Did you ever have a collection of 8-tracks or cassette tapes or even Betamax videotapes that you didn’t know what to do with?

Once the hottest thing around, these formats didn’t last. Before long, most people no longer had a working device that could play their old media. And today we’re watching the same process happen to CDs: you can hardly find a laptop with an optical disc drive today. CD players are disappearing from cars and even stereos.

Now imagine that collection of outmoded tapes and cartridges doesn’t contain your vintage music collection. Instead, it contains archived material critical to your business today, locked up in a media format you can’t use.

Even reading or accessing this content is difficult — and what if you needed to digitize it all so it could be accessed online (complete with track names and searchable data)? If you could find a way, the process would be intensely manual and time-consuming.

The Print-Digital Divide

This cassette tape conundrum is nearly the exact problem commercial and in-plant printers face today. For nearly a century, commercial printers needed to care about only one thing: the quality of their printed product.

But today, customers expect more. They demand their materials both in printed form and in an accessible, uploadable, digital-friendly form. And the responsibility for producing these digital versions of print media falls to you, the printer.

Why do printers today need the ability to create web-ready digital resources alongside print products? Consider these four advantages.

1. Universal Access Matters for Commercial Printers

For any new print job, printers should assume the need to provide universal access. This means creating digital versions of print products that maintain the integrity, quality, and content of a file, and that are searchable and indexable.

Creating digital versions isn’t hard on its own — with the right consumer-grade software, any PC can create a static PDF out of most source material. But universal access goes further.

Accessible PDFs are both searchable and indexable: customers and their end users can search the full text of the document, assistive playback tools can read the text aloud, and content management and information systems can digest the content.

Creating data-rich, searchable PDFs from print-ready files is quite a bit more complex. Several of the tools within RICOH Web Enablement Solutions Suite (WESS) can do this, including at scale.

2. Improved User Experience

When you have the ability to provide data-rich PDFs alongside a print deliverable, you instantly create an improved client experience. You can now give customers content in whatever format they want: print, digital, or both. And your customers can then do the same to their end customers.

Even if your customers aren’t outright demanding web-ready digital content yet, they will soon. Offering it now as an improved user experience can set you apart, and you’ll be prepared once this becomes a demand, rather than a request.

3. Better Long-Term Storage

When properly compressed, PDFs tend to be much smaller to store than other visual-rich media formats. You also don’t have to worry about compatibility like you might with certain media formats. You’ll save on storage costs when you use RICOH TIFF2PDF Plus to convert single and multi-page TIFF files into PDFs, and you’ll create a product that presents better on the web.

4. Access Archived Data in Legacy Formats

Last, some print businesses (especially in-plant printers) are actively living the 8-track nightmare we talked about earlier. They have archived content in a range of formats, including AFP, PostScript, PCL, and Line, that isn’t easily accessible, isn’t searchable, and certainly can’t be placed online directly for customers to use.

Several of the tools within RICOH WESS help commercial printers access and digitize legacy and archival content in those four formats, creating text-searchable PDF files from any of them. And WESS can even do this at scale, with batch or mass file conversions.

See What RICOH Web Enablement Solutions Suite Can Do for Commercial Printers

RICOH Web Enablement Solutions Suite isn’t the most interesting or flashy solution we offer — but it might be one of the most important. See why printers like your business are using Ricoh’s WESS for smart web-ready digitization. Request a free product demo now.