Paper or Digital

The choice between digital communications and paper-and-ink publications
is, in our opinion, much more important to our culture at large than the more familiar choice “paper or plastic?” “Digital” in this context means the world wide web, the internet, and various forms of keyboard, audio, and video and touch-panel communications. Of course there are all sorts of digital contraptions in the consumer market–digital watches, clocks, and whatnot, but they are alternatives to analog devices, and not what we address here.

What is your personal experience of the transition from paper to digital communications? For me, the transition appears to be largely a generational thing. In my family, I had the opportunity and pleasure to know one great-grandfather and three grandparents. They most assuredly had nothing to do with computers in their lifetimes. My parents are now both aged 84. My father accumulated five academic degrees and made some use of computers toward the end of his teaching career and into his retirement 20 years ago. My mother, on the other hand, grew up on a farm, married, and raised five children without any urge to even learn to type, let alone use computers.

My generation made the transition en masse. I and my siblings had no benefit of computers until early adulthood, and pervasive influence ever since. My children were using computers when they were still in grade school. Now grown, these young adults seek specific or technical information almost exclusively via computers and use printed materials—paperback books, crossword puzzles, and that sort of thing– largely for recreational purposes. To summarize, the transition in my family is almost black-and-white: from nothing by computer to almost everything by computer, in a matter of two generations. I think this is a typical transition pattern across the country.

All Plastics publications in the traditional paper-and-ink format face the choice in this era of remaining paper-and-ink publications, of becoming exclusively digital, or doing both. Plastics Technology (a Gardner publication) and Plastics News (a Crain publication) and are among those continuing, so far at least, to appear in both print and digital form.

The former Plastics Machinery & Auxiliaries was discontinued as a print product and its product data was at least partially delivered in its sister paper publications Modern Plastics Worldwide and Injection Molding magazines. Those two subsequently abandoned print altogether and went digital under the current Plastics Today heading. Subsequently, Plastics in Canada merged with Canadian Plastics. of subscribers to the Plastics in Canada e-newsletter get the Canadian Plastics weekly e-newsletter , according to a Canadian Plastics announcement.

Profitability is no doubt the nub of the matter in this overall transition. Publishing revenue historically came largely from advertising. Subscription revenue has only ever covered some costs in the B2B (Business-to-Business) sector. It was not considered a real source of profitability, but this is changing. Consumer and business periodicals such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times are charging subscription fees for use of some or all of their digital products.

Novatec is an example of a company that doesn’t have a horse in the “paper or digital?” race. Or you could say it has a horse in both races. Novatec delivers information via the plastics related magazines, whether print-only, digital-only, or both. It also exhibits at industry shows and conducts Webinars, in an effort to disseminate information in both the traditional channels and the new channels as they emerge. Wherever there is a format for consideration of plastics conveying technology, Novatec aims to participate.

–Merle R. Snyder,

P.S This commentary is republished by permission of Novatec, Baltimore, MD,
which originally included it in the Conveying segment of the Plastics Technology Online Knowledge Center. Novatec is a leading supplier of a wide variety of auxiliary equipment to the plastics processing industry. Contact Novatec at


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