The Science of Paper


We believe there is no better and more perfect combination than ink on paper; it presents a unique opportunity to engage with people, as well as an opportunity to be creative and bold. While print has been challenged by modern advances in technology, such as tablets and mobile devices, there is no doubt that reading from a piece of paper has supreme benefits. What exactly are the benefits of paper, and are they as dramatic as we say? Why, in fact, yes – the proof is in the paper!

In a recent article on Scientific American, author and contributor Ferris Jabr gives an in-depth and anecdotal look into the specific science of what it means to read electronically versus a read from a physical piece of paper. He notes numerous studies and research groups who have found that there is in fact a substantial difference between the way people perceive words on both paper and screens. He also suggests that newer generations of consumers are finding it hard to navigate the paper landscape, and that people may not inherently see the intrinsic value of reading off paper. Here are some highlights of the important research findings:

1) Jabr discusses how e-readers and screens fail to replicate the sensory experience of a physical piece of printed paper. One study author quotes notes that people who read on a screen are more mentally drained and often have trouble focusing on what they just read versus those who read the same material from a piece of paper.

2) One interesting study Jabr quotes is about the learning process when using printed paper versus learning from a screen. In a blind study, two sets of students were asked to read a short piece of text –one group read from a piece of paper, the other on a computer monitor. After having read the selection and taking a small memory quiz, the results showed that the students who read from the monitor focused just on remembering details, whereas those who read from paper showed a much deeper understanding of the material.

3) In another study, Jabr brings up the question of control. He quotes yet another body of research that targets readers of books versus tablets. This begs the question of how people perceive something on a screen – whether or not they feel like they can control the flow and speed with which they read. “People report that they enjoy flipping to a previous section of a paper book” in comparison to scrolling on a tablet. It may sound minor, but Jabr says that those who read from a tablet do not feel the same type of pleasure and can’t engage with the text in the same way. Tablets don’t allow for highlighting or taking notes, which is an important aspect of reading for some.

Overall, the research presented shows the power of print, as well as a preference for print in some regards. There is no replacing the tangible, physical experience of touching a piece of paper. It is an experience that is conducive to good memory retention, deeper thought processing, and is more effective in reaching the audience at hand.

At Allied, we firmly believe in paper and actively challenge the perception that print is a thing of the past. From highly targeted, data-driven direct mail campaigns produced in our secure Digital Direct Mail Center, to colors and graphics that leap off the page thanks to our innovative POPcolor® technology, we believe print is a medium that is lasting and forever.


For more general inquiries, please email Also, be sure to visit our social media pages, as well as our corporate website for further details.

Credit to Scientific American for the article and quotes used in this post.

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