The younger set has confidence in paper

Perhaps you have seen the fascinating and adorable video of a toddler who thinks a print magazine is a broken iPad. She pokes and swipes at it with no results—no hyperlinking, no zooming, no nothing. Notes the parent who filmed the child, “For my one-year-old daughter, a magazine is an iPad that does not work. It will remain so for her whole life. Steve Jobs has coded part of her OS.”

It’s reasonable to assume that young people will be the first to adopt new technology and forgo older technology—such as paper magazines and newspapers. However, that may not be the case, based on a survey conducted by Poll Position, a nonpartisan news, polling, and social-media company. The firm conducted a scientific telephone survey of 1,142 registered voters in the U.S. on December 6, 2011, in which the company asked whether respondents believed the country would ever become a paperless society.

The results, with a margin of error of ±3% and with poll results weighted to be a representative sampling of all American adults, show that 56% of Americans said they don’t think the U.S. would ever be a paperless society, while 20% said yes, one day we’ll all go paperless. Another 24% percent of Americans were undecided or had no opinion on the question.

What’s interesting about the poll is the responses by age. Children might be ready to abandon paper, but the poll found that young adults were less likely than older ones to predict the demise of paper. Of respondents in the 18-29 age group, 63% said the U.S. would never be a paperless society. For the over-65 group, only 42% were confident the U.S. would never become paperless.

Similarly, younger people seem to be willing to pay more for paper. During the week that the New York Times raised its newsstand price to $2.50, Poll Position took a survey and found that 73% of respondents said a single edition of a daily newspaper is never worth $2.50. Among 18-19 year olds, however, only 65% said never.

Of course, young adults may believe paper is inevitable without favoring its continuation. And having no memory of a five-cent daily, they lack the sticker shock of older newspaper readers.

Nevertheless, paper has had a good run and remains versatile. H-P briefly considered getting out of the computer business, but to my knowledge never considered abandoning the printer business. In fact, technology often seems to make it easier to generate paper. Need some semi-log graph paper? Don’t run to the university book store, print your own.

I’ll have more to say on the future of paper in my editorial in the February print issue. Wait for the paper version to land on your desk. Or visit on February 1 and read it online or print it out. You can even paste the text into the AT&T Natural Voices text-to-speech demo and have Crystal, Mike, Rich, Lauren, Claire, Charles, Audrey, or Anjali recite it to you in various English accents.

Sponsored Recommendations


To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Electronic Design, create an account today!