New blog post: Can electronic paper save the newspaper?

Paper has being going out of fashion for almost as long as I can remember the internet. A lover of digital as I am, I would still regret the loss of paper from my day-to-day life. Not least because I have yet to discover a graphical user interface that encourages you to delve and browse typographic content as well as paper does. In other words, we read differently on paper.

And yet we all know that print is in trouble because it can’t “compete” with the wealth of access made available by the web and other network technologies. But recently I’ve seen a couple of initiatives that promise – it is no more than that – to breath life into the old medium by somehow bridging the gap between paper and digital.

The University of Central Lancashire (Uclan) in Preston has been experimenting with the Lancashire Evening News to produce a newspaper (a proper printed one that could be delivered by boys on bikes) that is somehow connected to the internet, through what I believe to be small integrated circuits in the ink itself. I looks like it might work a bit like this gig poster that played music at the South By Southwest Show in Austin, Texas earlier this year.

Interactive newsprint is just a prototype at the moment, the manufacture of which is being done by Novalia of Cambridge, but it does allow for the paper to play audio and for things like Facebook ‘likes’ to be inputted by touching the the page itself.

I’m not sure that in the project’s current form “it will send a lifeline … to the news industry” as Paul Egglestone Uclan’s director of journalism says, but it exciting to see paper’s potential (it’s light, portable, doesn’t need a battery) explored in this way. It is especially pleasing to learn that the Uclan scheme has an editorial strategy to accompany it, a network of community reporters being trained to gather news stories of their own and record them in their distinctive Lancashire burrr.