Print Is Dying

messy thoughts

Emma is the editor & creator (and occasionally writer) for The Messy Heads. She enjoys yellow curry, print media, and singing to herself.

The other day as I had to explain for the upteenth time what I do for work to a more certified adult, they looked completely, utterly confused. So, it’s a blog right? Yes but I like print, I like the magazine. That’s my favorite part of it, I half heartedly explained. They scoffed, and replied, “Print is dying, you should think of a way to monetize your writing online. Everything’s online.”

I nodded, gracefully exited the conversation, and opened up Instagram. Then switched to twitter and caught up on some news, put on a spotify playlist, took a selfie with a dog filter, and entered my next destination into my maps- do I take the L train or the F?

And this may have proven their point, but I think it more disproves it.

Because yes, my friends don’t (usually) get photos developed and printed and invite me to come over and look at their glossy 4×6 prints while I swoon over how dreamy their trip abroad looks. They take it, post it, and I can comment seven minutes later – “YOU KILL ME!!!!!!!!!!” With sighing emojis to get my point across. I don’t turn on the news or regularly open up a newspaper, I scroll through my twitter timeline. I’m definitely not carrying a subway map around with me, in addition to a map of New York City. I suck at reading maps.

But print is not dead.

I think it’s alive, and well. It’s just reinvented itself a bit.

I notice with my generation that most normal things can share the same screen and be swiped to and fro with a thumb flick. With the overabundance of screens, we deliberately scout out specific things to do that don’t involve them. We shamelessly collect records and dance in our living rooms. We buy actual books when we want to read. I haven’t seen one young person on the train with a kindle, they all have dog eared, coffee stained, underlined, water damaged books, ready to pass on to a friend when they are done reading. We stack them in piles like it’s unconventional decor. We go to second hand bookstores or spend hours in Barnes and Noble. We rip out pages and hang them above our beds or tuck them into notebooks.

We are actively seeking those nuggets of recluse that are special enough to take our eyes off a screen. Sure it may be a higher standard- but print is not dead.

It’s kept in those special moments.

It’s for when I sat in a Parisian cafe on 76th street and finished “Just Kids” by Patti Smith. The text is now underlined in places and scrawled all over with my handwriting. As I finished my coffee and the final pages, I couldn’t help but cry. A single fat tear drop rolling down my nose and hitting the paper. I brought it home and gave it to my roommate for her to read next. She now hold not only a stack of words, but what they meant to me.

Or when someone hands me a copy of a book that they love, I get to feel where their fingers turned the pages too and see what phrases stood out to them. I get a moment of conference with them, the author, and with me. Three minds melding.

Or when you find a publication with amazing images that need to be ripped out and tapped on the wall like art. I saw those photos of Harry Styles in Another Man that made me remember we have a mini Mick Jagger walking among us, I hurried to buy a print version- because those photos are too good to be kept in the confines of my screen.

Or how on a lazy rainy day, like today, I can light all the candles in my apartment and brew a pot of tea, lay lazily on the floor and pick a book from my shelves to read today. Maybe Fashionable Selby, maybe The Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life, maybe Moon Spells, maybe a Tom Wolfe. But it’s all there. Books are knowledge and power and better when manifested onto paper, something to smell and touch and absorb.

Print is not dead.

It’s just reborn.



  1. yes! i solely buy all my books in print because i love to have the tangible item in my hand. i love to flip through the pages and dog-ear my pages. it is precisely for this reason that i bought the messy heads in print! all of your hard work was poured into that issue, and it shows <3

  2. It’s so true. Thank you for writing this post. There’s something magical about the combination of both being able to spread things so easily and efficiently through internet, as well as making it special & personal through print.

  3. Anonymous says

    This is why I love disposable cameras because I can have a physical copy of them 🙂 love this

  4. Anonymous says

    Fashionable Selby is an amazing compilation of many great imaginations. So happy that you recognized that too!

  5. I love how you write, how you calmly express your opinion even if it’s burning inside. I love the way you think and how you put words into sentence that makes great sense. Even I subconsciously thought that print was breathing out last breaths but that’s nowhere near the truth. I currently have to read ”Crime and Punishment” for language class and I am making notes, underlining, putting little bright papers in important pages etc and it makes it quite personal experience. When you really pay attention to the story it’s worth a lot, definetly not something that has a clock ticking. It’s the same with meaningful magazines, personal photos, short films. They’re important to the heart, maybe we’re being taken over with all online scene, but as it comes down to rainy days or if the electricity is out, we really appreciate the printed things and look at memories with the biggest smiles on our little faces. Print is not dead.

  6. Anonymous says

    this was so amazing and i shrieked when i saw harry’s name because i love him so much

  7. i love the way you write its so cosy and nostalgic like the perfect cup of hot chocolate- sweet and comforting. I love the part where you said how when you’re reading a book borrowed from your friend and you get to see their annotations and prints left behind, how its a moment of just you, your friend and the author melding as one. What a lovely way to put it!

  8. Anonymous says

    I love the way you write your pieces and the way it impacts me as a read! Even in this relatively short article, you’ve managed to convince me to read in the next hour! I agree with almost all of what you wrote. My only problem is with the scrutiny against Instagram or other social media outlets. Though some people take these things and do exactly what you said, for others it can be a place where you can show people your interests, find things in common, and get to know someone. I know I’m not so great at initiating friendships, and some of my newest friends I bonded with over Instagram comments after I posted a picture of an album I was listening to. I just thought that people should be aware that not everyone is hopping around from post to post every two seconds commenting strings of emojis wherever they go.

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