Documenting the Value of Paper

By | May 22, 2013

The American Forest & Paper Association recently released a report entitled “Documenting the Value of Paper.” As more and more once-printed items move into the digital space, the future of printed materials remains in question. This report addresses that question by offering five distinct ways that paper enriches lives which will likely not diminish in the future. It got me thinking – maybe there is still a market for paper, and therefore and market for print… what do YOU think?

Five Dimensions presented by AF&PA (and some interesting highlights from the report):

  1. Paper informs as a learning tool. Studies show that elementary aged students actually perform better at reading comprehension when reading from paper-based books compared to e-books. Students find it easier and more helpful to employ “active” reading habits (skimming, reading subtitles first, highlighting, underlining, annotating, etc.) in paper-based books.
  2. Paper reaches customers. Direct mail is still cited as the communication channel with the highest ROI for customer contact and retention in B2C marketing, followed by email. A Nielson survey found that respondent’s top three preferences for receiving advertising were paper-based – direct mail, newspapers, and in-store printed displays. Consumers who receive a printed catalog in the mail are more likely to shop online than those who do not receive the catalog. More and more people are “opting out” of email marketing lists.  
  3. Paper is a permanent record for milestones in life. Paper is still used for official documents (birth certificates, graduation diplomas, titles to cars, etc.) Paper also preserves many of life’s meaningful personal moments – think family photos, baby books, childhood artwork, handwritten letters, greeting cards, etc.
  4. Paper is a secure form of documentation and communication. Information stored on paper is easily accessible over a long period of time and does not need to be continuously migrated to newer technologies. Online privacy of personal information and documents is a growing concern. Electronic forms of communicating are less secure than printed forms and are open to hacking, data breaches, identity theft and fraud. In many polls, people generally prefer to have a paper version of important documents.
  5. Paper is a sustainable choice. The paper industry supports sustainable forestry practices and is increasing its recovery of paper and use of recycled fiber. Recent lifecycle assessment studies show that environmental impact of paper and electronic text and communication are relatively similar.

Of course this report naturally favors supporting the role of paper and printed materials in society (it is posted on AF&PA’s website after all). Nonetheless, the information presented is based on legitimate resources and verified studies which provide an interesting literature review and summary of information that already exists. So don’t just take it from me… see for yourself!

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3 thoughts on “Documenting the Value of Paper

  1. Maggie Young

    These are 5 great legitimate arguments for paper that will stand the test of time. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Nicole Schappert Post author

    You are very welcome! I’m glad you found them informative. I’m working on another post for the first week of June which will touch on some of these arguments. In some cases, I’m finding that people’s expectations differ about the future of paper and the future of print. Many see both on the decline, but this article sheds some light on people’s actual preferences and how they may rive the future of print and paper more than technology does. Check back in two weeks for the next post!

  3. Dan

    Good stuff Nicole! Thanks for sharing the link to the AF&PA report.

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