creating
new value from the process. "We
want to be able to leverage the
whole infrastructure of print,"
says president Jim Rohrkemper.
Precisia is looking to offset
printing to manufacture a new
generation of printed electronics.
It is difficult to see where
the information age is
leading primarily because
the technologies fueling it
are still being developed
at a furious rate.
­ James Dewar, The Information
Age and the Printing Press

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