The gradual decline of hard-media in previous decades has long been a slow-burning ache in the back of the mind of many publishers, industries and institutions. The diminishing nosedive of CD, DVD, magazine and book sales means that the printed word – and image – is becoming less favoured in place of accessible and practical digital downloads.
In the last year, that plummet has rapidly intensified. Computer games, until recently, offered a digital download as a secondary option. Today downloads are the primary choice, forcefully placed in front of our eyes in on-line stores, in favour of the hard copies which are harder to acquire; resulting in the need to actually travel to a shop. Musicians and bands are releasing free downloads on social platforms such as Tumblr, and with most newspapers offering unrestricted access to news articles for free on-line, do we have a reason to print anything any more?
So what does this mean for the future of printing? We will always have the faithful consumers who stick by hard-copies and swear they’ll never switch over to the ‘dark side’, but on a mass scale, we want everything on our hard drive and we want it now. Here are the hard facts on hard-media and why we shouldn’t be worried about it dying out.
Some reasons why print is not dead:
The ‘threat’ often mentioned in the media, consists of the above and aforementioned argument, but what we don’t realise, is that this is simply a minuscule area in the grand scheme of printed consumables. There are, and will be for a long time, many things that purely cannot be replaced by downloads or digitalised variations.
Printed furniture, home wear and food
Take a look around. If you’re at home, you may have wallpaper on your walls; printed wallpaper. Now you couldn’t go and download some wallpaper, could you? The same applies for place mats with designs on them, crockery, plates, the list goes on. Though not exactly a paper print, these things are printed by printers, day in day out, and we don’t yet have a way to substitute that, unless you go down the path of the 3D Printer, and even then you couldn’t have a design on it.
To add to this, have a look at the packaging on your cereal, drinks bottles, cans of pop and pasta packets. It’s all print, and print that isn’t an immediate threat, or even any remote sort of danger.
The point here is that with print you sometimes have to look further beyond what you conventionally consider ‘print’. Newspapers, magazines, designs and posters may be typically what springs to mind, and they are the elements that are evidently in danger, but they are not all elements of print.
Special editions and collectable print
However, not all hope is lost for hard-media, because you can’t download what you can’t download. That is to say, the download must match the hard-copy in a complete way – minus the hard copy – for it to be the suitable option for the consumer. When a hard copy becomes a special edition, a one-off or collectable that offers something extra to the buyer, then it will ultimately prevail as the winner, keeping the threat of digital media at bay temporarily.
A good example of this is the steel book dvd. The steel book is essentially the same thing as the standard DVD, but contains a glossed, metallic casing with reflective artwork. Things like this are likely to give printed media a boost over downloads, allowing it to continue fighting the battle against new media.
Printed books can also be a collectable edition, with Penguin’s clothbound series and other publishers offering embossed, moulded covers. This is simply the publisher’s way of competing with downloads from Kindle and offering something extra, keeping hard copies of things we love out there and sell able.
Do you think print is dead?
Where do you spend your money? Do you have faith in the printed word and see a future for print? Or do you think digitalis the way forward and that the printed word is soon becoming an archaic, unwanted extra? We’d love to hear your views, so please get involved with commenting below or chat to us on our Twitter, Facebook or Google + pages.