Tech vs. Trees: Designers building chairs out of paperboard, paper-based device mimics human brain, lobbying group aims to preserve paper in US government

LOS ANGELES , February 28, 2014 () – A roundup of recent trends pitting technology against the printed word:

Trees: Designers turn to paperboard for creative furniture

What may have been a novelty in the past is becoming more mainstream as designers have been looking toward paper-based material to make chairs, beds and other pieces. Italian designer Luca Nichetto is among those designers whose works incorporate paper and paperboard inspired by origami, such as his Motek chair, The New York Times reported Feb. 19. Nichetto noted that classic pieces made of paperboard harken back to designs from luminaries such as architect Frank Gehry in the 1970s. In Australia, a company called Karton is dedicated to paperboard furniture and makes everything from bed frames and room dividers to desks and drawers, Gizmag reported Feb. 3. Moreover, its furniture can be assembled without any tools or glue. Another furniture maker Re-Ply is selling chairs made of corrugated paperboard (see image) thanks to funding from Kickstarter in late 2012, Treehugger reported Feb. 19. If the response from Kickstarter is any indication (the final pledge was almost double the goal of US$10,000), we might see yet another use for the versatile material.

Trees: Paper-based device that mimics human brain could innovate robotics

Chinese researchers have developed a paper-based device that mimics the electrochemical signaling that occurs in the human brain—an innovation that could lead to breakthroughs in robotics and computer processing, Institute of Physics reported Feb. 13. Described as a thin-film transistor, the device works by imitating the junction between two neurons, which in the human brain pass messages via chemical and electrical signals. The ability to use paper for this device makes it cheaper and eco-friendlier to produce and could lead to “lightweight and biologically friendly artificial neural networks,” according to the author of the study, Qing Wan, of Nanjing University. Scientists around the world have developed their own devices combining electronics and paper, such as paper-based speakers from a French designer and a paper-based keyboard from a U.K. startup that actually works. Photo Credit: Nanotechnology. Website:

Trees: Lobbying group aims to preserve paper in government

While digitizing Social Security checks and other printed government-issued documents would cut costs, one lobbying group is asking legislators to consider the repercussions of such a move on seniors and low-income citizens, The Washington Post reported Feb. 16. Called the Consumers for Paper Options, the group is created by the paper industry, and its Executive Director John Runyan is a former International Paper Co. head of federal government relations. So far, the group has managed to include language in January’s budget to resume paper mail delivery of Social Security statements to 150 million future retirees. The Social Security Administration had decided to shift to paperless statements back in 2011—a move that saves US$72 million a year. Meanwhile, paper companies have seen their products’ demand show an average yearly drop of 5% over the last five years. Runyan said the group is not anti-technology, but wants to provide an option for those “who can’t use an iPhone to navigate the Internet.” 

Tech: China’s digital publishing industry expected to exceed US$57B in 2014

China’s digital publishing revenues are projected to surge to US$57.74 billion in 2014 from $42.89 billion—a nearly $15 billion jump in one year, as the nation experiences a surge in growth for online and digital technologies, Good E-Reader reported Feb. 14. Chinese digital publishing products include Internet-based e-books, digital newspapers and digital publications based on mobile phones and other mobile terminals, according to a report titled, “China Digital Publishing Industry Report, 2013-2014.” Just in 2012, the nation’s Internet journals, e-books and digital newspapers generated total revenue of 5.773 billion yuan (US$949.9 million) and mobile publishing reached 48.65 billion yuan. The potential in China must have piqued interest from Bertelsmann, which plans to focus on China for media, services and education, The Bookseller reported Jan. 16. Annabelle Yu Long, CEO at Bertelsmann China Corporate Center, also cited the “further opening up and deregulation of the Chinese market, which we believe is very promising.”

Tech: Digital publishing prompts rethinking of textbook model

More than just transferring textbook content from the page to the screen, digital publishing technology could also revamp how publishers sell and package educational content, according to a report titled “Thinking Outside the Books: Reinventing Educational Publishing for the Digital Age.” In the report, global publishing adviser Ixxus identified challenges that face print-centric publishers, such as rising print costs, slowing print sales and consumers’ expectation that textbook products include a digital option. While publishers have already modified their practices to incorporate digital, it is a necessary cost to stay competitive rather than a revenue booster, according to the report. The report asks consumers to think of content by itself, which can be sold to consumers instead of being confined within a book. “If content is segmented into granular chunks which are easy to manipulate, publishers are in a much better position to be able to maximize the use of their content assets in the future,” said Carl Robinson, publishing consultant at Ixxus.


* All content is copyrighted by Industry Intelligence, or the original respective author or source. You may not recirculate, redistrubte or publish the analysis and presentation included in the service without Industry Intelligence's prior written consent. Please review our terms of use.