E-readers were designed to eventually replace books. After all, who would continue purchasing printed volumes of information when you could carry an entire library everywhere you go? The tablet computer had a similar purpose in providing both an alternative for simpler laptop computers and an interface for notetaking and drawing. Even Microsoft Word and other word processing platforms have introduced variations of notes, change tracking, and version histories to help remove the need to print documents and create handwritten corrections and commentary.
Despite these attempts to migrate people to a wholly digital existence, Americans still prefer print for a wide range of business and personal uses. According to a survey by nonprofit sustainability organization Two Sides, over three-quarters of consumers (79%) agree print on paper is preferable to other media. Nearly the same number (73%) prefer reading a printed book or magazine over an electronic device. The preference for reading printed works increases to 80% when the subject matter is considered more complicated.
Is it any wonder that office workers, who rely on their positions for not only an income but a sense of purpose, regularly print documents they deem essential? Even amidst a pandemic, printers, ink, and paper flew off the shelves at rates never before seen in the retail sector as thousands of workers were relegated to home offices.
But why are people so addicted to the printed word?
A healthy fear of going 100% digital
The Two Sides survey also showed that over half (62%) of 18-24-year-olds worry that the use of electronic devices could be damaging to their health. And they aren’t entirely wrong. Studies continue to show that screen time can be harmful to both adults and children.
Interruption or prevention of regular rest cycles is one main concern, especially for adults who spend all day at a desk job. The light emitted from our computer screens and smartphones, particularly blue light, has been linked to melatonin suppression, a hormone our brains use to promote sleep. Lowered melatonin levels can impair brain signaling and cause an eventual degeneration of receptors. The result can be anything from difficulty falling and staying asleep to regular insomnia. But long-term effects could contribute to the development of much more severe diseases.
Deteriorating vision is yet another point of contention for the standard office worker. Eye problems have become so common some have begun referring to the phenomenon as “computer vision syndrome.” The symptoms include blurred vision, headaches, and strained, dry eyes.
Some experts even suggest that higher levels of screen time can be connected to increased depression and emotional disconnection. Then, of course, there is the physical positioning in front of the computer or phone, leading to poor posture, causing eventual neck, shoulder, and back pain.
Digital security concerns
Have you received a notification that one or more of your passwords have been identified in a recent security breach? Most people have. Google and other consumer-facing big-tech companies are attempting to keep users more secure with these prompts to change their passwords when necessary. But they are also making the public painfully aware of how vulnerable their information is online and in the cloud.
The result is that a majority of people in the Two Sides survey (76%) reported an ever-increasing concern about the security of their digital information. They are consistently worried about being hacked or having their data lost, stolen, or damaged. Rather than relying solely on digital documentation, a large number of consumers and office workers feel it prudent to physically print their most important documents – such as contracts, financial records, and some email communications.
Retention of information
Another significant factor in American reliance on print and paper is the integral part these materials play in developing human memory. People spend far more time engaging with print media than they do with the same information when found online, despite the paper version being free of blinking lights, ads, and videos. This is because the printed word stimulates more of the senses through tangibility. In fact, studies show printed documents create a physical and emotional connection that helps people retain information for far longer than anything read through digital means. And people subconsciously recognize this correlation. The majority of Americans (88%) believe they understand and use information better when they read it in print.
So, what does this mean for the average business that must consider the effectiveness, safety, and security of its office workers?
Print isn’t going away, but it requires digital transformation
Rather than pushing for a completely paperless and printless environment, managed print service providers can offer their clients solutions for how their company and their employees are using print within their business. Helping customers implement a printer data collection software platform can help them track actual printer, ink, toner, and copy usage – even across multiple locations and in hybrid office settings. The information derived from the print DCA can predict consumption patterns and anticipate needs, providing a clearer picture of current office print trends, including the number of prints made and consumables used with associated costs. What’s more, all of this integrated within a single application that manages orders, products, purchase orders, and e-commerce automation can also lower overall print costs for customers.
The utilization of a brand agnostic, intelligent DCA with predictive device learning will provide organizations at all levels, from the distributor, to the dealer to the end consumer, the data and information critical to maximizing efficiencies, optimizing device fleets, minimizing consumables consumption and supply utilization (knowing exactly how much you are using, when you are using it, how you are using it, and why you are using it), and providing complete and comprehensible transparency into the spend related to the print environment (whether at home or in the office). Without an intelligent DCA, you truly do not know what you are spending on your print environment.
This print DCA information can help your business partners create a clearer picture of how print on paper benefits their company and employees. It will also bring more value to your print management services and help you guide your customers regarding where they can reliably cut costs and reduce waste while still maintaining all the benefits and needs of print.