AIC 41st Annual Meeting – Book and Paper Session, June 1, "Update on Digital Print Preservation Research: What We Have Learned So Far About the Permanence and Preservation of Digitally Printed Books by Daniel Burge"

Digitally printed books are still in their infancy, with the onset of personal, customized and on-demand publishing, made possible in part by the internet. As they have become widespread, the understanding of their aging characterestics must be understood. This is made more critical by the variety of techologies and materials used, as well as the fact that many of the books published may be very small editions, or even one-of-a-kind, as with photo books.
Daniel Burge explained the results of some of the tests performed by the Image Permanence Institute in Rochester. Their tests examined digital inkjet books printed with both dye and pigment inks and electrophotographic books printed with dry and liquid toners. The aging tests compared the humidity, heat, pollution, light, abrasion and water resistance of digital books to traditional offset printed books. These comparisons may be used to evaluate whether the books made with modern technologies need a different standard of care than is provided to older books.
These tests specifically focused on bound materials and are not to be used to evaluate the permanence of art/photo prints or single documents. One critical issue is the material used for the technology. Often, papers must be specifically prepared (optimized) with a coating suited to the printing process in order to improve print quality and permanence. The use of alkaline paper and recycled paper was found to be on the rise, and these could be factors influencing digital book preservation.
In general, the good news is that digitally printed books do not appear to require widely different preservation environments than traditional books. Although they are far more vulnerable to water damage, they generally have equal resistance to humidity, heat, and pollution as do traditional offset books. They also have better resistance to light and abrasion, compared to offset. The vulnerability to water highlights the need for more study and planning regarding disaster and recovery techniques for digitally printed books.
For more information, see the DP3 (Digital Print Preservation Portal) project website.