No, Paper Isn’t Dead and Isn’t Likely to be for a long, long, long time…

The demise of paper has been predicted for a century, but the end is nowhere in sight according to a recent article in “The Week.”

I heartily agree with this sentiment and I’ve seen interesting examples of just why this is likely to be the case in classes I teach at a local university. While most people today claim that “the millennials prefer electronic communication,” that’s not necessarily true–just ask the millennials!

In a marketing research class we do some in-class work on conducting focus groups so that they can learn the process to conduct their own focus groups as part of a semester-long project. Some of the issues we’ve explored in these classes include:

  • What are your views on moving to online textbooks?
  • What are your views on online classes?
  • What are your views on electronic banking?

What have we found? A strong preference remains for traditional forms of communication. Online textbooks as an option, maybe–as an edict, no. Online courses–most indicate they prefer live instruction. Electronic banking–interestingly (at least to me) there has been strong sentiment toward making face-to-face connections. Their responses interested me so I did some additional research on the topic for an article in “EContent Magazine” about “tech fatigue,”  a real issue that researchers are beginning to explore.

Through the process I was able to connect with researchers from JWT, a global advertising agency and learned about their report “Embracing Analog: Why Physical is Hot” which reveals, among other things, that there is a shift occurring back to some “old” ways of doing things: like board games, or handwritten notes or, yes, connecting with real people in real life–face to face. The report also indicates that, despite commonly held wisdom to the contrary, the younger generation is not eschewing paper–not even close! They find comfort in reading real books.

This doesn’t mean that digital is going away. Of course it’s not. But, what it does suggest is that paper is not yet dying–not even close. Just as when television emerged to compete with radio, digital represents a new option–not a replacement.

Some–including me–find that very comforting.

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