Is print dying out?

I come from a family of avid readers, and for as long as I can remember there has always been one debate that has yet to find a winner — the Kindle vs the paperback.

Younger generations have always been criticized for being addicted to their phones, for being constantly ‘plugged in’. With the past year(s) of social distancing and isolation we have all been drawn into the digital world far more than ever before. (I mean unbelievably my grandma has even been doing her pilate classes over YouTube!)

Photo by James Tarbotton

And yet in lockdown I found myself reading a couple of paperbacks a week, fingering through stacks of unorganized fiction to find one I hadn’t yet read, asking my cousin to post some of her favourite novels though the letter box for me, with the promise not to fold down the corners.

So is print really dying out, or are we actually appreciative of it now more than ever before?

Computer says no

From magazines to leaflets, novels and newspapers digital publishing has its many benefits, and as such all these different outlets tend to have online editions. (Even us old-fashioned typewriter enthusiasts at Poems by Post have a Digital Edition!)

For one, digital is faster. Amendments are immediate, spelling errors and format changes can be done in a matter of seconds, and publishing something for the entire world takes merely a tap of a button. News updates have never been as constant and up-to-date (which while very cool can get incredibly overwhelming sometimes, so don’t forget to take a break from your devices). Reader engagement also takes a different shape in digital form; it also allows for the possibility of videos, or interactive polls, allowing readers to take part in a two-way interaction.

Poems by Post, September 2021 Edition | Artwork by Kelsy Sullivan

This also makes digital cheaper. Less manpower, less wages to pay. Less money and time spent sourcing materials such as ink and paper and delivery. Plus think of the sustainability, FAR less money spent and far less paper waste as a result¹. No more arguments about who was the last to take the recycling out.

Let’s get physical

There is one argument for print that I will forever back up — the smell. We like engaging with physical materials, tangible textures, and interacting with the senses. I don’t know if it’s just a bookworm thing, but there really is nothing like the smell of a new book.

Photo by Matthew Feeney

With all the quick and easy accessibility and adaptability of digital comes with a danger that no print edition will ever face — the passive scroll². Print offers an uninterrupted experience, no pop-up ads you have to close, or group chats texting you blocking half our screen up. A 2019 study actually found that not only did 56% of the people find it easier to concentrate on print rather than digital news feeds, a further 61% actually found it easier to read more complicated in-depth articles³.

These statistics aren’t just about our generally shorter attention span when it comes to our mobile devices. Print takes more time to make and more people to edit, because of this it generally results in more in-depth reporting, with stronger messages and persuasive arguments and analysis⁴.

Print vs Digital?

While the digital world offers us quick, free and easy access to art and information, we just don’t digest it quite as well. We recall things better when we can point them out on a physical page, and I’m not the only one who has an emotional attachment to printed paper, to the feel of thick heavy paper and the smell of the ink soaked in.

Poems by Post, August 2021 Edition | Artwork by Morgan McHale-Dill

Get your world updates at the click of a button, but don’t be afraid to explore other mediums. Pick up the free newspaper on your bus ride in the morning, see how it differs from the ever changing headlines of the Daily Mail online. Purchase that magazine and flick though the glossy images free of intruding WhatsApp messages. Or put instagram down and get yourself some physical art and poetry via our little startup at www.poemsbypost.org!

1 Costello, A. (2019). Print vs Digital Media: 5 Reasons to Go Digital. Digital Media Stream. (Accessed: 04/04/22) https://www.digitalmediastream.co.uk/blog/print-vs-digital-media-reasons-to-go-digital

2 Ofcom. Scrolling news: The changing face of online news consumption. Revealing Reality. (Accessed: 04/04/22) https://www.revealingreality.co.uk/2018/07/13/scrolling-news/

3 Communicate Magazine. (2020). Insights: The Print vs Digital Debate. https://www.communicatemagazine.com/news/2020/insights-the-print-vs-digital-debate/ (Accessed: 04/04/22)

4 McCarthy, A. (2018). Print versus digital: Four reasons why print is still around. Media Update. (Accessed: 04/04/22) https://www.mediaupdate.co.za/media/144176/print-versus-digital-four-reasons-why-print-is-still-around

Originally published at https://www.poemsbypost.org.

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