Is this the end of print textbooks?

Why a move from print to digital by the world’s largest publisher of educational books could spell disaster for students

“A number of studies show that learning from a print book improves the understanding of a subject as well as factual retention and recall”

Earlier this week there was a troubling story published on the BBC website. It’s troubling, not only for the print industry, but for millions of students, teachers, parents, and everyone that has an interest in the education and development of young people around the world.

The headline was simple: ‘Education publisher Pearson to phase out print textbooks’. At a time when disturbing headlines are becoming the norm, this one is particularly chilling.

Story time

The story is that Pearson, the world’s largest publisher of educational books, is moving towards being a ‘digital-first’ publisher. It will start to phase out print textbooks in favour of their digital versions, with students offered a digital subscription service to receive the latest, updated versions of the books.

“The history of this business is as a college textbook publisher, and over the last 20 years, like many of the other industries like newspapers and music publishing, we’ve seen a gradual shift from digital where over time digital time has become a more important part of the offering,” said John Fallon, the CEO of Pearson. “We’ve really reached a tipping point.”

What this means for students and teachers is that there will be an immediate and significant decrease in the amount of new, updated textbooks available in print – from 500 to 100. Over a short space of time, the amount of new books will go down to zero, forcing students online for the latest versions. Considering Pearson currently has over 1,500 titles in print, this is a dramatic and potentially disastrous move that could affect the entire education sector.

The benefits of print

At Two Sides, we talk a lot about the benefits of print to consumers – the sustainability, the tactility, the sheer pleasure of turning the page. But print doesn’t just provide consumers with a pleasant reading and recycling experience, it plays a key role in the development and education of young people.

“A number of studies show that learning from a print book improves the understanding of a subject as well as factual retention and recall”

From a very early age, print has proven benefits in helping children to interact with a story, process the ideas and comprehend the characters and the story. In a 2013 study, researchers found that children between the ages of 3 and 5, whose parents read to them from an electronic book, had lower reading comprehension than children whose parents used traditional books. Part of the reason was that parents seemed to spend more time adjusting the device or pressing buttons than focusing on the story.

When the child then goes into education, there have been a number of studies that show that learning from a print book improves their understanding of a subject as well as factual retention and recall. As the child goes through the education system and the subjects become more complex, print has the advantage of being a ‘slow’ medium, allowing the student to progress at their own pace, free of distractions. And, of course, you can’t scrawl notes in the margins of a laptop.

Students prefer paper

However, the group most likely to be affected by the Pearson move are students in higher education, the young people that rely the most on up-to-date textbooks. Whatever course they’re on, those in universities and FE colleges learn from a wide range of books, and it’s been proven that the vast majority prefer to learn from those books in print form.

During a global study by Naomi Baron, a Professor of Linguistics at American University in Washington DC, asked over 300 university students in the US, Japan, Germany and Slovakia which media they preferred for ‘serious’ reading, and found that 92% of concentrate best in hard copy.

“There are two big issues with e-reading,” said Professor Baron. “The first was [the students] say they get distracted, pulled away to other things. The second had to do with eye strain and headaches and physical discomfort.

“My major concern, as a person in higher education, is that we’re not listening. We’re assuming we’re being helpful by lowering price, by making it more convenient, by helping the environment, but we don’t bother asking our students what they think.”

A closely watched move

The Pearson announcement has grave implications not only for students, but for the educational print industry. As the world’s largest publisher in education, Pearson have a huge influence over the sector, and other publishers, including those in fiction and non-fiction, will be looking closely at what happens over the next few years to decide whether to pursue a similar digital-first strategy.

For the moment, students have a healthy second-hand market to get their hands on print text books, but it won’t be long until the information in those books is out of date, which itself could have a knock-on effect in the classroom or lecture hall. In making the move away from print, Pearson are potentially damaging the education of millions of children and students around the world. And no amount of corporate cost-saving can justify that.

441 Companies Across the World Remove Misleading Anti-Paper Messaging

Two Sides, the global initiative promoting the sustainability of print and paper, continue to tackle misleading environmental claims made by some of the world’s largest corporations.

