The death of print. Is it imminent? Inevitable?

While I was pursuing a master’s degree in printmaking and book arts, we talked about this issue. A lot. And with the release of the iPad happening tomorrow, people are chiming in with opinions from both sides. Personally, I am torn. As someone who makes prints and binds the occasional book by hand, I have a love for the tangibility that comes with printed matter. I love the weight of a book in your hands, the way the pages feel, and the sound they make when you turn them. I love holding a print and looking closely at the way the ink sits on the paper, the way it smells, and just the sheer beauty of the medium.

At the same time, things like the Kindle and the iPad completely excite me. How great is it to be able to have the books come to you, rather than have to make a trip to the library or book store? (not that I don’t enjoy those activities, but still…) It would be so convenient, and I think I’d probably read more. Not to mention the virtually limitless selection—all at your fingertips.

At Mighty Nice, we of course have an interest in both. After all, we’ve come up with a product that plays both sides, straddling the divide between printed and digital invitations. So how will the print vs. digital debate affect us? The answer remains to be seen—but I, for one, think that the printed invitation is here to stay. Here are 5 reasons why:

  1. THE MESSAGE. Sending a printed invitation to an event communicates much more than just the details of that event. Sure, it will let someone know that they are invited to a gathering, the time, the date, etc. But the fact that the planner took the time to design and send the invite communicates a message, too. It says that the event holds importance to them. It says you should pay attention to it.
  2. THE MEANS. These days, most of us communicate through digital means. We’re e-mailing, texting, tweeting, facebooking, etc. So, when something arrives in your mailbox that isn’t junk mail or a bill, it’s always a nice surprise. The fact an invitation comes via snail mail and is different than how we communicate in our day-to-day lives will make you take notice. It plays right into the message that the sender is trying to convey: “come to my event! It’s important and I want you to be there.”
  3. CULTURE. Our culture is accustomed to sending out invitations for events. Of course cultural norms shift and change, but some things are here to stay. That’s what tradition is all about. It’s not unlike having cake at a celebration…usually, if there’s a cake involved, there will be an invitation of some sort. And, though invites can take as many forms as flavors of cake, I’m pretty sure that the flavor of print will continue to stick around.
  4. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE EITHER-OR. Anna Quindlen touches on this notion in her article Turning the Page: The future of reading is backlit and bright, which showed up in this week’s edition of Newsweek (and prompted me to write this post). She alludes to the fact that the invention of television caused people to predict the death of radio, movies the death of live theater, and recorded music the death of concerts. But we still enjoy all of these forms, don’t we? There is a place for digital and printed matter in our lives. We can have and enjoy both—the birth of one form doesn’t necessarily trigger the death of another.
  5. BEAUTY. Let’s face it: a letterpressed invitation printed on gorgeous paper is just so… pretty. It will always appeal to your emotions in a way that a flat screen just can’t. One of the first people I ever printed wedding invitations for told me that when they arrived and she saw the invites for the first time, she cried. I think you’d be hard pressed (pun intended ;-)) to find someone describing a similar experience from a completely digital, on-screen invite.

Don’t get me wrong, digital has its place and makes perfect sense in many situations. I am not anti-digital. I just think printed invites aren’t going away anytime soon…what do you think?

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