January 29, 2010, 5:23 PM — After six weeks focusing on printing, I have come to a realization about printing on paper in a world of instant digital communications: do less the old way, but more the smart way. We're not finished with printing, even 570 years after Gutenberg invented movable type, or 11 centuries after the Chinese printed with carved woodblocks. Information on paper still drives us, despite the promise of Amazon's Kindle and Apple's iPad.
What is the old way of printing? Well, after mentioning Chinese woodblock printing from 1100 years ago, our “old way” is only 30 or so years, near the dawn of personal computers. Way back then, people printed far more than they should, since the information on the computer screen was both low resolution and fleeting. Some people still think that way: if it's on the screen, it should also be on paper. Those people continue to fill cabinets full of paper when all they need is a single thumb drive to hold the same information. Those are also the people complaining about the high cost of printing as they jump at cheap disposable printers filled with expensive ink cartridges. When you print cheap, you waste too much money.
If that describes you or some others in your company, maybe try rehab of OverPrinters Anonymous. Printing everything on cheap printers and cheap paper does no good for anyone.
Try printing more, the smart way. Larger workgroup printers save money over personal printers and produce better print. Better paper that supports two-sided printing without words bleeding through saves more money than printing two pages of cheaper paper. Color printing on stationery makes an impact with your clients far greater than the cost of a nice printer, paper, and maybe a fountain pen to sign your name. Presentations on quality paper help you stand out in today's instant message texting mashup LOL Twitter world.
If you want your work to stand out, you must do something more than your competitors. Internal communications of value carry more importance when printed. This is especially true if you refrain from printing everything that comes across your screen (or at least stop that guy a few cubicles down from doing so). Less is more means the less junk you print, the more important the things you do print will be to everyone. McDonald's has sold billions and billions of burgers, but are they more important to you than your grandmother's cooking? The personal touch means something, and paper, when used properly, represents a personal touch of information.
Some believe Kindles and iPads and whatever the next gadget is will kill paper. Those people are wrong. The touch, resolution, feel, and weight of information on paper has lasted centuries, and will last into the next century and beyond. Taking the time to print information, done correctly, shows you know that certain information has value, importance, and is worth keeping.