Common inaccuracies about print and paper are still a major issue for the industry. These misconceptions are further reinforced by financial organisations, utility companies and many other service providers, as they increasingly encourage their customers to switch to electronic bills and statements. But instead of focusing on the potential cost savings of digital, often the incentive to switch is based on unfounded environmental claims such as “Go Green – Go Paperless” and “Choose e-billing and help save a tree”.

In the first half of 2019, Two Sides researched the websites and communications of 102 organisations around the globe. Of these, 69 were found to be using unsubstantiated claims about print and paper’s impact on the environment. So far, 38 of these organisations have removed or changed their messaging after being engaged by Two Sides.

Since 2010, the global Two Sides campaign has successfully challenged 441 companies found to be using misleading claims. In the UK, Two Sides has now stopped 100 companies communicating greenwash, bringing the overall UK success rate to 76%.

Industries with the highest number of Greenwashers include: telecoms providers, banks and financial institutions, utility providers and governmental organisations.

Martyn Eustace, Chairman of Two Sides, said: “We are really pleased that our ongoing effort is having such a significant effect on some of the world’s largest and most influential companies and organisations. But there is no room for complacency and there is still a great deal of work to do tackling companies that continue to mislead their customers.”

“We can see from our research that these misleading messages are having an impact on consumer perceptions of print and paper – particularly regarding its perceived impact on forests – which is why it is so vital for Two Sides to continue to tackle these damaging claims.”

The drive to digital is not always welcome

Consumers feel strongly about their right to receive paper options from their banks, governments and other service providers and efforts by these organisations to force their customers to digital, often citing misleading environmental claims, may just backfire.

An international survey of 10,000 consumers carried out by Two Sides in Spring 20191 found:

  • Over half (53%) of respondents think claims about the switch to digital being ‘better for the environment’ is really because the sender wants to save money.
  • 57% object to government, banks and other organisations persuading them to ‘go paperless’, as it’s not ‘paperless’ because they regularly have to print out documents at home if they want a hard copy.
  • 81% believe they have the right to choose how they receive their communications (printed or electronically) from financial organisations and service providers.
  • 38% of consumers would consider switching service providers if they were forced to go paperless.

Paper and digital communications: The facts

  • 90% of the wood used by the European paper industry comes from European forests.
  • These forests grew by an area the size of Switzerland between 2005 – 2015.
  • The European paper recycling rate is over 72% (the highest of any material).
  • The European pulp and paper Industry is the biggest single user and producer of renewable energy in Europe.
  • The CO2 per tonne of paper has been reduced by 43% since 1990.
  • The ICT industry accounts for approximately 2% of global emissions, on par with the emissions from the global aviation sector.
  • 9 million tonnes of e-waste are generated every year from good such as mobile phones, laptops and tablets.
  • Annually, Cloud computing demands twice as much electricity as the entire United Kingdom.

Eustace concludes, “Consumers should not be misled and encouraged to go ‘paperless’ through the use of misleading ‘green’ marketing. The true picture of the excellent environmental benefits of paper is being overlooked by these false messages. Paper is a renewable and recyclable product that, if responsibly produced and used, can be a sustainable way to communicate. The forest and paper industries rely on sustainable forests and they are major guardians of this precious and growing resource.”


  1. Two Sides/ Toluna, 2019.
  2. GeSI SMARTer2020: The Role of ICT in Driving a Sustainable Future (2015 report)
  3. FAO data, 2005 – 2015
  4. Ecofys, 2013
  5. CEPI, 2018. Sustainability Report 2018.

Catalogue Model – Amazon Release Their First Ever Printed Catalogue

With the release of their first ever catalogue, Amazon have added print to their marketing mix. We take a look at the book and discover why the online retail giant has gone offline

In November last year, a toy catalogue was mailed out to millions of Americans. Given that it was the run-up to Christmas and toys are among the season’s most popular gifts, there’s nothing unusual in that. What was unusual was the retail brand behind the publication.

Titled ‘A Holiday of Play’, the 68-page catalogue was planned, created and mailed by Amazon – the world’s most valuable online retailer. On the face of it, for a company that’s built its vast fortune in the digital arena to produce a print publication is one of the year’s biggest surprises in marketing. Amazon thrives online, using a variety of digital platforms, sophisticated use of data, and a lack of bricks and mortar stores to keep its prices low and its profits high.

