COM 4100 The Future of Print Media

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The history of books can be traced back to ancient times when they were handwritten on scrolls and parchment paper and bound in wood covers. However, the history of printed books as we know them today began in 1450 with Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of movable type. 

This innovation, considered one of the most influential inventions of the last millennium, revolutionized book printing worldwide (Breede, 2006, p. 38).

Although technology has advanced significantly since Gutenberg’s time, many of the printing technologies used today still reflect his original developments. While technology has certainly impacted the current and future state of printed books, the outlook is not as dire as it is for other forms of print media. Research and statistics indicate that books have weathered the technology gap and continue to hold their ground (Vivian, 2017).

COM 4100 The Future of Print Media

While the way books are obtained and delivered to consumers has changed with technology, there are still similarities to how books were handled before the electronic boom. Books generally fall into two categories: trade books, which include fiction, non-fiction, novels, and biographies, and textbooks, which encompass dictionaries, encyclopedias, professional manuals, and school textbooks (Vivian, 2017).

Publishers collaborate with authors to create and print books, typically producing a minimum of 1000 copies to ensure profitability. The 7x Rule is often employed by publishers to determine the number of copies to print and the selling price. According to this rule, the listing price of a book should be at least seven times the printing cost to be profitable (Alexander, 2008).

Once the books are printed, they need to be sold. Publishers often partner with Ingram, the largest wholesale book distributor globally, to distribute their books to bookstores (Alexander, 2008). 

COM 4100 The Future of Print Media

However, with the advent of cell phones, tablets, and laptops, consumers now have multiple ways to access the content they want to read, reducing their reliance on physical bookstores. The book industry has recognized this shift and capitalized on the benefits of technology by increasing their production and marketing of digital books and audiobooks (Faverio & Perrin, 2022).

Despite the rise in digital book sales, print books continue to surpass digital formats in popularity. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 65% of adults reported reading a print book in the past year, making it the most popular reading format (Faverio & Perrin, 2022, para. 2). 

Unlike other forms of print media, print books do not heavily rely on advertising within the book for revenue, which has helped the industry remain profitable (Vivian, 2017).

Amazon has played a crucial role in transforming the way books are sold. With a vast selection and competitive prices, Amazon has become a prominent platform for book sales. It’s reviews and rating system have acted as modern-day word-of-mouth marketing, influencing readers’ purchasing decisions (Alexander, 2008).

COM 4100 The Future of Print Media

Additionally, the book industry has embraced technological innovations such as print-on-demand and digital printing. These advancements have revolutionized the industry by allowing for more efficient and cost-effective book production (Vivian, 2017).

In summary, the history of books spans centuries, and while technology has brought significant changes to the industry, printed books have endured. Publishers continue to collaborate with authors, printing books and distributing them through traditional and digital channels. Despite the availability of digital formats, print books remain popular, supported by reader preferences and the industry’s adaptability.

In response to changing consumer habits, the book industry has successfully struck a balance between leveraging digital printing has revolutionized the book industry by significantly reducing production costs and enabling the printing of smaller book batches. 

COM 4100 The Future of Print Media

This eliminates the need for large warehouses to store thousands of copies of books until they are sold and also helps in minimizing returns. Previously, when a book didn’t sell well, bookstores could send unsold copies back to the publisher for reimbursement, resulting in a loss for the publisher who had already incurred printing costs (Breede, 2006).

The advent of print-on-demand technology has further transformed the way publishers sell books. Instead of printing a large number of copies in anticipation of sales, print-on-demand allows for books to be printed as they are purchased. This eliminates concerns about returns and reduces the overhead costs associated with storing excess inventory in warehouses (Alexander, 2008).

technology to stay relevant and preserve the legacy of books. Although print books still surpass digital formats in popularity, there is a growing segment of adults (30%) who have read both print and digital books within the past year (Faverio & Perrin, 2022).

Amazon, in a way, can be seen as a contrarian investor. Despite the emergence of digital options, Amazon made a substantial investment in purchasing a large number of physical books, betting on the longevity of the traditional book industry. 

COM 4100 The Future of Print Media

From an ethical perspective, arguments can be made for both taking advantage of struggling businesses and revitalizing declining industries. Amazon’s interest in print books has undoubtedly contributed to the industry’s ability to remain relevant. Alternatively, Amazon could have invested the money in developing digital platforms for buying and selling books.

To sustain the position of print books in the media landscape, several recommendations can be considered. Leveraging technology and trends to advertise and promote books is crucial for maintaining relevance. One potential avenue is TikTok, a popular mobile platform where users share videos. 

Within TikTok, there is a Book Tok community dedicated to avid readers. Publishing companies can utilize TikTok to market books and introduce authors, capturing the interest of current and new readers. Additionally, creating exclusive editions of books available only in print could increase sales. Exclusive editions could include alternate endings, extended content, and bonus material, enticing consumers to choose print books over digital formats.

While technology has undoubtedly transformed the consumption of legacy media, books possess a unique staying power that newspapers and magazines have struggled to maintain. 

The tactile experience of opening a new book, feeling the pages beneath your fingers, and getting lost in its contents creates a lasting appeal. This sentiment alone ensures that books will remain a cherished form of entertainment for a long time to come. COM 4100 The Future of Print Media


Alexander, G. (2008). Print on demand and the changing face of book

publishing. Seybold Report: Analyzing Publishing Technologies, 8(11), 9-15.

Breede, M. (2006). Print-on demand reverts book publishing to its pre-industrial

beginnings. International Journal of the Book, 3(1), 37-48.

Faverio, M., & Perrin, A. (2022). Three-in-ten americans now read e-books. Pew Research

Center. Retrieved Apr 30, 2023, from

Vivian, J. (Ed.). (2017). The media of mass communication (12th ed.). Pearson