Digital Divide: Print Media Declines As Tablets, E-Readers Rise


Demand for print media is rapidly declining, digital pundits assure us -- but don't take their word for it: paper manufacturers also see the handwriting on the wall. In fact, a new survey from RISI, a trade organization and business information provider representing the forest products industry, predicts that total demand for paper for magazines and newspapers will drop 12% to 21% by 2015 -- attributing the slump directly to the rise of tablet-style computers and e-readers.

And that's just the beginning, according to RISI, which says paper usage will drop another 40% to 50% by 2025, potentially leaving some paper manufacturers reeling.

As noted, RISI draws a correlation between these projected decreases and the rise of digital devices. At the end of 2010, the RISI study estimates that 15 million tablets and 10 million e-readers were in use in North America, and North American sales of tablets alone are projected to total anywhere from 120 million to 190 million by 2015.



A survey by Morgan Stanley found that 42% of Americans who own a tablet said they plan to cancel their newspaper subscriptions; iBooks continue to be among the most popular free apps for the iPad; and Amazon revealed that digital books outsold print books in the U.S. last year.

What's more, there is still considerable room for digital book sales to increase, according to RISI, as overall adoption rates are just beginning to pick up. From under $100 million in 2007, total digital book sales have increased to about $750 million in 2010, the study estimates, while total print sales have tumbled from about $8.7 billion to $7.7 billion over the same period.

Although digital evangelists will find encouragement in these data, they paint a rather grim picture for paper suppliers.

John Maine, RISI vice president for world graphic paper, who led the study, stated that as "many graphic paper producers make their living selling paper to the publishing industry, those companies will be greatly affected by media tablets," warning that "significant demand impacts could come as soon as 2012."

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