Why are we printing more than ever?

A few years ago, technology pundits were eagerly anticipating the end of the printed word, bandying about terms like "the paperless office" amid predictions that hard copy was headed for the waste bin of history.

And yet we're printing more than ever before - more than 50 trillion pages globally each year, according to recent estimates. So why are we still so in love with print?

Perhaps the biggest factor is that there's more information available today than ever before. Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently pointed out that the world now produces as much information in two days as humanity created in the whole of its history up to the year 2003.So even if a tiny fraction of that data ends up on the printed page, that's a lot of print.

And even though the number of traditional, paper-based documents such as letters being printed has declined, users are printing out more online articles, blogs and email messages.

Another factor is the increase in the ease with which people can print. The ability to output high-quality, professional-looking documents without the often prohibitive costs of going to the local printshop now means that small businesses can print more of what they want, when they want.

And quality lies at the heart of a third reason why printing is still flavour of the month. While the displays used by devices such as Apple's iPad or Amazon's Kindle e-book reader are significantly better than those of devices just a few years old, they still don't match the quality, ease and convenience of the paper.

The paperless future may be coming, but it won't be along just yet.