Is print really dead, or has it just been sleeping?

Is print really dead, or has it just been sleeping?

Books or printed articles take you into another world where you get lost in the richness of the vocabulary.

Does printed content have a role in our future? Or is it dead in the water? I asked UK-based billing, payroll and printing consultant Caroline McCormack to share her views…

Can you imagine a world without any printed publications, books, catalogues, and leaflets?

A world with no newspapers to read, only digital screens, in shops, on buildings, airports, buses and public places … in fact everywhere you go, you see digital screens?

How would it feel to never read from a book or turn over the page?

Print is all around us from the billboards you see in towns and in bus shelters to the newspapers and magazines you find at your doctor’s office or surgery.

Print is everywhere because it’s effective, has impact, is used for advertising and information and has longevity and authority.

There is a misconception that digital has taken over from print but nothing could be further from the truth.

The ongoing debate over which medium is better, print or digital, has been done to death.

It is whichever medium you feel comfortable reading and using.

Both media are great for reading content, with advantages and disadvantages.

When you read in digital mode you can ‘skim’ the post or article, make notes and hi-light text.

Books or printed articles take you into another world where you get lost in the richness of the vocabulary. How often can you recall the plot of a story or an article you’ve read in print but seem to forget the post you read on a website or blog this morning?

The printed word offers solace and tranquility in an otherwise manic permanently online digital world. There is something unique and cathartic about turning the page of a book: an experience you simply don’t get with an e-book.

There is nothing more delightful than watching and listening to your child read from a book.

I’m an advocate of both print and digital. I love and live in both worlds. But if you held a gun to my head and forced me to choose my favourite, it would be the printed form every time.

Print is the first medium children come into contact with when they learn to read.

Imagine doing that on a tablet device? A child can’t get the same interaction with an iPad as s/he can with a book, because the child can touch and feel the pages … s/he becomes involved with the story.

Interactive screens are full of distractions such as hyperlinks and pop up adverts that take you away from what you were reading.

You follow a hyperlink and wonder how you got there and by the time you’ve clicked through several hyperlinks you’re so distracted you’ve forgotten what you were reading about in the first place.

Printed content gives you a feeling of progression as you turn the pages; there is a sense of fulfillment when you finish reading a book or a printed article.

 Why are printed adverts so effective?

A great design grabs our attention and takes us on a journey. We are more likely to respond to the branding or the strapline of an advert than an online pop up ad which we find annoying.

89% of consumers get their ideas from a print ad that starts them on a journey toward buying the product.

We trust print more than the digital version and there is comfort in walking out of a showroom with a printed brochure in your hand before you make the final decision to purchase that car or sofa.

Why bother comparing the two media?

  • Print invariably comes out with a bashing and the figures suggest the future of print looks bleak.
  • Sales of printed books fell by £98m in 2013, a drop of 6.5% from 2012.
  • In 2013 £1.416bn was spent on paper and hardbacks books. (Nielson)
  • Consumer data figures for 2013 show that more than 2m UK users joined the digital book market. ( I wasn’t one of them. )

If the future of the printed word is in decline why do glossy magazines and publications appear regularly on the newspaper stands?

Fashion brands use visual imagery to promote and define their brand and message through fashion magazines and use digital to engage with their audience. Print is the first point of contact that consumers have with a brand.

Net-A-Porter the online high-end fashion retailer launched ‘Porter’ in February of this year, in spite of a drop in UK magazine sales of more than 6.3%.

Declining sales do not mean the end for printed publications.

More digital platforms provide more ways to connect and engage with people, with print being the first touch point.

Print touches you on an emotional and subconscious level with passion and knowledge at the heart of great content.

Readers will gravitate towards publications that deliver well-written content.

Digital and the printed word are married

However no-one has really appreciated how well they work together and how much they need each other.

Is print lost, dead, finished?

Not just yet. The next time you want to escape from this never-ending-always-on-digital world, take the time to flick through a gorgeous magazine, or read that book you keep meaning to start … and see where it takes you!

How do you feel the future’s looking for print? Please share your views!

Is print really dead, or has it just been sleeping?

Caroline McCormack

Caroline McCormack is an independent outsourcing consultant helping companies by reducing the risk and cost associated with outsourcing billing, payroll and printing. Passionate about providing the right solution for the customer first and foremost. Caroline loves blogging, writing and F1 Motor Racing. Connect with Caroline on google+

photo credit: pedrosimoes7 via photopin cc




  1. Christine Williams says

    I use both, having signed up with Kindle for iPad recently when planning a holiday. I found ebooks useful because they 1) take up less space in tight holiday packing 2) can be read in bed without having the light on (not so disturbing for partner!) 3) can be easily carried around when out and about for the day (trains, car journeys, for example).
    However, I LOVE my local book shop, library, newsagent etc. I just couldn’t live without the printed page; the journey from meeting the characters in a story for the first time, the tussle with a newspaper that won’t fold properly (!), the joy of choosing a book as a gift……… so many reasons.
    For business, digital media is a must. I write (1 novel, 1 non-fiction, short stories and interviews for local magazines, training material for my business women’s group etc) and I simply wouldn’t be able to research, pitch or submit my material without it.
    The risk, however, is that writers and authors (unless they are already well known names) will be unwilling to invest time and energy into producing physical material because the returns aren’t worth while. Publishers are reducing their pools of contributors to the famous and infamous because they believe (with some justification) that the buying public will gravitate to these publications rather than to new, unknown, writers.
    The self-publishing world provides some outlet for those who “have a book in them” but 99% of these will sell their material only to friends and family. Sad, but true.
    We’re in a period of transition but I believe that there’s room for both hard print and digital. The buyer will determine what happens next; that’s you, so be discriminating.

    • I agree absolutely, Christine. What the digital media have given us is an additional means of communication rather than a replacement for what we had before. Just like everyone said TV would kill radio … yet both survived, serving their respective audiences. Good to hear from you and hope to see you on here again soon!


  1. […] The print industry has come in for some pretty heavy criticism for not being forward thinking and innovative. […]

  2. […] The print industry has come in for some pretty heavy criticism for not being forward thinking and innovative. […]