The printed page’s Enduring appeal
There’s nothing quite like print: the feeling of a newspaper in your hands, the sound that pages make as you flip them over, the scent of the paper, or of the binding of a new novel. All of these contribute to an experience that truly cannot be replicated by anything else. But faced with the modern world, what is the future of print? The answer to this question is more complicated than one might think.
Technologies have rapidly developed throughout the past couple of decades, and with this continuous growth comes inevitable change. One of the most prominent innovations has been the digitization of literature that used to be exclusively printed. Unlike physical materials, virtual access to books, magazines, and newspapers is just a few clicks away, and the popularity of this virtual convenience has only skyrocketed. The appeal is understandable; after all, why would one want to go through the hassle of leaving home to purchase a physical copy of a book when a digital version can be procured in seconds, and for a fraction of the cost? This ease, compounded by the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic preventing frequent visits to libraries, bookstores, or newspaper distribution areas, has taken a massive toll on printed media in the past few years. According to Statistics Canada, the revenue of newspaper publishers in Canada went down a whopping 21.9 percent from 2018 to 2020, and the trend has only grown since.
Given the above evidence, it’s clear that printed media is on a decline. However, will it ever truly die? From established publishers to average people, most people have reached a consensus: a resounding ‘No.’ One of the most prevalent responses is the tangible and intimate experience that simply cannot be replicated with digital media. Holding a physical newspaper or Magazine allows Readers to Engage with content distraction-free and more immersively rather than reading from an ad-filled, battery-powered screen. This can be a refreshing step away from using phones or computers to consume media. In addition, according to Norwegian SciTech Newsit is easier for some people to read content in print form, especially those who may have difficulty reading from a screen due to visual impairments.
Another reason for print media’s continuation is the better absorption of information and details that comes with reading a physical text. The National Taiwan Normal University conducted a study where 50 participants were split into digital and print reading groups, made to read a six-page article, and were tested afterwards on their reading comprehension. Upon completion, the study found that participants who read print copies of the material retained the information significantly better than those who read the material digitally. The eye movement and reading of the text from participants who read print copies were also more deliberate and meticulous than the digital readers, which is believed to have led to their higher reading comprehension. This experiment shows that not only is print easier to read, it’s also better for true retention of material, which enhances the reading experience for both leisure and research. The novel appeal, better readability, and superior retention of information from print are not lost on people. According to studies by Statista, around 650 million physical books are sold every year, and over 75 percent of people prefer paper reading materials over digital ones.
Finally, print media in the form of Newspapers and Magazines is more likely to have a strong sense of identity and community associated with it that is difficult to replicate online, in my opinion. For example, physical Newspapers are more often associated with a particular geographic location or community, such as the Toronto Star or the Loudoun Times-Mirrorand Readers feel a sense of connection to that community through the paper, based on my observations.
While the rise of digital media has had a significant impact on the print media industry, it has not been able to stop it entirely, and likely never will. The reasons why people continue to read and enjoy print media are endless. As long as digital technology isn’t able to truly replicate that experience, print media will continue to have a significant place in our society.