But by producing the catalogue, Amazon has not only demonstrated that print is a valuable marketing tool, but shown how a print publication can fit neatly into a hugely successful multi-platform marketing campaign.

The catalogue of the future

If you’re one of the lucky ones that have a copy of ‘A Holiday of Play’, you’ll immediately notice a number of unique features. (If you don’t, you can download a PDF version here.) Firstly, there are no prices in the catalogue. Readers are invited to scan the images in the pages using their smartphone and be taken direct to the corresponding page on Featured toys also come with QR Codes (or ‘Smilecodes’) that can be scanned in the Amazon app.

Elsewhere, there’s a Holiday Wishlist, where kids can write down the toys they want to see in their stockings on Christmas Day, as well as a page of stickers to really engage their target audience. What the publication aims to do is pique the interest of its readers, gaining their attention when they’re in their own home and relaxed. It’s taken them a while, but Amazon have realised what many other retail brands have known for years: print engages the reader and gains their full attention, increasing customer loyalty and, more importantly, sales.

The benefits of browsing

As well as being a permanent reminder of a brand in the home, catalogues are a proven way to drive sales. In fact, according to a Royal Mail MarketReach report, 52% of people bought more than they planned when shopping with a printed catalogue. They are also a convenient way to show customers a range of products, as well as giving them important details about those products. In the same report, 63% of people say it’s easier to browse through products in a catalogue, rather than in-store or online.

With the online and social media arenas becoming increasingly cluttered, catalogues are emerging as a solid bet for companies keen to reach their customers in an environment free of distraction. And Amazon isn’t the only online giant that understands their sales power – global auction site eBay also mailed out millions of copies of its print catalogue around the same time, showcasing the wide variety of rare and retro toys it has on its website to millions of customers.

Sign of success

The fact that multi-billion dollar companies such as Amazon and eBay are turning to physical catalogues to advertise their products is very big news in the world of print marketing. After all, companies as big as these don’t make key marketing decisions unless there are a series of very large benefits. It’s a clear sign that catalogues work, not only as a standalone engagement and sales tool, but as a proven driver to digital platforms.

The festive season may be over, but for catalogues, Christmas could be just around the corner.

Article written by Sam Upton

From Deep Thinkers To Skim Readers

A steady diet of digital content is turning us into a world of skim-readers, which is bad news for our brains

Here’s a stat to mull over: the average human mind will consume around 34GB of data every single day. That data comes in the form of TV, music, adverts, videos, emails, websites and apps. It’s a huge amount of information, especially when you consider that consuming those 34GB is equivalent to reading 100,000 words.

The report, published by the University of California, highlights a fundamental shift in the way the human mind absorbs and understands information. Where a few decades ago you would have a limited choice of media to read or watch, now there’s a huge variety of content available on a huge range of platforms, and the human mind has had to adapt in order to process it all.


“People have developed a skill to skim-read, to read the first line then quickly spot certain words or phrases that pique an interest”


Media multitasking

Harvard academic and children’s literacy advocate Maryanne Wolf is fascinated by the way people are having to adjust to this new ‘media multitasking’. In her recent  book, Reader Come Home: The Reading Brain In A Digital World, she seeks to understand what’s happening to our brains at a time when the amount of digital media vastly outweighs the traditional.

What she finds is that, thanks to a diet of digital content, people have developed a skill to skim-read, to read the first line then quickly spot certain words or phrases that pique an interest, rather than take in the whole text. While this may be fine for an online article about celebrity pets, it makes it more difficult to understand and process longer, more complex pieces of text.

The problem with being unable to ‘deep read’ – the process of reading, absorbing, understanding and analysing text – is that people accustomed to skim-reading digital content will avoid reading anything that appears difficult or hard to understand. For adults this is a serious problem; for students it could be disastrous.

“In this hinge moment between print and digital cultures,” the academic wrote in a recent Guardian comment piece, “society needs to confront what is diminishing in the expert reading circuit, what our children and older students are not developing, and what we can do about it.”

