Web2Summit: Better Printing from the Web (Way Better)

Surprising factoid of the morning: Web pages comprise 48% of printouts on home printers; word processing documents run a distant second–the reverse of just a few years ago. HP shared this revelation during an unusually good sponsored session at the Summit today. (Bonus info: HP derives usage stats from a panel of Internet-connected printers that it mines for output data much the way Nielsen monitors televisions.)

While most companies at the Summit are interested in digitizing paper processes, HP’s Imaging and Printing Group–which estimates that the company has sold 400 million output devices, including printers–is looking at that 48% share of printouts and developing technologies to turn bits into atoms. It’s an interesting problem because as Antonio Rodriguez, director of research and development for HP’s Web-to-print team, put it, “When people created the Web, nobody thought about printing.” And thus the 11-page, image-riddled printout when all you wanted was a single paragraph containing directions.

Rodriguez was previously the founder of Tabblo, a Web-based printing company acquired by HP in March. Tabblo is a nifty site for storyboarding photos, but more compelling are the company’s tools that help Web publishers and readers control printouts from other sites. Rodriguez showed a service embedded in an AOL recipe site: when you click to print a recipe, instead of spewing out a half-dozen pages of nav bars and ads, you can choose to create a one-page PDF that has sucked in all of the relevant content and ignored the rest. And you have a choice of formats–either an 8×11 notebook sheet or a page that folds into a 3×5 or 4×6 recipe card. You can print your PDF on any printer, of course, HP or otherwise.

While I’m hesitant to post such an uncritical description of the Tabblo Print Toolkit, I was excited by the possibilities technologies like this present–particularly for traditional publishers who are trying to figure out how to offer content on the Web and in print. And I liked Rodriguez’s vision for a horizontal API that attempts to do for output (i.e., printing) what, for example, Amazon’s S3 does for storage or PayPal’s API does for payments.

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  • ian

    so glad this came up. i spent some time looking at the tactile artifacts that result from printing online directions. pretty sad state, considering the printed map is what people take with them in the car…it’s sad for the presentation of useful info, sad for the wasted paper (through poor formatting) and sad (or maybe good) because the white space could be filled up with very relevant advertising. Here’s a post to what I found:


  • monopole

    The general problem with printing is advertisements. While menus frames and tab-bars do clutter printed documents, the often insane clutter of ads are much worse. Unless the web view offers a particularly compelling value added, I for one select the printable view. This is particularly true for pages with annoying video ads or worse yet rollover ads which will explode over the page with sound and graphics, the typographic equivalent of landmines.

    While Tabblo would be welcome in terms of eliminating these ads, it will probably be still born in many cases for this reason.

  • Sarah — Great summary, and I wish I’d been there! I’ve been following these developments from the printer industry side of things for some time now, and will be posting more on today’s announcements soon at jimlyonsobservations.blogspot.com

  • Thanks for this post. I agree, printing webpages can be very difficult. But I like the way Firefox handles printing of webpages. It almost always reformats the pages in such a way that it’s printed nicely (readable).
    Canon also offers a tool with their printers called ‘easy web print’. Lexmark also has a toolbar to support webprinting. And OKI has one too: ‘webprint utility’.

  • Brian ONeill

    This is one Idea ; from a combo of 5 new ideas…
    Without Batteries or manufactured circuit boards, no labor involved at all…Just hit Print!

    A new way of thinking about Multimedia, Advertisment, Printing and computer animation.

    This idea, is a combination of 4 recent break thrues in newly developed technologies, only possible as of today?
    A new concept that will change the way people use multimedia in home and at work.
    Also the Harry Potter news papers, with animated articals…

    This is all copywritten so no worries,. Thank you: Brian O’neill