The conventional wisdom on the future of print, if print has a future at all, is that old-fashioned books, magazines, and newspapers will still be around only as long as the generations that grew up with them are still around. But as older readers fade away, so will print because younger generations are all about digital communications. Or are they?
Consider some interesting recent developments and facts:
- The Pew Research Center found the current highest print readership rates are among those ages 18 to 29, and the same age group is still using public libraries in large numbers.
- A new academic study showed that, despite the availability of free e-texts, today’s university students prefer dead-tree-based books because they don’t constantly distract you with a noisy alert to a new email or text message.
- Focus groups of Digital Natives, a.k.a. Millennials, convened by our office showed the participants still value physical mail, especially if it includes some kind of interactive feature.
Put all of this in the context of some recent European studies on the impact of digitization on reading, and maybe print isn’t going away anytime soon: People retain more details when reading a book than reading an e-book. Researchers said the early results suggest the tactile nature of paper and having words affixed to a page seem to help the reader process the text and better remember the story.
A small Norwegian study of high school students came to a similar conclusion, having found that students who read textbooks in print scored significantly better on reading comprehension tests than those students who read digital texts.
So maybe younger readers aren’t so different from older readers. It wouldn’t be the first time conventional wisdom was wrong. In fact, some of the same arguments are made about mail and other paper-based communications. Yet a study done by the UK’s Royal Mail showed physical media generated greater activity in certain parts of the brain and a stronger overall response than digital media. The study supported the concept that touch and tangibility matter to recipients.
What things do you still like to read in print? Which do you prefer to read digitally? Are there other things you still prefer having in hard copy? Do you find you retain information better when reading from hard copy or a digital device?