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Could everyone's most hated office tech be heading for the scrapheap?

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The pandemic may have changed working habits in yet another way after new data claimed the demand for printers is dropping off sharply.

According to a report from analyst firm IDC based on a poll of 4,700 full-time employees, the number of pages printed from home and office devices fell by a massive 14% last year as a result of the shift to remote working.

The drop-off was most extreme across the types of printer frequently found in office environments; the usage of laser printers fell by 16%, while A3 printers gathered an even more generous layer of dust. 

In contrast, however, the number of pages run through inkjet printers (often used in the home) actually increased by 4% over 2019 levels. IDC believes roughly half of the pages printed at home last year were work-related.

Goodbye printers

Although IDC data shows print volume has rebounded somewhat in 2021, the company predicts a steep drop off in the years to come. The obvious factor driving the decline is the rise of digital products and services, which has reduced the demand for printing in industries that were traditionally the most reliant (e.g. publishing, advertising, education).

“Pages printed at home will not offset declines in offices as organizations and governments continue to pursue paperless initiatives and digital transformation agendas,” asserted Ilona Stankeova, Senior Research Director, Imaging Devices & Document Solutions, IDC Europe.

Other possible factors include the cost of printer ink, as well an increasing regard for the environmental impact among the public. A recent report from consumer watchdog Which?, for example, demonstrated that some first-party printer ink is now more expensive per millilitre than champagne.

As per IDC’s most optimistic forecasts, the demand for printing will fall by 1.9% within five years. But in the worst case scenario, the drop could be as steep as 5.1%.

That said, the major brands will console themselves with the knowledge that roughly 2.3 trillion pages are still expected to be printed in 2025, equating to 4.4 million pages per minute. Although the influence of the printing industry is clearly in decline, it will be a while yet before a truly paperless ecosystem reaches maturity.

Joel Khalili

Joel Khalili is a Staff Writer working across both TechRadar Pro and ITProPortal. He's interested in receiving pitches around cybersecurity, data privacy, cloud, storage, internet infrastructure, mobile, 5G and blockchain.