Digital Revolution Spurs Fine Paper Demand?

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The March 7 Wall Street Journal profiles some unexpected consequences of the world’s conversion to living on-line. The burst of demand for packaging materials, as a consequence of e-commerce, is a story that has been told before, but the Journal also notes that fine paper is also experiencing some sort of revival, at least in niche markets, as Americans are “buying more expensive stock for personalized holiday cards, announcements, and photobooks,” empowered by on-line vendors of the relevant technologies, such as Shutterfly, proposing a transformation of fine paper “from commodity to keepsake.”

In the case of upstate New York manufacturer Mohawk Fine Papers Inc., reports the Journal, “in 1998, sales of paper to digital companies comprised $10 million in revenue . . . in 2012, sales to digital customers reached $100 million in sales, about 40% of company revenue.” The article narrates how Mohawk retooled itself, on the speculation that an emerging market for “smaller-than-standard batches” would grow as businesses offering customized digital services took hold and replaced the declining market for printed annual reports.