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Oil, Sugar and Paper


Ever since I lived in Europe I've been a Campari-and-soda fan. It's a great aperitif: doesn't kill the appetite, gives a lift like sherry but doesn't render you gastronomically impotent like two or three martoonies.

So I buy bottled club soda. And I notice that the price doubled on name brands like Canada Dry in the last 18 months. Now, why? The water comes out of the same wells (or faucets - I'm suspicious by nature), the bottling plants are in place and being paid for at the old interest rates. Sure, the cost of bottles and labels and CO2 and labor for delivery has gone up - 20% maybe. So a price rise for soda water might be, say, 10%. Not 100!

And that's what is happening to paper. The trees are grown, the mills are in place and financed, the costs of harvesting the pulp stock and distributing the end product are rising at the rate of the general inflation. And advertising and sales costs are, or obviously could be, drastically less. Yet the cost of paper to the forms manufacturers and to printers in general has in many cases more than doubled.

Everybody is running around, like the oil crooks and the sugar crooks, yelling "Shortage!" What shortage? The tree crop didn't fail last year, did it? The demand, tempered by economy drives and the enthusiasm for CRT displays and COM, hasn't risen much.

Just as our ostensibly American oil companies juggled their Canadian, Venezuelan, Nigerian and intercoastal oil transport in 1974 to sell ultraprofitably in Rotterdam and Yokohama, and at the same time create an artificial shortage Stateside so that prices could be escalated unconscionably so the paper boys are playing their little sock-it-to-'em games with the office machine and computer forms suppliers and the end users. Watch the profit figures next time around, fellow victims - as you watched Exxon and Gulf in 1974.

Ripped off again? Well, unlike gasoline and sugar, we do have end-user alternatives. Doesn't help the forms makers, of course - or Computerworld - but readers who have delayed going to screen displays and microfilm output ought to get busy.

And one more thing: now is the best possible time to press for elimination of u n n e c e s s a r y reports. IF NOBODY READS IT, DON'T PRINT IT! You'll be a hero to your bosses, and at the same time be moving toward a more sophisticated use of our magnificent hardware. And outwitting the paper crooks, who will lose those pieces of the present market permanently.