“...drupa is just an elaborate evasion for vendors who are utterly unable to explain their products satisfactorily or provide useful and relevant demos at home. Drupa also encourages hurried and half-baked decisions by users who are unable to gather their own information from other sources.”


I don’t consider myself an apologist for printing trade shows, but I do attend a lot of them, including every drupa since 1990. So, I have to say that I find Mr. Rosen’s indictment a bit, uh, sweeping.

He’s perfectly correct to remind us that drupa is no place for casual tire-kicking by those who haven’t done their homework. Nor is there any arguing with his point that a printer who spends impulsively at drupa almost surely is throwing his money away.

But can drupa be as devoid of substance as Mr. Rosen seems to be saying it is? That’s where exception has to be taken.

For one thing, even the most devious exhibitors in the world couldn’t contrive to fill 19 halls and 2.8 million square feet of display space with nothing but “vaporware.” drupa is an event where vendors showcase not just their new stuff, but their existing product lines—in some cases, every hunk of iron they make.

There’s nothing remotely vaporous about these mainstay items. They’re good machines. They’ve won market acceptance because they’re the equipment that printers use to make money. And drupa still is the only venue where all of the options can be seen and evaluated in one well-planned visit.

Is there a smoke-and-mirrors, carny aspect to drupa? Of course, and that admittedly is one thing that keeps a lot of us coming back. But I don’t know a single printer who would look at a six-minute makeready demo at a trade show and think he was looking at anything but a six-minute makeready demo at a trade show.

Again, we can only thank Mr. Rosen for the reminder that ill-informed capital investment decisions at drupa are likely to be disastrous ones. But the drupa show company informs us that €10 billion worth of deals were done in Düsseldorf by the time the show was over. Can all of these have been sucker bets placed by those gulled at a “Show and Tell for grown-ups”? Time will tell, I guess.

This year’s Graph Expo, as we know, will be a scaled-down reprise of drupa for the North American market. If we were to take Mr. Rosen’s post very literally, we might conclude that he is waving us away from McCormick Place as well.

But somehow, I don’t think so. I’m betting that he’ll be there because it’s a place for industry experts of his eminence to be. Personally, I’m going for the Chicago Polish dogs because I can still taste the bratwurst-by-the-Rhine. And because I want to be dazzled, all over again, by the panoply of printing technology that it was my very good fortune to see at drupa this year.