Emily (left) and Tom love the feel of paper
Ok, this picture is slightly staged on the lawn, but every day in my house there is a virtual riot as the daily paper arrives. Both Tom and Emily crawl speedily to the front door as soon as they hear the paper drop through the letter box, and then, to add to the fun, the dog gets involved. Our small terrier, Tilly, is also just as determined to wreak havoc and tear up the pages before any of us get to it. Yes, newspapers are certainly popular in our house, and not just for reading!
But it is not just newspapers that Tom and Emily love from the world of paper. The books that are available now for little ones are just incredible, and it is great to see this sector of the publishing industry really pushing the boundaries of imagination when it comes to exploiting the real possibilities of paper. We now have books in our house that have everything from big colorful frogs popping up as you turn the pages, to every type of texture, touch and feel you could imagine. All this allows children in their early years to really get a sight and feel of the differing possibilities in the world - all from the pages of a book.
And one thing is for sure, we have certainly noticed a rapid increase in our consumption of paper over the last year which is set to continue; the twins have their first birthday next month, with all the packaging and cards that will go with that, and then of course we have the never ending diaper situation which is probably keeping the global nonwovens industry in profit....
Looking towards the future
But this has got me thinking about the next generation and those generations beyond. Just last week two big stories hit the headlines that are really important to this industry. The first was the news that Facebook now has 500 million members - that is eight percent of the world's population - an incredible phenomena. The next is that Amazon is now selling more downloads of its books than it is selling hardcover copies.
Let's deal with Facebook first. The term "social networking" may be a relatively new one, but the basics of it have been going on for a long time. Even I can remember the "penpal" days where you would write copious amounts of letters to people in foreign places and then occasionally get to meet them. Facebook is obviously a much more sophisticated answer, but nonetheless, the basics are the same; keeping in contact with those you know, and let them know what you are doing - it is simply much, much quicker.
The same applies to the Amazon Kindle, it is not necessarily the fact that people are downloading books with a vengeance because they prefer to read them on the device, it has much more to do with speed and the on demand nature of the modern consumer. You see a review of a book you like and you want it now.
The fact is, Information Communication Technology (ICT) in the shape of the Internet and e-reading devices is not going away - nothing stands in the way of progress, and it will continue to snatch and steal bigger lumps out of paper industry consumption.
Paper - nothing can take its place
But back to Tom and Emily's love of the touch and feel of paper; there is nothing that can take its place, and the industry must now more than ever play on that strength. We have some companies already going down that road, for instance Södra, with its award winning children's chairs and designer lamps made out of pulp. But there are surely boundless opportunities for toys, more books, more packaging and more household items that can take the place of hard, soulless plastic.
Now, more than ever, the global industry must pull out the stops of creativity, play to its strengths and deliver more and better paper products for the delight of the next generations.