Is Print Dead?

Back in November of last year, I considered whether To Print or Not to Print. At that time, I allowed that print has a role in a well-integrated communications strategy. Today, I'm wondering how viable the medium is. To be sure, some things ought to be printed. That's already well-argued in my earlier post. Today I'm worried about two factors surrounding printing: price and quality. Printing is not inexpensive. A good set of well-printed corporate identity materials (business cards, letterhead, envelopes, etc.) can easily cost $3,000. This excludes the $10,000 it could cost you for the design and branding services. Note that I'm not talking about the office store sort of printing or digital copies from an office services store. I'm talking about high-quality commercial printing. Now, of course this cost could be considered to be amortized over the hopefully-2-3-year usefulness of the materials. Nevertheless, it's a lot of money. Note that technological options have dramatically decreased their hard costs. While it'll still cost you at least $10,000 for a good Web site, it'll cost you $20/month to host it. The deployment expenses are much less. And now think about quality. I said I was talking about high-quality commercial printing. This is supposed to be the best of the best. Yet, in the last 2 years, I have been substantially disappointed by the quality of the product (and the level of service) at many printers. It's like they don't care anymore. I know it's hard to make a living as a printer. And I know that a press can cost over $100,000. Nevertheless, the printing industry seems determined to fulfill its own prophecy of obsolescence. The result of these problems is that it's hard for print-fans like me to argue for printing. When I know that a client can hardly expect high quality for a high price, I am forced to reconsider what should be printed. And less gets printed. And the industry declines some more.