The bi-literate brain

But rather than painting a bleak image of humankind being irreparably damaged by digital media, Maryanne Wolf sees a solution to this neurological change: print. She cites a number of studies that state that reading print improves comprehension, analysis and recall, as well as helps the reader develop empathy with the subjects or characters.

The writer goes on to recommend that early childhood education focuses on the use of print materials, with digital technology added over time. “We need to cultivate a new kind of brain,” she writes, “a ‘bi-literate’ reading brain capable of the deepest forms of thought in either digital or traditional mediums.”

But whether you’re talking about a class of five year-olds or a train full of commuters, reading print provides an escape from the 34GB of data bombarding you every day, and a deep-reading experience that will stretch and exercise the mind.

“There’s an old rule in neuroscience that does not alter with age,” says Maryanne Wolf. “Use it or lose it.”

Article written by Sam Upton

The smart packaging revolution

The smart packaging revolution

Whether it’s reducing waste, attracting new customers or fighting fraud, embedded smart technology is quickly becoming the next big thing in packaging.

For the vast majority of the packaging industry, the use of smart technology in the supply chain is nothing new. After decades of the bar code and later, the QR Code, RFID tags and electronic chips are used throughout the industry to track products as they move from manufacturer to retail outlet. But their use beyond the supply chain has been limited to scannable codes that give access to product information and one-off marketing campaigns.

But with the development of new and more cost-effective technology, those codes and campaigns are about to become a lot more available and useful to both customer and producer, improving both the value and the sustainability of packaging.

$52bn and counting

In the past few years, the area of smart packaging has become a multi-billion dollar industry. According to a report by Accuray Research, the global smart packaging market is set to grow by 5.4% over the next decade to reach $52bn by 2025.

A significant portion of that value will be in food traceability, which is expected to be worth more than $18.5bn by 2023 (Allied Market Research, 2017), driven by the concern people have about where their food comes from. Using electronic chips embedded within the packaging, customers can use their smartphones to trace exactly which farm their food was grown on, as well as how far it’s travelled and how long it’s been stored for.

Such technology is also useful for food producers concerned about their products being copied and sold as counterfeits. In the extra virgin olive oil market, as much as 70% of the product sold is thought to be fake, a group of extra virgin olive oil producers asked Norwegian firm Thin-film to develop an NFC (near-field communication) chip that could be used within the packaging of their premium products. Customers could then use their phones to connect with this chip to ensure they had the genuine product.

Embedded information

As well as details on provenance, a number of firms are looking into embedding practical information into their packagings, such as operating instructions or recipe ideas. “There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t scan your ready meal and have that tell the microwave what setting to put it on,” said Andy Hobsbawm, co-founder of smart products company EVRYTHNG.

Of course, once you start being able to embed information and content into packaging, then it’s only a matter of time before the marketing departments start to advertise through this new communications channel, offering videos, competitions and ads for other products that pop up on your smartphone.

Indeed, this is already happening. For evidence, see the McDonald’s ‘Track My Macca’ campaign in Australia, which invited customers to scan their burger box with their phone to receive exclusive AR content.

Environmental impact

But perhaps the most useful application of smart packaging is in helping the environment. With smart technology able to detect whether certain foods are still safe to eat, it could extend the shelf life of a product, reducing food waste and providing greater efficiency in the supply chain.

Not only that, embedded information could provide the customer with detailed information about how the packaging can be recycled and even directions to the nearest recycling centre.

“Solutions are now being implemented to help combat waste and prevent food waste,” said Eef de Ferrante, Director of the World Congress on Active & Intelligent Packaging. “The environmental issues we face can be solved by advancements in technology and implementation in the packaging industry. I strongly believe active and intelligent packaging will make great changes to these issues.”


Smart packaging in action


Smart Vial Kit

Schreiner MediPharm

The international medical labelling and packaging company based in Germany has created a cardboard medicine box that tracks and monitors the medication it holds, providing a patient or doctor with information on which medication was removed from which compartment. The packaging contains an integrated electronic circuit that connects to a smartphone using NFC technology, and can even provide information on the temperature inside the packaging.



Swiss startup LivingPackets has launched a sustainable and trackable shipping box that, according to the makers, generates almost zero packaging waste. Simply called ‘THE BOX’, it features real-time environmental monitoring (location, temperature, humidity, shocks, opening), as well as an integrated camera for remote viewing of the contents. THE BOX targets the booming e-commerce sector and allows customers to either pay for or return an item simply by pressing a button on the packaging.

