Printers: A dying breed?


There has been much conjecture of late regarding the future of desktop computers and their ultimate fate. Not surprising really considering Microsoft’s shifting emphasis toward mobile computing, and the massive deployment of smartphones and tablets in general. But modern technology and trends are impacting on more than only the humble desktop, just ask the printer manufacturers.

Printer vendors are certainly feeling the pinch as unit sales drop by the millions annually. Major supplier Hewlett-Packard has reported a 4% decline in revenue derived from printer sales during the 2011 financial year, acknowledging that “weak consumer demand” is a contributing factor. And most pundits, including industry representatives themselves, are predicting the downward trend to continue.

There are many reasons why the demand for hard copy printing is on the wane, not the least of which is the burgeoning popularity of mobile devices and social media sites. Here are just several examples of how technology and popular trends have impacted on our printing habits:

  • We used to print out driving directions when going on a trip – who doesn’t own a GPS device these days?
  • Kids used to submit ‘papers’ at school – now almost everything related to schoolwork is digital. Did you know that in Australia ALL high school children are now given the choice of an iPad or netbook… for free!
  • We used to often print photos to hard copy. The advent of popular social media sites, such as Facebook, and cloud storage in general has largely negated that necessity… especially where sharing is concerned.

I’m sure you can come up with plenty of examples of your own. When you think about it, there is practically nothing which can’t be stored/shared/distributed/whatever digitally. Printing out photos at home, in particular, must surely be be a dying art. With so many inexpensive printing services available now, even the comparative costs involved are not conducive to home printing – 6” x 4” prints are as cheap as 13 –15 cents each through stores, while the same procedure at home has been calculated to cost an average 44 cents just for the ink alone.


The trend toward the cloud and online printing services has also seriously depleted reliance on printers, especially where small businesses are concerned. Here is a wonderful quotation from John Lees, director of print services for wholesale buying club Costco in Issaquah, Washington:

There is always going to be a demand for printing, but we are fighting over a shrinking pie. Costco offers printing services to small businesses through its eight business centers. Medical and dental offices were the mainstay of our business, with patient profile forms, but these days they hand you a tablet to get your information when they draw blood.

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and we all know that vendors are motivated by profits. Put the two together and perhaps we are due to witness the dawning of yet another major shift/innovation in the computer landscape.

I guess the humble printer still has plenty to offer today, especially in terms of immediacy. I have to admit, I hadn’t thought about this until reading a recent user comment, which then led me to the realization that my own printing habits have definitely changed over the past 18 months or so – I’m printing far less now than I used to. What about you – do you find yourself utilizing the printer less and less these days?

About the Author

Jim Hillier

Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at DCT. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele... as well as writing for DCT, of course.

8 Comments

  1. This sounds like something that would come from our illustious politicians in Washington to convince me that they don’t lie and steal.
    Either I am not getting it or somebody is full of it, who in is right mind would use someone else’s printer instead of the one next to thier P.C.???

    • Hey Robbie – Well for starters, about 4 million Mums and Dads in Australia would apparently. Those who elect to print their digital photos to hard copy using the printing services offered by retail stores rather than using the printer at home.

      But I think you may have slightly missed the crux – it’s not so much that people are using someone else’s printer rather than their own, more that they are not printing out anywhere as much as they used to in general.

      Cheers… Jim

  2. Now you run this article after I just replaced my printer. We still like to print pictures and the quality of the prints just keep getting better all the time.

  3. I might say there is a decline in the color printing, as the ink (jet and laser) are out of this world (price per cartridge – and pages printed). I loved the color feature, till reason of what I used it for set in, and I opted for b/w laser. It’s by far the cheapest and best way to go.

    As for printing in general, I would tend to agree that most people do print less. I prefer to read a pdf document (than a hard copy), but that’s because of the added features, like searching. I can increase the text size, when it’s so tiny at times (yes, my age is showing). The going green, print only when you need a hard copy adds to that decrease as well.

    So personally speaking, yes, I’ve decreased my print needs, but it’s a combination of different reasons that have led to this conclusion. The printed book, magazine, newspaper were given the hand on the wall notice years ago. I’m truly surprised it’s still flourishing so well, Mindblower!

  4. Students in the last two years of high school in Australia are returning to using paper and seldom bother to turn their antiquated netbooks on – after all it takes about 15 minutes for them to boot up now because the software exceeds the specifications by so much – and the class would be nearly over by the time they managed to get the appropriate program to open.

  5. Jim, I hold you in Hi reguard of your knowledge in the computer world. I know you are smarter than me on the topic of printers. I also have a opinion on printers and printing stuff out to paper. I like to print to paper better than squinting on some ole small smart phone, to hard to read anything lengthly). Smart phone don’t have one, I’m not that important to be needed to speak to on a mobile device imediately Wait till I’m home. PICTURES, Now instead of shoe boxes of old pictures, I have tons of individual folders crammed with tons of pictures that I don’t know whats on them, ya, ya, I should have tagged them, figured out a good folder nameing system and so forth. ( who has time , knowledge?) Soo, I print them out on my own printer, better idea for me. paper good ,stuff saved electronically ? can you find it quickly?, Is it really saved on your back-up files, only when you try to restore do you find out… woops it may not be there, I print important stuff to paper. Pictures printed out at your favorite store… the printer kisok is out in the middle of a busy isle, can’t concertrate or, somone waiting right behind you waiting to use the equiptment. I print out pix’s at home , my printer. I love my printer. you use the electronic arts, its a free world. sorry for length.

    • Hey John – I very much appreciate your position, and your comments.

      The statistics show that printer sales and printing to hard copy are definitely on the decline, there are multiple contributing factors… but there would be plenty of people, such as your good self, who still rely heavily on their trusty printer. Whatever works mate. 🙂

      Cheers… Jim

  6. on a related note about printers dying: I can’t get my printer to work with Windows Vista: TRIED UN/RE-INSTALLING. NOTHING.MY NAVEL DOES NOT WORK, EITHER.