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The fate of paper in the computer age.

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             When my job was operating a printing press in the late 70's, the printing trade journals were bemoaning the demise of paper. According to the popular philosophy of the time, it was only inevitable that printing industry would eventually collapse in the face the of paper-less, money-less society made possible by the advent of the digital computer.

           COMPUTERS!    Those miraculous machines destined to revolutionize every aspect of commerce. May 1972 Popular Science Magazine quotes an expert, "It is conceivable that, by the turn of the century, computers may be smaller than a house!"

           As it turned out, the paper industry had nothing to worry about. I am sure we have all watched a printer churn through several reams of paper typing one character per sheet. Even with advanced microprocessors, it is STILL not possible to print JUST ONE page. Have noticed that the printer ALWAYS has to have the last laugh? Even if there is nothing to publish, the printer will always eject a second page. Why is that? Its as if the printer has to say, "HA HA! Take That!"

           And so, today we have a study released by the AP entitled: "Boomers Still Prefer Printed Pages"

           Preliminary data from a report shows older tech elite, ages 42 to 62, are fond of technologies yet fall back on more traditional ways and means of doing things. Forty-four percent of this group go on-line for news on a typical day, but many more, 60 percent, pick up the newspaper.    (Huh? 44+60 = 104)
           By comparison, 39 percent of the younger tech elite, ages 18 to 29, get news on-line and 42 percent read a newspaper.

           The pattern reflects social conditioning, it is noted. "When the high-tech, 50-year-olds were learning to gather information, they went to card catalogues. They relied on stacks of books in the library," a spokesman said. "For young folks, pretty much everything is done electronically."
End Quote

           Not really, Methinks. Within a +/- 4 % error rate, the results show that roughly 40 % of ALL people go on-line for their news. But, it is the older folks who read MORE news in the form of printed media. Therefore, more of the older folks are reading more news.

           My spin from this data is that younger generation is moving away from print media somewhat and not quite as interested, in general, with the news as the older generation. All in all, a pretty unremarkable finding. You probably could have surmised the results for free without the benefit of an expensive study.

           But my spin doesn't read as well as the AP Headline. Imagine reading the banner headline:  "STUDY SAYS - YOUNGER GENERATION IS MOVING AWAY FROM PRINT MEDIA SOMEWHAT AND IS NOT QUITE AS INTERESTED, IN GENERAL, WITH THE NEWS AS THE OLDER GENERATION !!!"      (Yawn).

           But, I think the paper industry has a bright future even with the looming new generation. For instance, to board an airliner with an E-Book, it must be sanitized, scrutinized, radiated, x-rayed, disassembled and declared. A paperback book rides the conveyer belt to be delivered right next to your keys and loafers.

           And paperwork doesn't crash.

           Paper documents can be read no matter which version of Acrobat Reader you currently have loaded.

           But let's face it. The real reason older folks will prefer print media to electronic media is that it travels nicely to the rest room. I am sure that as the younger generation comes to terms with the realities of aging, they will also embrace print media for all of its convenience.

           And, then, The future generation will need to commission another expensive survey to obtain similar (yawn) results.   The cycle is destined to repeat...


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