Paper Vs Digital – Do We Still Need Paper in the Digital Age?
Do we still need paper in the digital age?
Why bother with printed information when everything is available in a digital alternative?
Look at it this way:
- Digital is instant.
- Print is slow.
- Digital distribution is free and global.
- Print distribution is expensive and limited.
- Digital media is interactive.
- Print is a one-way exchange of information.
- Digital information is malleable, scalable, transmutable; you can edit, shape and refresh it however you’d like for as long as it exists online. Plus, you can always delete digital posts. (Though they can still come back to haunt you in the murky corners of cyberspace.)
- Print is fixed and permanent. Once your material is printed and distributed, there’s no going back, no fixing mistakes.
However, don’t count print out yet. Like American author, Mark Twain said, rumours of print’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Print media refuses to die.
It continues to rear its woodsy head in everything from paperback novels to “enviro-friendly” packaging.
Why? Why is paper still around in the digital age?
Because … because … we love you, paper!
It’s true. Humans have a deep connection with printed material.
Print refuses to die because we refuse to let it go.
We like the look and feel of paper, the tactile experience print delivers.
The world was sold the idea of a paperless society decades ago, but it was the pipe dream of robot overlords.
We have emerged from the digital fog, paper firmly in hand!
The Myth of Paperless
The rise of personal computers spawned the idea of the “paperless office” back in the late 1970s.
Emerging technology allowed printed material to be sent electronically.
No need for daily inter-office memos or thick paper reports.
No more dead trees and stinky paper mills.
All communication could be posted electronically!
However, it was all a big lie. The paperless revolution happened, and print survived.
In fact, print is alive and well, still a vital medium even in the digital age.
Printed products (including catalogues, booklets and direct mail) aren’t going away anytime soon because, well, people like them!
Human beings have a deep-seated connection with printed materials.
There’s something about print that captures the heart and mind … as well as consumer dollars!
The Power of Print
When it comes to processing, internalising and acting upon information, paper products rule.
Paper is still vital for learning.
Studies confirm that humans use different parts of the brain, whether they’re reading from paper or reading online.
Traditional “linear reading” tracks left-to-right, top-to-bottom, start-to-finish.
Reading online, however, is non-linear.
Online readers face a host of digital distractions — pop-up ads, banners, navigation menus, etc. — which means top-to-bottom, start-to-finish reading is frequently interrupted.
Printed material leaves a more significant impact on readers.
One of the main differences between digital media and print is the positive tactile experience of print.
Print offers the smooth feel of paper and the audible crinkle of pages.
Print materials engage and awaken more senses in a way digital media doesn’t. (Does anyone remember the sweet smell of fresh mimeographs?)
Reading on-screen interferes with the navigation of text, causing strain and exhaustion, according to a study in Scientific American.
Additionally, scrolling through text is mentally draining and decreases comprehension.
The study also found that print stimulates the ventral striatum, an area of the brain associated with reward and reinforcement.
All these factors combine to deliver a higher level of satisfaction and comprehension for print readers.
Learning begins with paper.
While handwriting — especially cursive writing — appears on the verge of extinction, (recent studies show schoolchildren are so reliant on technology, they struggle to hold pencils), there is strong evidence suggesting paper is still a crucial educational tool.
Learning to touch-type at an early age is a much more practical skill in today’s computer-driven world.
However, handwriting still plays a significant role in childhood development and overall learning.
Handwritten notes, in general, have greater depth than typed notes.
The act of gripping a writing instrument and guiding it across a page is a physical dance that directly relates to how deeply the information is processed and absorbed.
Handwriting is hardwired to memory.
You learn and retain information longer when you write it out by hand, studies show.
Why do you think all those school teachers made you take so many notes?
Handing out copies of notes and lessons is more natural, but you’ll remember the material better if you write it down yourself.
Handwriting connects with long-term memory better than typewriting.
The majority of literature arts classes in schools still use printed books.
Also, there are 4.9 billion individuals across the globe that have no access to the Internet and continue to rely on print for information and education.
Print That Ad!
There is no question that print advertising was one of the biggest victims of the digital revolution.
Advertising dollars were funnelled away from newspapers and magazines ads and channelled toward digital advertising.
However, while the digital revolution hit printed newspapers and magazines hard, print advertising is still alive and well.
That’s because consumers trust the same information more if it’s in print rather than strictly digital.
Print ads grabbed the top spot for consumer trust, with an impressive 82%, in a recent survey conducted by Marketing Sherpa.
Print advertising engages more senses and therefore, can be highly effective.
Consumers browse print ads completely differently than digital banners and pop-ups. (Which, frankly, are pretty annoying!)
Print readers feel pages, hear paper — they interact with print on a more immersive level.
As a result, print brings your marketing message to consumers in a way digital can’t.
Direct mail campaigns couldn’t exist without a paper backbone.
Half of US consumers prefer direct mail over email, and direct mail provides the best response rates among all direct marketing mediums.
We couldn’t do it without you, paper!
Little Bits Of Paper
They’re everywhere, and they won’t go away. Little bits of paper remain a part of our everyday lives.
The cashier at the supermarket hands you a paper receipt. (Did you come here with a handwritten shopping list?)
Paper receipts make it easier to spot errors on bills and financial documents (just ask your accountant!).
Depending on your organisational skills, print receipts may be easier to keep track of (mine get lost).
However, what would year-end celebrations be without an envelope stuffed with holiday gift receipts?
In addition to printed receipts, paper products follow us everywhere, all day long.
Paper powers our passports, shopping lists, Post-It notes, envelopes, and lunch bags.
Without paper, how would we enjoy scratch-off lottery tickets or confetti?
To anyone who predicts the death of paper in the digital age, we have two words: toilet paper!
Printing On The Homefront… and Home Office
Printing is also alive and well in small businesses and home offices around the globe.
Low-cost multifunction printers (MFP) can transform any home office into an international business centre with the ability to fax, scan, copy, and print.
Conversely, many businesses, especially larger companies, are partnering with managed print services (MPS) to handle their printing chores.
While MPS can alleviate the headache of ordering supplies and maintaining machines, keeping print jobs in-house isn’t difficult with a bit of planning.
Ordering original supplies is easy once you know your print volume, and maintaining office machines can be as simple as keeping your printer and toner cartridges clean.
Beyond maintenance issues, responsible paper users (and digital consumers) need to consider their environmental impact.
The “paperless revolution” has reduced paper waste but has increased e-waste tenfold.
Discarded electronic devices are the most toxic global waste threat to emerge in the last two decades.
It’s estimated that more than 70% of heavy metals in American landfills result from electronic waste.
According to a 2006 United Nations report, 50 million metric tons of electronic waste is discarded every year.
Electronic waste – from cell phones to computers to microwave ovens – contain potentially harmful materials like lead, cadmium, beryllium and flame retardants.
If only it were just paper clogging up our landfills!
Don’t Touch My Paper!
Paper-Based print media is here to stay. There’s no denying the powerful benefits of digital.
However, paper still holds an essential place in our digital world.
Paper brings a level of comfort and trust that digital media fails to inspire.
Maybe its retro nostalgia. Perhaps it’s hardwired into our brains.
However, humanity had widely expressed itself and shared information using paper since 740 AD, when the first newspaper was printed in China, (and much earlier than that for map-makers).
Even when we have other options, we keep coming back to paper, and we show no signs of slowing.
To those who claim that paper is dead in the digital age… long live paper!