I had a great breakfast this morning in sunny, cool (eat your heart out rest of the US) Seattle with some of the fine folks at xerox. Our discussion went to feedback and thoughts about Drupa 2012 and HP's decision to not participate at Ipex 2014. It made me think a bit again about my Drupa experience, what I saw, who I met, friendships renewed.
By now everyone in the industry knows that attendance at this year's event in Düsseldorf was off 19%, or around 75,000. I did notice a bit more elbow room around the Messe this year as opposed to others (this was my fifth time attending), but more important to me was actually who was there and who was not.
I think there were a few less folks from North America, which can be easily understood given the state of the economy in general and the condition of the printing industry. But I think there were a bit fewer "hucksters", looking for a quick buck opportunity. I mean, seriously, if you were looking for an industry to manipulate and exploit you probably wouldn't pick the print sector right now. But the real story for me was who did make the trek to Germany.
What I saw during my visit was a bunch of folks that have ink in their veins and believe it to be the ultimate expression of non-human communication. People who are in this business because they love it, believe in it, and, yes, cherish it beyond most common sense. I saw the true believers.
Maybe it was Benny Landa's triumphant return to the industry. Or the commitment by HP of retooling and enlarging their entire line. Or the hand off of the iGen reins from Tony Federico to the next generation of talent. Lots of examples of life in this industry.
This was the year that I think the big finishing companies really got it, and began providing world-class solutions to bookmaking challenges. The year the paper manufacturers were top of mind as printers look to create impressive, quality product. The year that the old hands met the new blood and said "This is what the print business is about, so let's take this thing to the next level."
You meet the finest people at a print trade show. I think its a business like no other--none that I've been involved in anyway. I always look up my friend Axel Zoeller from Heidelberg each Drupa as I have since 1995 when at Corbis I was scouting out new Tango scanners and Axel was running Marketing for Heidelberg US. I saw the whole Jacobson clan from ODM, folks that were there at the genesis of the POD book industry. The folks from What They Think were spreading wisdom while bringing in the next generation of reporting from guys like Adam Dewitz. I could go on and on...I just really have a fondness for this business.
So when folks tell you about the demise of print, you know they are mistaken. But the industry is not without challenges, as we all know. We have to make sure that when ink hits paper people are always getting a worthwhile, quality experience. But after four days at Drupa, I know the industry is in good hands, challenges are opportunities, and ink is the lifeblood of those who truly love this business.