From The Editor Evolve Or Fade Away
Print isn't the only game in town. A lot of in-plants are finding this out the hard way after watching their customers switch to e-mail, Web sites and CDs to get their messages out.
That's precisely the situation confronting many college and university in-plants, most of whom have traditionally relied on course packs to keep them busy. Over the past couple of years, course management systems (CMS) like BlackBoard and WebCT have captured the interest of faculty. These systems let professors electronically manage assignments and share information with students, such as notes, PowerPoint presentations, handouts and course packs. Not only are in-plants losing this print work, but they have to watch as students output these materials on the computer labs' laser printers instead of reading them on screen.
Some in-plants want to fight back and stop the exodus of work. And they have good points: Schools are not only losing money by funding the inefficient laser printing of course packs, they're risking lawsuits, since the professors uploading textbook chapters and articles rarely bother to get copyright permission.
But by halting the flow of course packs to course management systems, these in-plants would also be stopping the wheels of progress. And that, as blacksmiths and telegraph operators conceded long ago, is a losing battle.
Instead, managers would be wise to look for opportunities here. Lobby to have the in-plant take over management of computer center printing. Then the in-plant can decide how to print these documents most efficiently.
George Mason University's in-plant did that a few years ago. When it started charging students for those computer printouts, there was an uproar. But a year later, things calmed down. Paper use has plummeted (and students are reportedly getting very adept at reading online).
Scanning is another opportunity. In-plants can pick up new business scanning hard copy material for professors who want to post it on the CMS. University of St. Thomas Printing and Mailing Services does this and charges four cents a scan. One client has given the in-plant thousands of images to scan.