Print vs. Pixel – The re-birth of printing

Print vs Pixel - the rebirth of printing

In a world which is becoming increasingly digital, it is encouraging to know that physical printing is enjoying renewed popularity — and in no small way. Not long ago, with the arrival of electronic literature in the form of Acrobat PDFs, e-shots, ‘page-turning’ browser app’s and even the one time massive growth of e-books, one could have been forgiven for thinking that ‘traditional’ printing was well and truly on its way out. However statistics now show that there has been a reversal in the fortunes of physical printing and, unlike the music industry, it is bucking the digital trend and is growing in popularity. Meanwhile its electronic equivalent, which seemed for a while almost ready to take its place, is losing ground drastically.

Take e-books as a ‘print vs. pixel’ barometer

Many predicted that printed books would soon be a thing of the past when e-book readers like the Kindle arrived on the scene. Indeed the sale of printed books did drop radically while e-book sales grew enormously for a couple of years (a 1260% sales increase between 2008 and 2010). However this trend is now reversing. We are now seeing a mass migration back to the printed word. Forrester Research reports that last year sales of e-readers were 40% lower than in their heyday back in 2011 and the sale of e-books accounted for only a fifth of book sales in the entire U.S. The Association of American Publishers also reports that paperback sales are increasing — sharply. So the predicted print revolution, in the form of digitisation which affected digital music so profoundly, never actually came to fruition for the printed word. Some surveys also suggest that young readers prefer reading printing on paper, despite being ‘digital’ down to their DNA. The American Booksellers Association says that they’re now in a healthier position than they’ve been for years. Printed matter matters again and major publishers are indeed radically expanding warehouse storage to cope with the re-born demand for physical, printed products.

So what has helped printing to prevail, despite the odds?

Again using printed books vs. digitised books as a good example, I for one tried a few e-books on my new Kindle and, for the first couple it seemed fantastic. But this feeling was short-lived as I found it difficult to obtain particular books that I’d had in mind, while also tiring of the cold, sanitised feel of the electronic e-book reader. I missed the comforting intimacy of the paper, the rustle of the turning page, the feel and even smell of the book and, of course, the full colour, graphically printed cover with its notes, review extracts and ancillary information. I also missed owning something physical and tangible. In contrast to the real thing, e-books felt intangible and sterile. ‘Sterilised’ really sums it up.

Printed paper has a character and an identity

Printed paper has a feel, it has a texture, it has an identity and it even has a smell. They combine to form the character of the printed piece in question. Try accomplishing that with a digital version of the same thing — it’s simply not possible. Digitally reading what should have been printed matter is rather akin to viewing the world with one eye closed. Things look kind of similar but something is missing. Everything is two-dimensional, soulless and that word again — sterile.

Printed finishes & processes cannot be digitised

Give me a printed version any day; I prefer three dimensions. I enjoy the character of a printed piece. I enjoy the jewel-like qualities of metallic foil blocking and litho metallic ink. I enjoy the look and feel of matt and gloss lamination or gloss spot UV varnish. I appreciate the juxtaposition of a thick cover vs. thinner internal pages. I enjoy the textures of paper, any embossing and subtle varnishes. Try mimicking any of them via digital pixels and it’s simply never going to happen in any convincing way.

Well produced printing appeals to the senses

When was the last time an electronic document ‘felt’ nice? If your experiences are like me, the answer is probably never. In complete contrast, physical printed pieces often have a ‘pick me up’ appeal. When designed with flair and printed professionally they are attractive in many senses of the word. They beg to be read. They impress. They engage. They can be easily pocketed for future revisits. They can form a lasting reminder of your service or product. Electronic publications never tick so many boxes. They are a means to an end – for sure – but a poor second cousin to print. Those ‘page-turning’ PDFs, with their somewhat idiosyncratic controls and irritating sound files, cut through any concentration when the digital pages ‘turn’. For me they are rather gimmicky and I’d say even annoying. Probably not what the author had in mind!

Print to impress!

So next time you need to give a prospect or customer some corporate sales or product literature, remember that a well-designed, beautifully crafted and professionally printed sales brochure is far more likely to be kept and read, leaving the recipient impressed and engaged via many of their senses. There is simply no alternative to high quality print — and the truth is that there probably never will be.

If you agree, and need to produce a well-designed, high quality piece of sales or marketing literature, please contact Firstpoint Print and we’ll help to make it a roaring success. We are professional printers and qualified graphic designers based in London (branches in London Bridge SE1, Clerkenwell EC1 and Victoria SW1) and produce graphics, litho printing, digital printing and large format printing entirely in-house. Quotations are free and without obligation.