About five years ago, Michael Iannuzzi, owner and president of TYCO Copying and Printing on Elm Street, began to notice a shift in his business.
Ten percent of Iannuzzi’s business comes from printing the course packets many Yale professors use to distribute readings for their classes. But Iannuzzi said he increasingly sees these packets as a dying medium as professors move more of their course materials online.
“We’re the horse and buggy, and there are cars driving in the street,” Iannuzzi said. “If all we did was course packets, we’d be out of business in five years.”
Indeed, professors said they are increasingly putting PDFs of their course materials online on the Classes*v2 server, where students can access them for free and print them out either on their own or at seven cents per page on Yale’s printers. Professionally printed course packets cost significantly more per page than PDFs printed out on personal or school printers. While some professors said they are putting the material online at students’ request, others said they want students to maintain print copies of readings for convenience.
The 272-page packet for history Professor Carlos Eire’s class “Catholicism: The First Millenium,” at $44.50, costs more than twice as much on a per-page basis as the same material would cost printed out in Bass Library. Eire said he puts all the material in his course packets online as well — the one for convenience, the other for cost-effectiveness.
“My own personal preference is paper,” Eire said. “I can read 10 pages online, but after that it gets annoying.”
History Professor John Warner said he put the materials in his course packet online because of popular demand.
“I’m persuaded that this is the sensible way to go,” he said. “It seems to me that placing the course materials online is a favor for everybody.”
But Ryan Wepler, who teaches an English 114 seminar on American humor, said he requires students to purchase course packets because he is skeptical whether they would actually print out PDF files posted online.
“I don’t want my students bringing their laptops to class,” he said. “They just check their e-mail.”
Iannuzzi said the price-per-page rate of course packets varies with TYCO’s preparation cost, the class size, and occasionally, copyright fees. Wepler’s packet, for example, comes out to 20.8 cents per page — for a total of $25.
None of the four professors interviewed knew how much their packets cost. Wepler pointed out one reason for this: Each professor gets a copy of his or her course packet for free.
Even professors who have started offering their material online said they want students to print out the course materials if they choose not to buy a course packet. Given that hard copies of materials are required or strongly encouraged, the only benefit of having TYCO print and bound them, Warner said, is “convenience.”
Three students interviewed said they like having the option of printing documents on their own, but they are not yet willing to forgo hard copies altogether.
Given the choice, Will Bartlett ’14 said he would prefer to save money printing his course materials himself, rather than buying course packets. He added, though, that he currently uses a personal printer and might consider TYCO if he had to use the library printers, which he said are difficult for him to use.
Miriam Rock ’14 said she does not mind doing light readings online but prefers hard copies for longer readings, so she can take notes on them.
“It depends how close of a reading I’d have to do,” she said. “If it’s just skimming, then I wouldn’t [print], but otherwise I would.”
In contrast to some professors’ insistence on keeping hard-copies of readings, Iannuzzi, who founded TYCO 40 years ago, said he has been preparing for digitization for a decade, from the time he first heard rumblings about a “paperless society,” though he said it has been a “slow process.”
Still, Iannuzzi is not concerned about the future viability of his business.
“We’re diversified, thankfully,” he said.
Though the rise of personal computers has led to a decline in demand for course packets for Yalies, Iannuzzi said it has also brought a huge jump in digital documents needing to be printed in general. In the future, he said, he expects his business will depend even more on the greater volume of these kinds of documents, such as digital art. And as technology improves, reading course materials on laptops and other devices, which would be free, could become a more viable way of learning.
“We certainly can’t compete with free,” Iannuzzi said. “To do that, we’d need to offer a complimentary cup of coffee or something like that.”