Print vs. Digital… Which side are you on?

Is print a dying process? What is the future of tangible books, flyers, magazines? There are obvious pros and cons to both mediums. For print, we can flip through and bend down pages, mark on pages with writing utensils, and studies show we process information more carefully when we are reading print text instead of text on tablets. For digital, pros include the ability to circulate widely, producing ads more rapidly, having information more accessible in digital formats, and digital publishing can be much cheaper.

I am not suggesting one medium over the other, but it is interesting to assess the effects of both print and digital text and how consumers interact with both. Public Radio International wrote an article looking at how digital and printed information affects us neurologically: “Neuroscience, in fact, has revealed that humans use different parts of the brain when reading from a piece of paper or from a screen. So the more you read on screens, the more your mind shifts towards ‘non-linear’ reading — a practice that involves things like skimming a screen or having your eyes dart around a web page.”

So, this begets the questions: what is the future of print? Should we strive to keep this in tact or are we leaning towards a fully digital world?

Vox argues that print is becoming obsolete with the decline of newspapers since the 2008 economic recession. Large newspapers are condensing sections to pinch pennies while small presses are struggling to stay afloat as well. Meanwhile, Forbes states that countries like India and Mexico are seeing an increase in print sales due to the rise of middle class groups and the decline of access to basic internet services.  

One company that would like to maintain printed information is Airbnb. They recently partnered with Hearst to create a print-only publication highlighting travel tips, destination guidance, and deals on transportation and lodgings. According to Hearst editor, Joanna Coles, one of the main goals for this publication is to place a physical item from these companies into your home for easy access to information and even as decoration. She says, “it’s to connect you, to inspire you, to transform you…. Why a magazine? Well, a good magazine is a journey in itself, it’s a voyage of discovery. You turn the page, and you find something magical you weren’t expecting and it transforms you.”

While the presence of printed material over digital may not seem obvious (RIP Borders), it seems that independent bookstores and zines are on the rise. Inkwood Books in Tampa has been challenging the digital-press world in order to keep up their sales. According to Huffington Post, “Inkwood is finding its own creative ways to compete in a digital world. At a recent book talk and signing with Randy Wayne White, the ticket price included the cost of his latest book, Seduced. This keeps the book sales local, explains owner Stefani Beddingfield; otherwise, people might buy the book online or from a big box store and bring it to the signing. This way, they get to meet the writer and the indie bookstore gets the sale.”

So the next time you’re looking to design or publish your next project, will you consider print over digital or both? Comment below.

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