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Knowledge is Power

Paper has value. It’s sustainable, personal and purposeful — and the more we know about it, the more we can understand how to make smart choices about when and how to use it. Choose an article in our Knowledge Center, and read on to learn more about how paper plays a role in forest protection, recycling, learning, preserving financial records — even finding a job. You may just find paper does more than you think.

Paper Because

Print is an art form.

When you come across something that just blows you away, you’ll sometimes think to yourself “Now THAT is a work of art!”

It could be anything, from a hot rod to a great pair of stilettos or, more conventionally, a painting or a sculpture. It can also be a beautiful printed piece.

The printing press was invented in the 15th century by the German Johannes Gutenberg – and it has been wowing audiences ever since. This early technology gave rise to an explosion of printed documents, and provided access to information and enlightenment to the reading and listening public. Illustrations soon were added to the texts, bringing them an even broader level of appeal and opening up a new world for non-literate audiences. Political and religious messages were communicated via caricatures and stories told via comic strips – often without a single word on the paper. It was an artistic revolution for the masses!

Print remains a medium of choice for today’s readers, despite the growing appeal of e-publications. In the U.S. alone, a projected 316,480 new printed books and editions were published in 2010, a 5% increase from the previous year.1 If you factor in self-published books, that number increases exponentially. In fact, CreateSpace, the self-publishing arm of Amazon.com, says that its books increased by 80% from 2009 to 2010.2

And speaking of books, it’s a simple fact that many people do judge a book by its cover. No one reads a book before buying it and authors/publishers have just seconds to grab the reader, so it’s crucial that the cover and back cover texts be compelling. An eye-catching and skillfully printed dust jacket can actually mean the difference between success and obscurity for an author.

In a similar vein, there’s the enduring impact of album and CD cover art. This distinctive art form is a favorite topic of discussion for musicologists and music lovers alike. Case in point, Rolling Stone magazine has a special section of its website devoted to the top 100 album covers.3 Rock/pop music historian Robert Benson discusses how a listener’s emotional connection to an album encompasses both the music and the artwork that accompanies it: “At times cover art is part of that emotional connection we have with music. Anyone who has owned a record collection has spent time pouring over an album cover while listening to the music.”4

Many fine artists also revel in the intimacy of paper and ink, using time-honored techniques like the woodcut, silk screen/serigraphy, etching, intaglio, aquatint, monotype and calligraphy to convey their visions.5 Artists around the world are pushing the boundaries of what print can do, bringing renewed life to a craft that has stimulated the human senses for centuries. Professional photographers also often favor print for exhibiting their art, even if their cameras are digital.

Indeed, experts will tell you that it’s thanks to print that we still enjoy much of the artistic output of the last several centuries. They also express concern over the loss of contemporary art pieces that are strictly digital: “The threat is very real that, unless we do something, we will have a ‘lost generation’ in terms of our cultural heritage,” says Dr. David Anderson, who is helping to save the more complex artworks of the digital age from oblivion. “Past generations captured who they were and what they did via museums and books, but the pace of technological development in the digital age has now outstripped our capacity for preservation.”6

And let’s not forget the craft involved in today’s technology-driven commercial printing. The modern printing press is a magical engine of design that can churn out exciting print pieces through sophisticated techniques like foil stamping, embossing, and finishing. Just think of the stylish packaging of the Apple products or a slick print ad in a magazine or even a clever point of sale display. Thanks to digital and on-demand printing, print customers can order just what they need, when they need it – with spectacular visual results. Online service providers even allow you to create your own work of art, printing personalized books with your family pics and stories.

Print can be a treat for the senses and food for the soul. It’s an art in and of itself with a special ability to showcase the miracles that simple paper and ink can do.

1   Print isn’t dead, says Bowker’s Annual Book Production Report.
2   Tugend, Alina. Options for Self-Publishing Proliferate, Easing the Bar to Entry. New York Times. July 29, 2011.
3   Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Album Covers. rateyourmusic.com.
4   Benson, Robert. A Conversation with Vinyl Preservationist Gary Freiberg. Album Cover Series.
5   Printmaking techniques. The graphic art media.
6   Thorpe, Vanessa. Race to save digital art from the rapid pace of technological change. The Observer, May 8, 2011.

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