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What Generation Gap? Everyone Prints.

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January 23, 2014 1:57 pm

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printWith the rise of a tech-savvy generation of young people, some organizations might think that the days of the laser printer are nearing an end. But this isn’t necessarily the case—people  still print a lot more than you think, and this rising generation is printing as much as ever. Here are a few stats:

  • A junior high school near Novell headquarters goes through about 3,750 sheets per day. If we figure 180 school days, that comes to 67,500 sheets per academic year—that’s 1,350 reams of paper. But that’s just one school; what about the entire school district?
  • The municipal government at Springville City, a town of about 30,000 in Utah, goes through about 78,500 pages per month. That works out to be about 940,000 pages each year, or almost $20,000 annually.
  • Boise State University printed over 148,250 pages on more than 87,000 sheets of paper in the first week of classes alone.

Facts like these shock many people. “Print needs to go away, but somehow that is just not happening. We did 52,000 sheets of paper in our student labs last week,” said Mark Fitzgerald, director of customer care at the Office of Information Technology at Boise State University. Printing is still a big budget item—about $60,000 annually in this case. Printers certainly aren’t going anywhere; but how consumers print is evolving.

Young people tend to be more comfortable with new technology, but that doesn’t always mean an organization can throw away the old tech. Even when considering how people consume literature, we can see that the older technologies and newer ones are mixing together: When e-readers and e-books first hit the market, most young people couldn’t afford them. Prices for e-readers have come down, but young people are still using paper books at higher levels than ever, despite the fact that everyone assumes the younger generation takes to technology more readily. Young people are producing and consuming printed material at levels similar to people from the previous generation.

The state of printing is changing due to technology, but it’s not going away; it’s going mobile. Thanks to the rapid progress of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, more work is being done from mobile devices than ever before. Just as people want access to their files on mobile devices, they also want all the same capabilities with those documents that they would have on desktops. A critical capability is being able to print from mobile devices, and many organizations are not enabling this. Without access to mobile printing, enterprises are restricting productivity, as employee work is disrupted when they have to log on to a desktop to print the documents they need. Employees want to manage and control their work on mobile devices just as they can on desktops and laptops. Printing isn’t going away – it’s going mobile. The result will be a more productive mobile workforce.

Regardless of the organization—school, business or non-profit —printing remains an important task. That’s why the research group IDC expects the total number of pages printed from mobile devices to grow by 12 percent per year during 2012-16. Kids are using technology at younger ages than ever before and some school districts are starting to provide classes sets of tablet computers, but that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped printing. Whether it is a teacher requesting hard copies from students or children wanting to print out their favorite pictures and stories, there are enough reasons for kids to print that organizations can’t expect a new generation to bring a paperless environment with them. The printing habit won’t die out with an older generation of workers.

Despite what some say, it appears printing isn’t truly in decline. If younger generations are printing at these levels, printers will be a big part of the workplace for years to come. Rather, what may be happening is the ability to print is dropping because people can’t connect their mobile devices to their printer. If you think the younger generation is going to do away with printing, IT will continue to fall further behind consumers, and you risk not preparing your organization for all the mobile printing to come.

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