Paperless society? IDC says not so fast

Paperless society? IDC says not so fast

Summary: The world is printing a bit less, but not by much. Mobile device printing and emerging markets are forecast to hold the market at about 3 trillion printed pages a year.


The world is printing less, but the paperless society remains largely a myth as page volume from printers was 2.98 trillion 2012, down 1.5 percent from 3.03 trillion in 2011, according to IDC data.

IDC's stats provide a nice reality check on the status of printing. Sure, you can cover New York City 237 times with the volume of pages printed, but digital workflows are making a dent. IDC is projecting that global page volume will remain flat for 2013 to 2017.

Printer vendors maintain that the explosion of digital content means more printing. However, developed markets are printing less and page volume is being held flat by growth in emerging markets. Incremental page volume is also starting to come from mobile devices.

Asia Pacific excluding Japan will be the leader in printed pages by 2015 with India and China leading the way. Today, the U.S. prints the most pages.



Among the moving parts:

  • Mobile printing is gaining traction in developed markets. About half of smartphone and tablet users will use office printers by 2015.
  • Today, half of smartphone users and 35 percent of tablet users don't know how to print from their devices.
  • Asia Pacific excluding Japan had 10 percent page growth followed by Latin America, up 6.7 percent. Europe, Middle East and Africa print pages fell 0.72 percent.
  • Black and white laser printers will continue to have the most share, but volume will slow. Color laser print pages are expected to grow.
  • Multi-function printers had 2 percent growth in page volume globally, but developed regions showed 4.2 percent decline. Emerging markets had growth of 13.2 percent.
  • HP is the top printer maker followed by Canon and Xerox.

The data is worth noting because anecdotally all you hear is that people are printing less. The reality is much more nuanced.

Topics: Hardware, Hewlett-Packard, Printers

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  • Drafts versus final

    How much of that is drafts? I'm an attorney and I often will have 10+ drafts of a letter, not counting additional printings for correction of minor typos.

    One thing I still find annoying and have never seen addressed are "screen versus physical copy" issues:

    1) I seems there is a natural tendency to be able to spot typos, etc., easier on paper than on a screen.

    Perhaps that "natural" tendency only applies to folks RAISED working on paper. Lawyers have noticed that whatever technology we LEARNED on when drafting legal documents, we never really adapt to any other technology. I learned drafting on a computer. I can't draft with a legal pad or dictation. Folks who learned on a legal pad or by dictation can't draft on a computer even though they're touch typists.

    2) If you look at help screens, they work best when each paragraph is 3-5 lines. That tends to carry over to letters, etc., on a screen. But when printed, a letter or report with a bunch of short paragraphs looks choppy and amateurish. I often find that when I print something I have to join separate paragraphs to avoid that.
    • ... spotting typos

      No joke intended, but I didn't spot "I" instead of "It" until after submitting the post! ...
  • What Proportion Of The World's Information Is Printed On Paper?

    Think of the amount of information you deal with every day. Consider the bandwidth of the websites you visit, versus that of the pieces of paper you read. Just a single site like YouTube will feed you a hundred or a thousand times the equivalent of each sheet of paper per second.

    In other words, paper accounts for less than 1% of the recorded information we deal with every day.
    • Youtube isn't a good example

      Even before the Internet, you couldn't really replace, say, multiple reels of 35mm filmstock with paper "printouts"...because they weren't the same media.

      Now, if we wanted to discuss the replacement of AV storage media (8mm/16mm/35mm/70mm filmstock, VHS/Betamax, Video CD, DVD/Blu-Ray, etc.) with digital video sites like Youtube, that would be a different topic.

      On this topic, though, I find that my local morning radio program's commercial spoof ("There's a new invention that lets you know what everyone around you is thinking: it's called...the cell phone!") is not only spot-on for describing 99% of the digital "information" available to the world, but also hearkens back to the old Springsteen song, "57 Channels (And Nothin' On)". In fact, he could remake it with a new title: "140 Characters (And Nothin' On)".