The fact that the move to digital has monumentally altered the way that media is created, spread and consumed has been discussed at length, several times in this very publication.
E-book options have become standard across the literary industry, finding their way into library catalogs, personal devices and class course material lists.
Of course, most magazines and newspapers have digital publications as well as print.
Digital media is certainly more convenient, with one device being able to access any number of e-books and digital publications.
In addition, digital media tends to be cheaper overall.
Still, there is perhaps inherent value to print media, even as the world moves further in the digital direction.
For one, e-publications are notorious for page formatting issues, and there is more of a possibility that multiple, perhaps contradictory versions of one publication could be in circulation.
Not to mention, digital media is inherently dependent on the battery life of the device on which it’s stored.
Digital media is still a developing field and it will be many years before it is clear whether print media will truly be replaced by digital publication.
It is worth discussing, therefore, whether that future possibility is in the best interest of media consumers.
Yes, digital media is beneficial
As an English major, I often feel a sense of guilt for preferring digital media. When I want to read a novel, I get an e-book. When I want to stay informed, I pull up the apps of my favorite newspapers and magazines.
To me, though, the accessibility of digital media is worth any feeling of betrayal towards my major.
Switching to e-books was one of my quickest transitions to the digital world. My hometown library was meek in comparison to the Mikkelsen Library. In lieu of waiting for a book to ship to me, I could just go online and order it.
E-books can also be more financially friendly. While I’m not advocating for theft, e-books can provide information to people who normally wouldn’t be able to afford it. In a sarcastic tweet, Galo Canizares, an author and architecture professor at the University of Kentucky, said he definitely doesn’t tell his students where to go if they want to stumble upon free versions of their required course materials.
Selection and pricing aside, e-books are just easier to manage. I don’t have to worry about leaving my books at home or finding space on my bookshelf. Everything I need is on my computer or phone, and I can read whatever I want whenever I want.
The ubiquity of phones and other devices is also what makes digital versions of other media more appealing to me.
If I ever need to know about something big happening in the world, I don’t need to wait until the next day to read about it in a paper. I remember getting an alert about the Russian invasion of Ukraine minutes after the event took place. While there’s a fair argument to be made about whether we should be connected to the world constantly, the urgency of some events is just too important to push off to the next day.
On a similar note, if I want to read up about something like the culture of South Dakota, I can go to the 605 Magazine website to do so without having to run around town looking for a physical copy. Personally, I prefer to spend my time actually reading stories rather than going on a goose chase.
In the cases of magazines and newspapers, digital versions also tend to have better content. If I’m following a complex story, I can read up on the background information without a paper having to dedicate paragraphs for my benefit.
Additionally, some of these outlets are moving solely to the digital space. Giants of the newspaper world, such as The Independent, have switched to online-only formats. Dotdash Meredith, one of the biggest magazine publishers in the industry, recently cut the print editions of six of its magazines in favor of online versions.
Some of my favorite news outlets — ones like Axios or FiveThirtyEight — have only ever been online.
As digital media becomes more integral to our daily lives, I hope others lose this sense of guilt about using it, as e-books and online outlets have made my media consumption easier and more enjoyable.
No, print media will always be valuable
Like it or not, the world has become quite reliant on technology. While there are many benefits to a technology-based society, people often discredit the value of good old print media. Compared to digital media, print media proves to be the better form.
E-books versus paper books are the perfect subjects to start this hypothetical war. While e-books seem like the initial winner, their only true benefit is offering the ability to search for key terms in texts. Beyond this, e-books only offer frustration.
It’s an awful experience to pull out a computer for class and being met with the dreaded “low battery” symbol. A dead computer becomes even more dire when an e-book textbook is rendered inaccessible.
E-books are also known for page formatting issues. E-book page numbers more than likely won’t correlate with the hard-copy textbook, so when a professor inevitably instructs students to flip to a specific page, someone will be left scrambling.
These e-book failings make paper textbooks superior.
First, paper textbooks are way easier to take notes in. They let students study anywhere without worrying about Wi-Fi and without embarrassingly having to shuffle around to find the right pages.
It is also pretty easy to find second-hand or cheap paper copies of your required course materials. While e-books sometimes offer similarly cheap rental services in the form of temporary access codes, they are often more expensive than a used paper copy. Additionally, paper books never run out of power.
Books are just one form of print media that beat out their electronic counterparts. A similar argument can be made for newspapers. While it’s becoming more and more common to see news outlets reporting digitally, there’s still more value in print news.
Accessibility is a huge area where digital media fails. Not everyone has access to electronic devices and internet connectivity. Print media can be delivered almost anywhere, and it doesn’t require an internet connection or a tech-savvy mind.
Print news is also more credible. Once a paper or magazine is printed, it can’t be edited. An online article, on the other hand, can be re-edited an infinite number of times. The safety net of editing access lets lazy writers off the hook for double and triple checking their facts before publication.
Some may also argue that print media has negative effects on the environment, but when it comes to newspapers, newsprint paper is 100% recyclable and biodegradable. You can even put it in a compost pile.
Newsprint is often made with already recycled material. While digital outlets don’t require paper at all, e-waste made of outdated or broken technological devices isn’t biodegradable and can be toxic in some cases.
Longevity also applies to advertisements found in both digital and print media. A study done with Temple University showed that viewers were more likely to recall advertisement content when viewed through print media. Even from an advertising and business standpoint, print media claims victory.
Yet another downfall for digital media is the blue light that radiates from devices like laptops and smartphones. Long-term exposure to blue light can damage retinal cells and worsen vision. It can even cause cataracts and eye cancer.
With paper media, just avoid reading in dim lighting and your eyes will be just fine.
Yes, there is a time and place for technological media, but this doesn’t mean we should become reliant on it. There is something soothing about being able to physically hold a piece of print media and enjoy that paper smell.
Next time you have the choice between print or digital media, do yourself a favor and choose print.