Print brings legitimacy

I was very interested in the discussion that took place at PrintEx last month on the future of print. In the early 1990s the Lithographic Institute Bi-annual Conference the theme was the future of printing. But then I do not think anyone expected the seismic shifts that have occurred in society, with the phenomenal changes that have occurred in the internet and the release of tablets, phablets, online gaming and smart phones.

Newspapers and magazines continue to see sliding circulation, and commercial print suffered industry transforming reductions particularly since the GFC in late 2008. The next generation of wearable technologies will continue to chip away at print’s audience. Some of the arguments in favour of print to me ring hollow where it seems to be just blind hope that ‘trust me, print is good’.

Despite the march of computer technology, print does appears to hold a special position in human society.

The Harry Potters series was evidence of the power of printing, so was the Dan Brown book The Da Vinci Code not so long ago. I remember being on a train in London where eight out of the 12 people in the carriage were reading a Dan Brown book, when I got back to Sydney four people in the carriage had Brown books. Produce a great print job and they will buy it by the truckload.

A good test of the value of printing would be the reader response to a blockbuster book today. Would the audience buy it in the same way Harry Potter and Da Vinci Code was only a few years ago.

On Tuesday May 19 there was the global release of the Xbox and PS4 game The Witcher, Wild Hunt by the Games developer/publisher Prima. While not many readers of this magazine may be into online gaming I can assure you there is a massive global audience for the platform. For me the interesting aspect of this long awaited release was the point that gamers could down load the game online and get it immediately or they could pre-order the premium collectors edition for about $25 extra. It appears millions of people around the world pre-ordered and then queued up at retail outlets around the world, including Australian cities and towns to pick up their personalised pre-paid for copy.

The gamers I spoke the said they spent more time reading the 500 page, high quality instruction book that came with the game.

The package was an exceptional high quality printed paper board box with foils and special colours. The box also contained six other printed items in full colour on high quality paper. The point is that value adding in the computer games space is being done with high quality, no compromise printing. The work would have produced in many languages around the world. When I asked gamers what is it about the printed material that turned the game from just a game, (all be it an amazingly graphical experience) into a collectors edition the overwhelming comment was that the quality of the printed material legitimised the overall quality of the game.

The logical follow up to this third release of The Witcher is more releases, but also complimentary material – likely in book form – that will expand the gamer’s experience. The online gaming industry is massive, global and growing. Developers of games are now after innovative ways, such as printing, to wed their users to their titles and making games special. Games publishers are developing and using multi-imagery methods such as the combination of computer graphics and printing.

There is an academic body of theory called Print Rich Society, which proposes the printed image is a modern extension of the way pre-historical humans would use cave art to communicate with future generations. The explosion of printing over the past thousand years parallels the growth of human society and so it is imbedded in our human condition. However, different markets for printing with shrink and possibly disappear while others will develop and grow. Printing will continue remain a part of human communication because it brings legitimacy.

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