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The Printed Word Survives
By Jane Watson   Printer Friendly Version

Despite all the ballyhoo about the latest electronic wizardry-e-mail, the net, voice-recognition software-the printed word is here to stay.

Half a millennium ago, the printing press transformed the world. It bonded words to paper and released people from having to rely on their memories and good intentions to carry out their business affairs. Businesses were able to easily expand their sales and services to nearby towns and across the country. Letter writing became an art form and the tree a means of conveying it.

Today the net and its associated gadgets are having a similar impact on businesses and the expansion of their markets. Through electronic media, words have been released from paper and flow in clouds of electrons around the world-a savings in time and money.

(A side effect of separating words from unreliable paper is that now words cannot be extinguished. For example, Oliver North's e-mails to his Iran-Contra conspirators survived numerous deletion attempts and now reside in the National Security Archives in Washington.) But this doesn't mean the end of paper.

Nor as some enthusiasts claim will video replace print. Videos are not as credible as the written word. People are now familiar with technology's ability to superimpose images on top of each other so that anything can be altered and events changed. Therefore, they are less likely to believe what they see.

In addition, because reading requires more brain work than does the passive exercise of viewing pictures, people who read retain more information than those who just gaze. Research conducted during the Gulf War showed that people who were reading about the situation had a better grasp of what was going on than people who obtained their information solely from television newscasts.

Granted, the Internet and other on-line services, such as internal bulletin boards, can take over certain functions from the printed page and disseminate information faster and more efficiently. However, we have to learn to mix and match our media. I believe that for background information and overall strategy print works best. Few people turn to on-line information for "big picture" information.

In addition, any article with a lot of photography works better in print. The screen doesn't offer the same visual appeal as paper nor does it give you good control over colour. Charts, tables and graphs also take a long time to download, and few people have the patience to wait.

In today's world, we are blessed. We have options for disseminating information. Ensure the media you choose matches the message, the design and the content.

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