Advantages of digital come at a cost

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Two paper mills recently closed in my hometown—a sad end to a rich, robust papermaking history of more than 100 years. One primarily made coated stock, typically used in magazines and high-quality, bright white paper used in copiers. The other made very high-quality stationery stock with a high "rag" content.

I suppose the digital age is transforming many parts of our economy—like typesetting—and our consumption of printed materials, some with difficult consequences. I, for one, like books. I still read magazines. I still send thank you notes, and I do not consume all materials online or in digital form. OK, I do have a Kindle. So does my wife, and one of my kids has an iPad. Have we reached the tipping point?

Oh, I know, everyone has predicted the death of printed media. Will iPads and other tablets finally replace printed brochures, flyers and presentation booklets?
I think so. The ability to show a sales presentation, brochure, video and other dynamic visual elements on an iPad to a prospect, in a matter of minutes, is very powerful. The sales force doesn't have to haul around a trunk full of brochures now. Gee, think of the gas savings.

But I wonder what the long-term costs will be. Will libraries become cyber cafés?  Maybe they already have. I constantly refer to old books, pamphlets, images and drawings while doing research in my hobbies. Did everyone convert their VHS tapes to DVD, and what’s next? What are we losing by going all digital, all the time? But the power of digital media in a sales effort is compelling. This change is happening rapidly, sometimes with painful consequences for one segment of our economy, over another.

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