John D Radcliff, Specializing in Interactive Technology & Education!

Is digital media replacing the printing press?

           The advent of the printing press changed the way material was printed and published.   People called scribes use to reproduce manuscripts and books in a place called a monastic scriptorium which was a place for copying and writing books.  It was very laborious and took a very long time for these scribes to reproduce a written piece of work.   The printing press revolutionized this process which allowed for books and manuscripts to be printed in mass quantities.  

        With the invention of the printing press not only did the scribes have to change their role from scribing to printing, they had to since the printing press made printing text materials more efficient and less laborious then hand printing text.  According to the text book, "Thus it is not uncommon to find former priests among early printers of former abbots serving as editors and correctors.  Just how many scribes turned to printing is uncertain because of the "unsettled character" of terms used in the fifteenth-century tax rolls.  Some printers called themselves "scribes."  So we could look at how scribes were forced to transition their skill sets from writing to becoming more of an editor role with the introduction of this new technology called the printing press.  Some of these people even started their own printing press houses and others probably went into a different line of work.  This is similar to what is happening today in the information age since more and more of our printed material is going to an online digital format. 

        Newspaper readership has declined dramatically and more people are going online.  According to a Washington post online article, "The Dallas Morning News and Newark Star-Ledger each lost about 22 percent in readership of their newspapers."  This is not to mention the decrease in ad revenue, which according to the same article The Washington Post lost $143 million dollars in the first 6 months of 2009.  So trying to pay for the overhead on these mechanical printing presses is getting harder to do since these companies are losing money to online digital media. 

        I know of several people in the newspaper and journalism business who were laid off from this decline.  One friend of mine use to be a journalist for a newspaper in Mckinney Texas and now is an administrative assistant at another company.  This holds true to what happened with the scribes during early modern Europe and how some of them adapted and others simply did not.  One thing I recommended to my friend was becoming an online journalist or diversifying her skills within the field of journalism.  This did not seem of interest to her and with any change comes resistance.  The same thing happened with scribing, which according to Tritehmius the written word on parchment which would last one thousand years with the printed word on paper which would have a shorter life span.  We can now see how off he was and like my friend was resistant to change. 

        So, if people in today’s information age can get their news online and companies can advertise to a larger audience for a cheaper price then it makes sense why these newspaper companies  are struggling.  This is why some of these newspaper companies are starting to deliver their paper online and are charging a monthly membership fee for this service. 


        According to the New York Times, it has been the internet's most popular online newspaper site with an average of 21.5 million unique visitors per month.  Now newspapers are being replaced by digital text and ink which is gaining a lot of popularity.  We can take the Kindle 3 which is an e-book reader which uses digital ink.  This e-book reader has built in WIFI so a person can download a book off of the internet for half or a third of the price as opposed to its printed counterpart. 

        Now newspaper companies are charging a monthly fee through Amazon so that people can download their favorite newspaper onto their Kindle e-reader device.  So instead of lugging around multiple books or newspapers, a person can carry around a small electronic tablet shaped device where they can access all of their favorite printed material.  This is not to mention the advent of PDF and audio books, which can be downloaded then consumed on a portable electronic device.

       Even though printed material will still be around for some time, the advent of digital text is bringing a new medium to the market and once again like the printing press this new digital text technology is in favor of the reader.  The quote on page 24 summarizes this perfectly, “Within a generation the results of this review were being aimed in a new direction – away from the fidelity to scribal conventions and toward serving the convenience of the reader.”  So we can only wait and see what new surprises will be next in this new digital age of text.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.