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Since PrintWeek published its last Buyers' Guide to e-commerce and online
services, attitudes have changed dramatically. Despite the dogged conviction of the suppliers in the market that the internet is here to stay, it remains a fact that a good third of the firms trading in this area have either gone out of business or substantially modified their business in order to stay afloat. Most are using some form of venture capital rather than trading under their own financial steam; some have been acquired by larger groups with wider-ranging print interests who are better able to provide long-term funding; and others have moved into partnership with some of their key clients.
This Buyers' Guide lists some of the companies active in several areas relevant to the print industry. But it's worth bearing in mind that it's not just about print buying sites, although these are the operations that tend to grab the headlines: there are lots of different types of internet operation, and while some are directed at the print buyer or end-customer, others are directed at printers themselves, either for supplies and services, or for e-facilities that can be built into the printer's own website. Broadly, the various types of e-commerce and online services for printers/print buyers include:
* E-printers (printers with a website that sells the printer's own print, and usually allows quotes and job submission online, often some form of job tracking as well);
* E-print providers, who offer a print procurement service -- they often have partnerships with printers, and sign up a spread of printers with a broad geographical range and range of services;
* Auction sites, which aim at exchanging printed work between print buyers and printers (the service provider adds a mark-up to generate its …