Is paper dying? We don’t think so. While some industries, such as automotive sales, are moving toward digital record-keeping, others still prefer print records, and for good reason.
“We’ve done research that shows many industries still rely heavily on print, and that is consistent with consumers’ desire for print,” says Katie Zorn, Domtar’s vice president of marketing, product management, strategic planning and market development for pulp and paper. “People actually want a choice, and when they have it, they often choose print.”
Zorn says the top office paper-using industries prefer print for good reason. “There are accessibility issues to consider, especially in healthcare and social assistance. They have to assume that not everyone has access to a computer or email,” she explains. “And although people are becoming more comfortable with online statements, there still remains a large percentage of people who need or want paper statements and physical copies of their financial records and insurance policies.”
We took a closer look at the top five industries that prefer print — and why.
Healthcare & Social Assistance
Domtar research found that this category leads the way in print, making up more than 17 percent of the total office paper print volume. That’s not surprising given the strict regulations around the retention of medical records. For example, a 1,500-bed hospital can print as many as 8 million pages per month, according to some studies.
In addition to meeting regulatory requirements, printed documents ensure that everyone can access vital information related to their wellbeing, regardless of whether they have internet access.
Financial & Insurance
The financial and insurance industry makes up nearly 14 percent of the total office print volume. Like healthcare and social assistance, this highly regulated industry has strict rules around record keeping. Many financial and insurance documents must be signed in person rather than digitally, and those signed papers must be stored — in some cases, indefinitely.
But in addition to meeting regulations, paper records of important financial accounts and insurance policies are also useful to consumers. Studies show that people do a better job managing their finances when they receive paper statements instead of online statements. And in an emergency, paper copies of important insurance policies can speed the process of making and settling a claim.
Coming in third is education, which accounts for nearly 11 percent of the total print volume. One study found that an average school uses 360,000 sheets of office paper per year, along with other print materials such as textbooks and worksheets. That’s because students simply learn better when they use printed materials instead of online books and applications.
In a study on the effects of online learning, 97 percent of teachers found that students had some learning loss during the first year of the pandemic, in part because students simply don’t learn as well using digital materials vs. printed materials. This is especially evident in paper-intensive subjects like reading and math.
This category includes typical office work, such as that performed by law offices, real estate firms, accounting firms and other service-oriented businesses. At nearly 11 percent of office print volume, these businesses print contracts, legal documents, statements and hundreds of other records that must be maintained for legal, tax or financial purposes.
In addition to important records, office employees need physical documents for a large portion of their everyday work. This includes presentations, weekly reports, daily summaries, and proof copies of essential documents.
Rounding out the top five print industries is public administration — a catch-all name for government and public agencies, such as city works, utilities, housing, departments of motor vehicles and revenue, public safety, etc. Public administration offices represent 7.6 percent of total print volume.
As with other regulated industries, public administration offices usually print and store documents for legal and regulatory purposes.
Most people prefer print
As regulations change, some industries may choose to print less. But we don’t see the need for print ever going away, simply because people prefer print.
“For important documents, people want that added insurance of something physical, which a printed copy provides,” Zorn says. “They wonder if a digital or electronic system can fail. A printed copy gives them something they can refer to if needed, and I don’t think that desire is ever going to go away.”