Call it denial, call it boredom, call it what you like, but I can’t go on any longer ignoring this global pox. It has struck down too many people, devastated lives, trashed economies everywhere and still it shows only slender signs of abating. The only good news is the clean, quiet skies, waterways and roads. The UK graphics business is a tale of unrelenting woe, and colleagues in other countries say much the same. That said, working online has actually proved to be entirely possible for most of us, including fellow contributors to the ISO standards work. Our next meeting is coming up in a couple of weeks time and is likely to be characterised by considerable efficiency: windbagging is so much harder online. It’s so much less rewarding compared to the live action version, so hopefully there will be less of it and more focus on the work. That might be true of all other sides of the business too.
The rise in experience with online meetings advances what pundits call the digital transformation. For those of us completely immersed in printing technology history, this phrase generally means the shift from analogue to digital printing. For millenials it means MySpace and email. For the so called Generation Z it means FaceBook and WhatsApp. For antisocial grumps like me the digital transformation in its widest sense provides an excuse not to talk to people. Being ancient and therefore considered technophobic, I can spuriously claim that I don’t do social media. This is a lie. I do, even though being such an antisocial grump I have yet to see the point of it.
This digital transformation business is of course all about the transition that the nearly-but-not-quite sainted Benny Landa identified all those years ago when he said that “anything that can go digital will go digital”. These days that includes body parts as well, what with all the creepy 3D organs we’ve seen at tradeshows. But back to the point, inventive minds keep coming up with all sorts of lively and engaging alternatives to face to face live interactions.
In every part of the printing and publishing supply chain there is an online gig of some sort. EFI recently ran an event over three days, which I managed quite spectacularly to completely miss. I blame it on them for not sending out the notification just before sessions started. FESPA is mulling online workshops, Mimaki has its Print Festival, and publishers are working with festival organisers to promote book launches and raise their authors’ online profiles.
What difference will it make, as we move slowly out of the Covid-19 twilight zone? The answer depends on the expectations we have for new business models, new engagement with customers and new attitudes to print publishing. Book sales have gone up during the pandemic as have online newspaper subscriptions. Magazines are seeing less positive shifts. Packaging continues to thrive. 3D printers are producing masks and the like. Perhaps we’ll value books and bookshops more highly post-corona and perhaps we’ll produce less wasted print as a result. That would suggest that print volumes will continue to fall, but that quality and innovation will thrive. Producing less print, but hanging onto it for longer might just be very good news for the sector’s environmental impact.
– Laurel Brunner
This article was produced by the Verdigris Project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, Fujifilm, HP, Kodak, Miraclon, Ricoh, Spindrift, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.