The Case for Paper

Lately the terms “digital divide” and “internet inequality” have gained prominence. Both are used to describe the gulf between those who have ready access to computers and the internet, and those who do not. Whether due to poverty or unreliable infrastructure, the fact is that many do not have a convenient and dependable connection to the World Wide Web.

We receive so many wonderful comments from readers of Center’s magazine The Holy Encounter. They have been blessed by its contents and not only read it cover to cover, but also save the issues to refer to later. But if it were only a digital publication, many would miss out and not be able to enjoy it. Take Kate, for example, a reader in Puerto Rico who wrote to tell us of the importance of receiving our printed magazine, since her remote area is plagued by “sketchy” internet service. Or Betty who is currently incarcerated in a California prison and not allowed to freely surf online.

While accessibility is certainly a vital concern, it turns out that there is more to print than we might first realize. Besides being a lifeline for those behind bars, the economically disadvantaged, or people living far from population centers, a tangible hardcopy of written works can have many other benefits. Vern recently wrote to us saying…

Dear Beverly,
Normally I receive The Holy Encounter online. For some reason the latest issue was mailed to me. I find I don’t read everything online, but I did so with the printed copy. Please keep sending them. Thank you!

There is so much conversation about tangible, printed magazines and books becoming antiquated, and yet research is showing us the value of this type of media often surpasses the online approach. If you are like us, this probably surprised you. Our Center has maintained its printed materials because, frankly, we like them! But we now have some scientific (and psychological) proof of the benefits of the old-fashioned concept of holding paper in your hands.

A study of 4,500 European consumers last year revealed that 80% of people prefer reading on paper rather than on digital media. Out of this, the “digital natives” (18–24-year-olds) mirrored the same results, with 83% feeling that it was nicer to read off paper. From the same group, 78% had also expressed the opinion that print and paper are more pleasant to the touch.

The study discovered many reasons why people would prefer physical copies over online versions.

  • First, there’s a sense of comfort that comes from holding and reading a printed copy. Besides, a physical volume can beautify your coffee table or be a conversation starter!
  • Next, familiarity with a physical copy makes it easier to find crucial information. Online media sites are less intuitive; one article leads to the next through multiple links, creating a disorientating never-ending cycle of articles. Navigation is only obvious at the home page, which could become a hassle to return to after finishing each article.
  • Psychologically, tangible media increases the processing of emotionally powerful stimuli and memory. In an experiment, when material on cards was shown to participants, they registered higher activity in the area of the brain that integrates visual and spatial information. This means that physical material is more ‘real’ to the brain. Therefore, it would better stimulate memory because it engages with spatial memory networks.
  • The study revealed that print is a cognitive media, making it easier to introduce complex issues and topics to readers. It also enhances the ability of the brain to retain information that it has read.
  • We clock in so much facetime with computer screens at work that most of us have a screen-avoidance tendency by the time we leave the office or finish work. Often, the last thing we want to do is look at a computer for pleasure.

Many people think that by not receiving paper media they are saving the environment. The Holy Encounter and many other publications today are printed on recycled paper or paper from trees that were raised for this exact purpose. Additionally, even though there is an obvious cost to printed material, there is a cost for online media as well, although the cost of online material is not often as apparent.

Over Miracle Distribution Center’s 43 years of service, we have endeavored to keep current, but to also stay true to what we know is of service to our readers. Our intention is to continue to present our materials in both digital and physical formats. If you would like to start receiving the print version of The Holy Encounter, simply click the button below.

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