Advantages and Disadvantages of publishing – Online Vs. Print Publication

One of the significant advantages to print publishing exists in distribution. While printing costs are significantly higher than those involved in publishing on-line because of actual paper and printing costs, the advantage of print publishing is actually placing text in the hands of your audience. In cases of on-line publications, one can only direct someone to a site.

The chances of them sitting down in front of the computer, looking up the publication, and reading from it can only be motivated by the individual to find the publication or stumble across it while searching the Web. However the time it takes to get print into the hands of your audience is also an important consideration. With the accessibility of information on the Web, something like a newspaper’s current events can easily be updated and made readily available to the public at a moments notice.


Printed publications also have the advantage of creating a design based on whatever capabilities the publisher has with regard to fonts, layout, photos and overall size of the publication. Once a printed publication is in the hands of the reader, the only requirements remain are for readers to be able to see and to read. This is not necessarily so easy with on-line publications. Since they are limited by the technological limitations of the users screen and memory capacity.

However, being printed also indicates a problem in itself. With a text that must be finalized by the printing press on paper, the final product is relatively unchangeable. Deadlines are created, met and taken to press. Once the proof is approved, the machines do all the work without comprehending any possible major or minor errors in the text. When the press and bindery are done, there’s no turning back.

While we also put the Freestone on-line, our primary audience exists in view of the printed page. Distributing approximately 3750 copies to English department alumni, present and prospective students, and faculty, nearly every copy gets glanced at by at least one reader. We mail 2500 to alumni and the remainder are distributed within the English dept. The only major stress involved is that once it is printed, the final product goes out–typos and all!

While the information available online is staggering, even in our technological age, we cannot forget to mention the fact that not everyone in this day is ready to sit down at a computer screen and read for any great deal of time. Curling up in front of the fire on a cold day with a book in hand can never be replaced by sitting in a cold chair staring at the words on computer screen.

Audience is a category that can be considered both a pro and a con for online publishing. While your audience is not limited to only those hit in your distribution efforts, it is also not the dedicated group of readers that most print publications can count on. So while your publication may be more widely available, that doesn’t mean that people are reading it. It’s more difficult to determine your readership in online publications.

Although there are no or few distribution costs for online publishing, it does take a bit of marketing to get people to your site. You must register your publication with as many search engines as possible and, often, this entails a cost. However, if this isn’t done, no one will be able to find your site. This process needs to be given regular attention as your description or focus changes and as new search engines are introduced. Also, other sites that have agreed to link to yours need to be regularly contacted to make sure that link will remain on their site. So, while marketing and distribution might be cheaper for the online publication, it is not without it’s costs especially in terms of labor and time.

The costs of online desktop publishing are fairly low in consideration to those of print. Granted, one must have access to a networked computer and a decent amount of usable software, but those are things that anyone in the publishing business, print or online, will have to have anyway. The other costs that may come into play are those associated with online access.

It remains difficult to make any money off of online publishing. Most publications online right now are free to readers and are merely charging for ad space. However, some are attempting to require subsciptions. Much still seems up in the air in terms of what standard might come out of online publishing –what will work and what will fail. It’s a new medium and people using it are still in the stages of trial and error. See Things to Consider for more information.

Editing is another plus involved in online publishing. For the most part, editing should and does occur before the new issue goes online. However, we’ve all come across several typos in print documents of any kind that weren’t caught before the publication was sent off to the printer. In online publishing, there is no "final" product. Errors can be corrected in a matter of minutes (or seconds even).

Because online desktop publishing is a fairly new field, there are no set standards deemed a quality layout format. This can be seen as both a pro and a con. As a advantage, we can understand this to mean that there’s more room for experimentation. However, as a disadvantage, there’s been very little usability testing done on what readers like and dislike, what keeps them there and what chases them away. So, while your content might be great, your layout could chase the readers away, and vice versa. It’s still a volatile situation without any standards to rely on.

Submissions are another tough area to tackle in online publishing. For example, from a literary journal standpoint, many authors are afraid to put their material online for fear of plagiarism as well as copyright problems that may arise later when attempting to publish their work elsewhere. Copyright laws for the Internet have not been firmly established yet, and because the Internet was created with the intention of sharing free information, they appear difficult not just to enact but to get users to abide by.