The Future of Print

Today, nearly everything that we have in print was in digital form at some point. Newspaper page layouts, articles, magazines, books, all begin on the computer. I am typing this blog post with a keyboard onto a computer, and it will live in the digital world. It can be read by thousands, without ever being printed on paper. We have seen printing technology evolve from the early paper and printing press from China, to the Gutenberg press, to the linotype, and to the highly digitally-aided printing we have today. This evolution will continue to transform the way we record words, until eventually print culture will be entirely phased out by digital culture.

On the subway, people commuting to and from work, to various destinations, are immersed not in physical books or newspapers, but in e-readers, tablets, and cell phones. These devices not only allow you to display text in an easily readable format, but also have the capabilities of storing and displaying thousands of different books at a time. Many avid readers today own dedicated e-readers that allow them to literally bring their entire library with them in a single portable device. While printed books may still be more popular than e-books today, it is much more economical and convenient to opt for e-books. When this technology and way of reading becomes universally adopted, the publishing process will become digital, and physical books will be printed in much fewer quantities.

Newspapers and magazines are already adapting to this new digital era. Every major newspaper and magazine publisher already has digitized versions of their publications available, and more subscribers are opting for these rather than the daily or weekly delivery of news to their front door or to the mailbox. News articles and updates can be published to the Internet in a matter of seconds, while news that is printed to newspaper and other periodicals require printing and distributing. Digital delivery and publishing saves a lot of intermediate work.

We now have the technology to replace all of our information and written communications with digital versions. We have e-books, e-mail, digital news and periodicals; all the printed material that we interact with daily can be digitized. In the same way that hand-set type was replaced by linotype, eventually, the convenience and ease of distributing this digital ‘printed’ matter will be enough to completely transform our ‘print culture’ into a ‘digital culture.’

The Star Spangled Banner, set in lead type. Maryland Institute College of Art. Photograph by Sharon Li.

The Star Spangled Banner, set in lead type. Maryland Institute College of Art. Photograph by Sharon Li.

Letterpress printing studio. Maryland Institute College of Art. Photograph by Sharon Li.

Letterpress printing studio. Maryland Institute College of Art. Photograph by Sharon Li.

 

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