Paperless society? IDC says not so fast

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.

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