The list of materials, which are produced and distributed as electronic documents (e-materials), without ever being printed, constantly grows.
These e-materials offer numerous benefits: from purely economic – lower printing and distribution costs, through faster delivery, both due to workflow reductions and immediate e-mail or Internet delivery, to far reaching environmental consequences like forest preservation and nature protection.
The examples of e-materials, which almost entirely replace the classical ones are numerous:
- company and project correspondence, messages, information and advertising materials, technical documentation
- presentations of companies, projects, products, and services
- e-books, e-magazines, e-bulletins, and e-catalogues
- electronic registrations, payments, and e-commerce
The classical technology cycle of making a material ready for printing involves two types of costs – those of the conception, implementation and making the material ready, and those of its replication into the required number of copies. Usually, if we disregard the smallest print runs, where you print just a copy or two, the replication, storage and handling costs are large. These are the exact costs, which are not incurred with e-materials, since with the latter the replication and storage are practically free. This is the major factor, which makes e-materials cheaper.
With the printed materials, one faces the distribution issue. Dispatching by mail involves packaging, addressing, incurring mail costs, which often are comparable to the printing costs. These costs are typically not present with the e-materials, since e-mail distribution is practically free.
Economics aside, delivery time with mail measures on days (even with overnight delivery, which however is more expensive), while Internet delivery is for all practical purposes instantaneous.
Annually the world economics, companies, and administrations consume huge amounts of paper. The rising use of e-materials reduces or at least slows down the paper consumption rates, this reducing the use of wood. This saves trees and forests, which are essential for the preservation of the environment.
E-materials offer the designers and authors practically unlimited possibilities in the audio-visual realm. Freing the design of the classical planar model of printed materials stimulates the imagination to use new unheard of before impact techniques.
A significant difference between e-materials and classical printed materials are the multimedia capabilities and interactivity, which are non-existant woth the classical materials. Co-opting the reader/viewer in the material authoring process provides new possibilities, which need to be exploited further.