Pinard continued, comparing commercial printing to online printing.
"[The] commercial printing industry has been in decline for the last 15 years in terms of the overall value of shipments and profits on those shipments," he explained.
". . . While there's a number of arguments on why the industry is in decline, online printing is clearly growing," Pinard said. "Much of online printing's growth is driven by other industries that have been significantly changed by the Internet including how we buy books, music and book travel. High-speed Internet access is almost universal and for the most part, a utility like electricity that is available to every business, home and even on mobile devices. It is simply easier and more convenient to order print online."
Hoffman agreed, saying online printing has grown tremendously and continues to grow.
"Consumers have led the way with purchasing consumer-related printing such as invitations and photo products," she noted. "Business-to-business has been at a bit slower growth pace compared to consumer, but will steadily increase as the economy has forced businesses to get smarter about their expenditures. Printing on demand just makes good business sense."
It appears as though when it comes to online printing it can't get any better. However, companies say it will do just that.
In the next five years, Hoffman expects more companies to enter the online printing market.
"Whether or not they make it will depend on their commitment to investing in technology and equipment, as just hanging out a virtual shingle can get you some customers initially, but you cannot grow without a loyal customer base," she explained. "Online print offerings should grow beyond the current short-run small business products. PrintPlace has, in fact, recently launched an online commercial heatset web division, UnitedGraphics.com, which is already trending $10 million annually. The needs of the commercial customer are still there, which don't fit the cookie cutter mentality of many online printers—the successful online printers will continue to innovate and find ways to fill needs for more customized products and services."