Office Printing Decline Slackens

Analysts said that the volume of office printing declined sharply in 2008–2010. But Data from Resource Information Systems Inc. (Bedford, MA), known as RISI, shows that the rate of decline in office paper in the United States has slackened over the past two years.

Figures from Xerox reveal this fact. Xerox tracks the number of digital pages printed by its customers. Following a flat period in 2007 and 2008, the company reported declines of 6% in 2009 and 4% in 2010. But declines have moderated to –2% in 2011 and 2012. In addition, HP reported declines in supplies sales of just 1% in 2012 and 5% in the first quarter of 2013.

Smaller declines in office printing follow a trend in commercial printing that is the printing of magazines, books, direct-mail pieces, etc. Commercial print revenues totaled about $135 billion in 1998 and had fallen 20% by 2003. After a period of flat growth in 2004–2007, the market declined again from $106 billion (inflation adjusted) in 2008 to $89 billion in 2009. Since then, the rate of decline has fallen to 2.5%.

This trend is in contrast to the argument that tablet computers are rapidly displacing print. While print volumes continue to decline, office printing appears to have been affected much more by the recession than by tablet use.

A deeper examination of the tapering decline in commercial printing revenue reveals that it comes not so much from the number of pages printed as from the increased value of those pages. Commercial printers have turned to printing more complex and more expensive products, with digitally printed pages included. Indeed, the demand for printing and writing papers has continued to decline, but their value has increased.

In the office, the small declines of the past two years might be the result of continuing effects of managed print services (MPS). Growth from the present level of white-collar employment, increased economic activity, and the maturing of MPS may indeed be slowing the falling trend in office print volumes.

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