Throwing The Book (Of Opinions) On “Will Print Media Survive?” – IMRAN™

In the long run……

This is one of the questions I have seen asked for my literally 3 decades spent living in America (this coming week!) The irony of this question is that the words print and media have some overlap. Media, as in the industry encompassing information, news, knowledge, views, commentary, and print, a medium of distributing that content.
So, if the question is, will the “media” (industry) survive…… indeed, the answer is Yes, the real problem of fascism style labeling of real news as fake news and real(ly) fake news as (alternative?) facts notwithstanding, Will PRINT as a medium used by the media (industry) survive, is a more complex one. In the long run (when we are all dead anyway, as John Maynard Keynes said and wrote, ironically, in print, a long time ago), the pace of innovation, the sheer volume of information and knowledge, the staggering number of content types, content creators, and content creators, will make it practically impossible to rely on printed paper as the mainstream mass-use medium.
There are not enough trees, one could say, to sustain that volume of paper production, without destroying the remaining forests of the planet, regardless of how much reforestation gets done. Also, if we look at the real long run, when increasing numbers of us will be able to explore space travel, there is just no practical sense in bringing printing equipment on space rockets and even spaceships, much less trees and other plant forms to produce traditional paper. Plus, the amount of information we are already used to having at our fingertips just would not translate into printed paper as a practical means to carry it around.
Having said that, however, I will also say this, or as another great mind said last century or even earlier, predictions of the death of paper/print are exaggerated. When computers came on the scene, with dot matrix, inkjet, laser and color laser printers soon following, the actual production and consumption of paper grew massively.
That rate of growth, especially in a planet starved of space to store the paper, or grow the raw materials for paper, plus a species (not)hell-bound on finding new places to live on in space, will not be sustainable. So, I see traditional, especially high quality paper based printing becoming a growth industry, where the vanity of having a hardbound book rather than just being the author of an eBook, will ensure its survival for a while, much like vinyl albums are still around despite higher resolution audio sampling of today’s digital music libraries fitting in our back pockets.
Another interesting twist may be the very notion of paper to be printed on. If the current pace of innovation continues, what is to keep us from not having literally infinite printed books, where the actual electronic screens become so thin and so embedded into plant and forest based paper pages, that we could still be holding a paper book or two in hand, where flipping pages gives the tactile experience we are used to for millennia, but with all the words of the universe surrounding us in an invisible omnipresent network.
What do you think?

Imran Anwar
Tampa Bay, Florida
12/31/2018

© 2018 IMRAN™

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