The Future of Printing at drupa

June 4th, 2008

Every four years in Dusseldorf, Germany an enormous printing trade show, called drupa (standing for Druck Und Papier [in German: printing and paper] gets underway. According to the official press release, “With 1,971 exhibitors from 52 countries spread across an exhibition area of over 175,000 square metres and an anticipated 400,000 visitors from around the globe, the world’s No. 1 trade fair for the print and media industry (running) from 29 May to 11 June 2008, will be bigger than ever before.

‘What the Olympic Games are to sportsmen and women, drupa is to the print media industry,’ said Werner M. Dornscheidt, President and CEO of Messe Dusseldorf, highlighting drupa’s status.'”

I don’t know why Germany became the home to this paradigm of enormously exhausting and unbearably unworkable trade shows. Drupa is nearly two weeks long! I worked a booth there in the 1990s and am still in recovery.

This is the country that also hosts the annual CeBIT in Hanover, Germany, “the world’s largest trade fair showcasing digital IT and telecommunications solutions for home and work environments.” The 2008 show, held from March 4 to March 9, featured “5,845 exhibitors from 77 countries (with) attendance up three percent over the previous year, totaling 495,000.”

(There are numerous others, but I’ll leave it there, to avoid repetition.)

The claim that drupa covers the “print and media industry” is something of an overstatement: it covers the printing industry. The great mystery for anyone reading a site called The Future of Publishing, which continually highlights the challenges to print, is how, in 2008, drupa manages another record year.

There may be a clue in this chart, taken from the October 2007 newsletter of the NPES, the U.S. organization of suppliers of printing equipment:

US_Printing_Equipment_Shipments.jpgIt’s not surprising that with the fall of printing sales, printing equipment sales are falling also, down some 30% from their year 2000 high point.

The printing equipment industry needs to pry whatever remaining dollars exist in a slowly failing industry. The solution perhaps, in the immortal words of Lorenz Hart (from 1937’s “Babes in Arms,” “I’ve got a barn, let’s put on a show.”