The emergence of the Internet brought upon a digital revolution of how information is both created and stored. As a result, the landscape of media consumption, is shifting quicker than anybody could have possibly anticipated. In fact, many are singing the swan song of corporeal books and printed information, as the world marches towards an increasingly digitized age. But in truth, it may not be all that simple, because for a variety of reasons that stretch from the practical to the psychological, paper may in fact be around for quite awhile yet.
Based on the current beleaguered state of of newspapers, this claim seems almost absurd. Print newspapers seem to have taken the full brunt of the rise of digital media, as numbers around the world are showing the rapid decline of newspaper sales. Statistics from stateofthemedia.org shows the shocking data: from 2003 to 2012, American newspapers sales from advertisements plummeted from over 46,000$ to just a little over 22,000$. In response, many newspapers and magazines have seen it fit to make the transition to become strictly online news providers. One of the world’s oldest newspapers: Lloyd’s List newspaper printed its last material copy of the news outlet in December of 2013, declaring that from now they would operate solely on the inter-webs to bring people crucial information. it seems all the more likely many more newspapers and magazines will follow suit, especially the UK’s Guardian, which has openly admitted in the face of declining sales, that they are working towards the paper strictly existing online. But what’s important to remember is that newspapers are just one facet of media that is distributed on a wide-range scale, and depending from what angle is being perceived, the landscape looks very, very different. Newspapers are simple there to carry crisp and concise information, something that obviously a digital alternative would do better, at least in terms of distribution and speediness of updates. When the needs of the readers become much more complex, that’s when simply reading words from a screen simply doesn’t seem to cut it anymore.
Take the second piece of media formally associated with paper: books. According to Statista.com, book sales have remained relatively stable for the last few years, while The Kindle, Amazon’s digital alternative for printed novels, has done abysmal in sales, at least in comparison to expected numbers. Investment website Forbes.com estimates an annual revenue of 265$ million to 530$ million a year for Amazon every year from e-books, which may seem like a lot, except when you compare that to the net worth of Amazon’s CEO: Jeff Bezos, who Forb.com estimated at about 29.9 billion dollars.
All of this information points a deeper, more ingrained psychological aspect to why paper may not be circling the metaphorical drain quite yet. While reading has shown to improve comprehension and concentration, e-books are plagued by many minor annoyances that material copies simply do not have. The brain isn’t able to process information as thoroughly through a digital format, getting more easily distracted from processing, reading e-books for long periods can cause eye-sores and headaches, and needless to say, you never need to worry about a paper book running out of batteries. The Washington Post recently published an article in February that showed a staggering majority of college students polled prefer traditional paper books to their electronic counterparts, for many of these exact reasons.
When asked, people might say that paper is falling out of the eye of public media as the Internet becomes increasingly relevant to society. But on closer inspection, they might realize that that paper in truth adds psychological and practical advantages to the reading experience, advantages that aren’t likely to be implemented into a digital format any time soon. It’s difficult to imagine in our modern world that a better alternative to paper for storing information won’t eventually be perfected, but as it stands currently, paper doesn’t seem to be on the way out, at least in the foreseeable future. The simple truth is that the world of the Internet is still one that is being built, one still in its adolescence, and in the kaleidoscope of the new possibilities available, we’re still figuring what works currently. In some areas, like how we get our news, the digital revolution seems undoubtedly the future, but as shown, not all areas of media or the human experience is going to translate immediately and smoothly into this new era. Like everything, an adjustment period will be needed, and that adjustment period will likely last longer for paper than we will see in the rest of lifetimes.
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