The whopping price tags on many print industry research reports bring to mind the old joke about the guy selling apples on the street corner for $10,000 apiece. A far better deal is Supplier and Service Provider Priorities: 2006 Survey Results from InfoTrends, the Department of Graphic Communications at Clemson University, and the Electronic Document Systems Foundation (EDSF). A follow-up to a similar report in 2005, this 80-page PDF booklet is packed with timely, clearly-written information and is amply illustrated with graphs and charts. It's a must-read, and the fact that it's available as a free download from the EDSF Web site makes it a must-have as well.

The report summarizes responses to a Web-based survey of 45 suppliers to the print-for-pay market and 216 print-for-pay providers. Questions put to the two groups cover print market prospects, pricing trends, revenue expectations, equipment investment plans, and many other areas. The answers from the providers are presented first, and the results from both groups are compared in the section detailing the suppliers' responses.

On the whole, and despite the fact that most of them believe their industry will continue to contract, the print-for-pay providers are sanguine about what the future holds. And why not: from 2004 to 2005, more than three-quarters experienced revenue gains, and nearly one-third saw growth of over 10%. Rated highest by the providers as future revenue opportunities are digital full color printing; design and creative services; color digital prepress; high-speed black & white digital printing; wide format color printing; and "yes" traditional offset printing.

The suppliers tend to take a dimmer view of certain things than the printers, particularly offset, for which the report says suppliers' expectations are "bleak." It's also intriguing to learn that a larger percentage of suppliers than printers believe that the value of trade shows as marketing tools is diminishing. "While the two parts of the industry can be expected to share a common perception of the market," states the narrative, "our study indicates that in many cases they do many areas significant gaps in beliefs are evident between print providers and vendors who responded to this survey."

That isn't exactly news, but we can't recall seeing another document that contrasts the viewpoints as concisely and effectively as this report does. The presentation is excellent, the price certainly is right, and all you have to download is one.