Meray Muesli display

Fresh Nuts Gmbh

Display packaging is ideal for smart connectivity, allowing brands to provide customers with in-store content and communication to draw them towards the product and encourage purchase. To launch their new range of mueslis, German food brand Fresh Nuts used a display that featured images with digital watermarks, which can be read using a free app on a smartphone. By pointing their phones at the display images, customers can access video content, encouraging them to try the new breakfast cereal.

Article written by Sam Upton

Not Just Paper…A look at Alternative Uses for Wood Fibre

From a Finnish ball gown to a pair of American trainers, we explore five alternative uses for wood fibre

There’s a common misconception that wood fibre is solely used to create paper and paper products. But this versatile material has plenty of other uses and can turn up in the most unlikely of places – pharmaceuticals, cellophane, sponges, even sausage casings.

But with many traditional products being scrutinised for their environmental impact, manufacturers and retailers are increasingly turning towards wood-based materials to provide a more sustainable alternative. Here are just five.

You shall go to the ball

An evening gown entirely made from birch trees has been created by a team of researchers, experts and students at Aalto University in Finland. The sustainable white fabric used to make the gown was produced using a process called ‘Ioncell’, which creates textile fibre from a range of raw materials, including wood, recycled paper and cardboard.

“Fabric made from Ioncell is soft to touch,” explains Pirjo Kääriäinen, Professor of Practice at Aalto University. “It has a lovely sheen and falls beautifully. Most importantly, it’s an environmentally sustainable option.”

The gown received the seal of approval from Jenni Haukio, the wife of Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, who recently wore the white dress to mark Finland’s 101 years of independence at Helsinki’s Presidential Palace.

Sneaker peak

Based in San Francisco, the international shoe company All birds has added wood fibre to the range of materials it uses to produce its hugely popular sneakers. Titled The Tree Collection, the shoes are made using TENCELTM Lyocell, a fibre made from the cellulose found in the wood pulp from responsibly grown and sustainably harvested eucalyptus trees.

“Our tree fibre is sourced from South African farms that minimise fertiliser and rely on rainfall, not irrigation,” the company says. “Compared to traditional materials like cotton, it uses 95% less water and cuts our carbon footprint in half.”

Silver linings

The issue of bioplastics has had a lot of focus recently, particularly in the area of recycling food and beverage packaging, but Finnish paper company UPM have developed a renewable wood-based bioplastic that can be used in paperboard cartons, making them much more environmentally friendly. This year, dairy company Arla will be the first business to use these new cartons for their range of milk, yoghurt and cooking products.

“When we have a liquid product such as milk, a thin plastic film is needed inside the carton for reasons of product safety and shelf life,” explains Sanna Heikfolk, Arla’s Brand & Category Manager. “In our new packaging, the source of plastic is now even more responsible because it is made of wood-based raw material.”

Over 40 million Arla cartons will use this newly sustainable bioplastic, which makes the new cartons 100% wood-based, compared to the 85% of a traditional carton.

Cut your cloth

The area of wood-based textiles is rapidly gaining attention across Europe, with new fibres being developed at a number of paper and pulp companies and top fashion and retail brands getting involved. The latest partnership is TreeToTextile, a joint venture between H&M, IKEA and Stora Enso that aims to develop new sustainable textile fibres from wood pulp.

The TreeToTextile process takes raw forest material and regenerates the cellulose gained from it into a textile. The production process uses less energy, chemicals and water than conventional textile processes. As a comparison, it takes almost 12,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton, but for the same amount of water, you can make 26kg of wood-based textile.

“Together with existing consumer and textile knowledge,” says Lena Julle, Category Area Manager Textiles at IKEA, “this brings us one step closer to our goal of introducing a new sustainable low-cost fibre for the people.”

The sound of silence

Finnish acoustics company Lumir uses cellulose fibre produced from wood to create soundproofing materials that are more efficient, use fewer chemicals and are more sustainable than traditional products. While conventional sound-absorbing materials are often made from fibre-glass and use a host of chemicals in their binding agents, materials made from wood products use fewer chemicals and no fibre-glass, making them better for the environment, the buildings and their occupants.

