What Is the Advantage & Disadvantage of Print & Electronic Media?

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What Is the Advantage & Disadvantage of Print & Electronic Media?
Traditionally libraries have housed written material. (Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images)

As electronic media becomes more affordable and more widespread, the debate that has been going on among librarians, educators and businessmen becomes one we must each ask ourselves: what are the advantages of print media, what are the advantages of electronic media? What are the disadvantages of each? What does the use of each mean to households, readers, students, business people and others? Each media brings its own unique elements to the process of communication.

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Advantages of Books

Books are portable. Their costs vary, but with the exception of expensive textbooks, most are affordable. They can be purchased used by the average fiction-hungry reader for less than a dollar, if you aren't too picky about the content. Books can be a beautiful addition to a living room or office, especially beautifully bound hardcovers. Notes can be made in the margins of textbooks or craft manuals. Stored correctly, books can last many years. Once printed, the content is static; it will not change.

Disadvantages of Books

Books require storage space. Shelving is needed to keep them organised and safe. Boxed books are very heavy to move. Updating books requires a new print run, which can be expensive. Books are subject to wear, weathering and the pages may yellow and the ink fade. Most books are printed on paper made from wood pulp, which comes from trees -- a resource that is slow to renew.

Advantages of Magazines & Newpapers

Magazines and newspapers are readily available to most people. The information in them is more immediate than that offered in books, and production costs are less. Readers can subscribe to favourite magazines and newspapers or purchase them at news stands or from store displays. While some newspapers and magazines display a dubious level of reliability, articles in better magazines and newspapers are usually written by professionals and are reviewed by copy editors or even a peer board whose job it is to establish professional accuracy.

Disadvantages of Magazines & Newpapers

Magazines and newspapers have a limited shelf life. Except for scholarly journals that deal with historical events and craft magazines, their essential value diminishes after their publication date. Magazines and newspapers pile up very quickly, becoming a housekeeping problem and even a fire hazard if collected over an extended period of time. Inaccuracies can only be corrected through a retraction statement in subsequent issues. Like books, they are printed on paper made from wood pulp.

Advantages of Radio and Televison

Radio began the trend toward electronic news reporting and entertainment. For the first time, live reporting could come straight from the reporter into the home.The burning of the Von Hindenberg is an early example of immediate coverage of a tragic event. Radio transmissions could also be used to communicate between locations in areas where telegraph or telephone wires were impractical. Television added moving pictures to the voice, allowing people in rural areas to view live entertainment. Live news broadcasts brings news much more quickly than is possible with any print medium.

Disadvantages of Radio and Television

Immediacy brought questions of ethics along with it. The broadcast of Orson Wells "War of the Worlds", a radio drama based on H.G. Wells science fiction novel, caused an incredible panic. Television brought the Vietnam War directly into living rooms. Psychologists became concerned with the effect seeing the raw footage might have on children. Unless recorded, broadcasts are essentially impermanent. The news coverage broadcast live tends to be shallow compared to print media such as newspapers, magazines or books.

Advantages of Computers and the Internet

Personal computers and the Internet have opened whole new vistas of communication. Users can download electronic books, read magazines, watch movie, have access to news reports and get mail without ever leaving home. They can even chat with friends in living video if they own the right equipment. Users can also upload all kinds of material to the Internet. It is a vast cornucopia that combines all the forms of communication that have come before it. It is a feast of music, books, drama, news and personal opinion. Users can save selected material to their computer hard drive, burn it to disks or save it to external storage devices for later use. Netbooks, electronic book readers and pocket sized players make it possible to carry music collection and a small library in your pocket.

Disadvantages of Computers and the Internet

It is also nearly impossible to regulate the content, because the Internet is so vast. Although more affordable than it used to be, the equipment needed to take advantage of this ocean of material is expensive. Discrimination is needed when searching for information because anyone with the equipment can post anything to the Internet. Many content areas are not checked for accuracy. Electronically stored information is impermanent. One server crash, one lightning strike, one disgruntled but skilled viewer, one executive decision can remove information or change it without notice.

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