Students reading in two different formatsThe paperless office is a myth. The notion that we are all “going digital” and that “digital content” is the future is about as much sense as the “paperless office” was when it was suggested back in 1975 in Business Week magazine. The notion that we are all going to give up print because we no longer need it is just plain daft.

Indeed, there are services that can turn blogs into printed books, digital magazines into printed publications, or entire sections of Wikipedia into printed tomes. Far from giving up on print, we are obsessed by it.

Yet, sales of e-readers such as the Kindle continue to soar. So what’s going on? if we love print, why are we engaging even more with digital content?

New research from Pew Internet reveals what is happening. Their study found that even though teenagers and young people love digital, they also cannot tear themselves away from print.

What is happening is that people are developing different purposes for different kinds of material. In the past, when we only had one format, print, we had to use it for all of our reading needs. Now we have print, e-readers, websites, smartphones, tablets and we appear to be developing different ways of using them to suit particular needs.

For instance, when you are studying a text book and you need to highlight things, put Post-It notes on particular sections or scribble in the margin that is so much easier with print than on a digital device. But if you just want to read a novel, then an e-reader is a dream device; it saves your place automatically and it can connect you to all the other books by your favourite author so you can download them and carry them around with you to read when you want.

A tablet device, on the other hand, can let you easily read material that is interconnected, which takes you from one document to another with ease. And it lets you store those important items together in a single collected notebook on something like Evernote.

However, for material we need to interact with, it seems we find it hard to tear ourselves away from print.

So it begs the question, what kinds of material do you produce for your visitors? Do you have material they can hop about in, which might be good for a tablet? Do you have simple, straightforward, easy to read material that would be great for an e-reader? And do you have material that requires interaction which can only really work in print?

The Internet is currently in the midst of a “content” revolution with the world and its wife talking about the need to produce a never-ending stream of “digital content”. But as this new research from Pew Internet suggests, that will only satisfy a proportion of your visitors. Gone are the days when we just needed to prepare content; now we need to produce the content in multiple ways to fulfil the different purposes people have. And that means you still need to produce material in print.


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