“If you look at the ceilings in any public space, you’ll see these old sound absorbers that often look quite ugly,” says Tuomas Hänninen, Lumir’s R&D Director. “We’re now replacing those with a seamless product that’s healthier for people, absorbs sound more efficiently and looks a lot better too.”

Over 3,000 square metres of wood-based soundproofing has already been installed in Finland’s Parliament House, as well as a section of the Helsinki Metro, the city’s new library and a Lapland planetarium.

Article by Sam Upton

Let’s Go Back and See Your Favourite Social Media Posts

In 2019, our aim is to bring our followers new and exciting content across our social media accounts. Here are you favourite posts so far! If you haven’t seen these yet, now is your chance! Please join us by sharing your favourites on Twitter or LinkedIn. Be sure to use key hashtags like #PaperFacts, #ForestFacts, and #Sustainability. Follow @twosidesaus on Twitter and The Real Media Collective on LinkedIn.

Twitter :

  1. You Eat What They Eat”: New Stunning Print Advertisement Created by Ogilvy
  2. 335 Corporations Remove Misleading ‘Go Green’ Claims
  3. Paper Production Supports Sustainable Forest Management: Paper production supports sustainable forest management. 90% of deforestation is caused by unsustainable agricultural practices.
  4. Technology helping brands meet Millennials’ packaging demands
  5. Ikea: bans all single-use plastic from its stores and restaurants


  1. 11 Reasons Why Direct Mail is Critical in the Digital Age
  2. The Hidden Face of Digital
  3. Millennials are more interested in catalogues than your grandmother is

McDonald’s Australia To Phase Out Plastic Straws As Opposition To Them Grows

In recent months, tensions around plastic pollution have heightened and as opposition to plastic straws continues to grow, we are seeing more and more companies implementing strategies to phase out the harmful beasts. A popular trend of late is seeing well-known chains in the food industry, including Starbucks and McDonald’s, build brand equity as an environmentally friendly retailer through sustainable acts. The latest instalment has seen McDonald’s Australia setting their sights on phasing out plastic straws from their 970 restaurants by 2020.

Environmental groups say Australians use about 10 million straws every day, or 3.5 billion a year.[1] From this, and their ever-growing impact on the marine life, paper straws are looking to be the best alternative. As of August 2018, McDonald’s will be trialling paper straws in a few restaurants as they are known for being 100% recyclable and biodegradable. Paper is made from wood, a natural and renewable material. As young trees grow they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. As a wood product, paper also continues to store carbon throughout its lifetime, making them effective carbon sinks. Being one of the most recycled products in Australia, it’s only natural for companies to replace plastics with paper alternatives.

As one of the largest restaurant businesses, McDonald’s have the opportunity to instil change and lead the way for environmental sustainability globally. This is a strong step in the right direction to welcome paper as a sustainable resource in the food industry and reduce plastic pollution.



ABC News

SBS News

The Paper Pregnancy Test

Over 5 million women have babies in Europe each year. If even half of these women bought a pregnancy test (which weighs around 9 grams), that’s around 22.5 tonnes of plastic that ends up in the bathroom bin – or down the loo. [ 1 ]

Introducing ‘Lia’ – the world’s first flushable, biodegradable and compostable pregnancy test. It’s made of the same natural plant fibres as toilet paper and is packaged in recyclable materials, making the whole product kind to the environment.

Reducing plastic waste and empowering women one paper pregnancy test at a time.



The Memo

First Plastic-Free Aisle

When it comes to tackling plastic pollution, where do we start?

In Australia, companies starting to reduce plastic waste through the banning of single-use plastic bags, although the problem doesn’t finish there. While everyone is caught up in the single-use plastic bag hysteria, plastic can still be littered through single-use packaging.

Earlier this year, Dutch chain Ekoplaza took matters into their own hands and introduced the world’s first ‘plastic-free’ aisle. This is a step in the right direction tackling plastic waste from multiple avenues in order to educate consumers, appeal to green smart consumers and to achieve true environmental sustainability.

Now we just need to implement this strategic thinking in Australia and around the globe.



BBC News