Thursday, August 17, 2006


Electronic Documents Growing... and Growing... and Growing

Last February, we ran a Google search to estimate the number of Adobe Acrobat PDF files that are available on the Internet. At the time, there were 315 million URLs that ended with the address ".pdf". Just six months later, that same search identified 684 million of them.

While this is not a perfect way of determining how many documents are on line, it is still quite informative. The popular use of the Internet may be just 11 years old, but this indicates that it's still bulking up on its way to teenagerhood.

What does this mean to the printing industry? It manifests itself in many ways. While many of these documents would never have been printed by a commercial printer, many of them would have been. The benefit to the content creator is that their initial print order can be smaller, and any need for reprints can be diverted to digital presses or to people's desks; that is, if the documents need to be printed at all.

The other aspect is an opportunity. As printers, and as computer users, how many times have we encountered poorly-made PDFs? When printers receive documents, especially on disk or by e-mail, they should ask if the client needs a PDF, and for what circumstances. These files can be optimized for the intended use, from posting on a web site, to being available as an e-mail attachment.

Sophisticated print buyers and content creators generally know the ins-and-outs of PDF creation because they use them in their workflow for proofing and job submission. Unsophisticated print buyers, especially small business owners, do not. It's not likely that they even think of the idea. Even consumers bringing resumes in for printing can use a PDF of their file for e-mailing to prospective employers. Do printers bring this to their attention? Probably not.

The job of shaping print users' perspectives that printers can be partners in their communications efforts often starts with simple ideas like this.

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