Paperless Society a Myth

Hal Schectman

CBS Radios syndicated computer columnist Dave Ross captured the essence of distributed printing this way: The best thing about the Internet is that theres no paper. The worst thing about the Internet is that theres no paper.

Thousands of organizations are now using the World Wide Web and office Intranets to distribute informationmuch of which winds up being printed by the recipient. This represents a radical new model for publishing, known as distributed printing.

Traditionally, newspapers, journals, magazines, catalogs and other publications have been centrally printed, then distributed to subscribers. This method has three distinct disadvantages compared to distributed printing.

First, fast-paced information is very easily outdated in the days or weeks it takes to write, lay-out, print, and mail a publication. Second, the costs of traditional publishing can be enormous, especially with paper prices at an all-time high. Third, everyone gets the same publication, regardless of his or her needs or interests.

The new model of distributed printing is powerful because it provides publications that are shared instantaneously, cheap to produce, and easy to personalize. However, since content on the Web contains relatively no printing information, and todays browsers provide relatively no printing controls, it is currently difficult to produce useable printouts from the Web

Traditionally, WYSIWYG has been the goal of most current applications. The reason for this is that the eventual destination of users data is the printed page. Web browsers do not fall into this category. Web pages are designed for on-line viewing. They contain hot text links (usually underlined and/or a different color) as well as graphical links, both of which can be confusing when printed. They are word-wrapped for the screen, not an 8 ?" by 11" sheet. Pagination information for printing is not included. This is a significant paradigm shift.

BookMaker believes that the wealth of information on the Web will cause more printing to be done, rather than less. Companies are spending thousands of dollars publishing Web pages that look compelling and professional on screen. There is a need for consumers of these pages to be able to self-publish these pages in a useful and compelling format, that they can read off-line, or throw into a briefcase and take with them.