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On Demand - Into the Paperless Zone

May 2001

NEW YORK—Last year at the On Demand Digital Printing & Publishing conference, the unofficial theme of the show was dotcom fever. Now that the fever has broken, the big bang buzz is all about paperless communication. But this isn't your father's "paperless office of the future," mind you. This is different.

In the past, when the term "paperless office" was first being bandied about like a baby at a bridal shower, the term reflected the hazy euphoria associated with early computing. This time around, having had the benefit of a few more years of experience to refine its point of view, the industry was able to more accurately express its vision of the future.

So what did it say?

"Paper is a powerful medium that will be around for generations, and the same is true of the Web, but those who stick their head in the sand will perish," insisted Charles Pesko Jr., managing director of CAP Ventures, during his keynote address. "You must embrace new digital printing technology."

Some 21,276 people heeded that call by attending the three-day conference and exhibit in New York, now in its eighth year. Although Pesko said the On Demand show was continuing to grow, the number of empty seats at the keynote painted a different picture. Still, those who came got to see the latest wares from some 200 exhibitors and learn what direction the industry is heading from experts like Pesko.

Introduced at the keynote as "Mr. On Demand," Pesko both cautioned and cajoled attendees about the perils of paper. Though careful to avoid declaring paper-based communications as completely dead (in fact, he said, CAP Ventures expects paper volume to increase over the next 20 years), he insisted that the foundation of the industry was changing. Citing data gathered by CAP Ventures, Pesko was quick to point out that betting your business' future on paper alone is tantamount to self-destruction, especially as paper use slows and e-pages grow.

"You must offer non-print keep your business growing in the future," Pesko implored. "Make the decision today to deal with media other than print. If you elect to not make this transition, I suggest selling your business."

Using statistics bent toward a more paper-friendly future, Bernhard Schreier, chairman of Heidelberg's management board, agreed that businesses must begin providing non-paper-based services.

However, he chided Pesko's assessment of the future, saying, "I think both will play a major role in the future. I believe new technologies will supplement the printed page, not replace it."

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