Monday, June 2, 2014

Print isn't dead, damn it.

Almondmilk Cafe Mocha
Super Salad (minus the avocado)

If you follow me on Facebook, then you've probably already seen this.  I went on a mini rant a few days ago so I'm just mailing it in this week.  And then I shall go to conquer the Junk Drawer Room!  All hail the hanging file box!

Before I paste and format, however, a little update...  I have printed up all my blogs through mid-April with intentions of making a book out of them.  Or most of them.  With possible supplementing from journals.  I think.  My working title is, "Philosophist."  I would greatly, greatly appreciate any feedback, things you'd like to see, things that could go, suggestions for getting it published/marketing it.  I'm ready to go bookstore to bookstore with galleys or extracts to try to get booksellers (my brethren and sistren) to fall in love with it and promote it through staff selections.

It could happen.

Anyway, here's my former bookseller rant about e-books...

Print is not dead.

There will always be a market for the tangible read, be it a magazine, book, or newspaper... or birthday card, or menu, or save-your-soul pamphlet handed to you on a street corner.  Yes, the technology is shifting things towards digital, but it's not eradicating the desire for print.  Not for all of us.

It is a fundamentally different interaction to read something on a digital screen instead of reading something from the bounced light off a page.  Even the color of the page, the sheen, the gloss of it, makes a big difference.  Digital screens are wonderful for a range of reasons, but they can only emulate that analog interface so much.  The brain just responds differently, we have a different emotional sense depending on whether we are reading a story in a magazine on a train, or reading the same story on our smartphone (possibly on the potty).

And it matters more or less for different people.  For instance, some folks I've known with learning disabilities can barely process anything that is printed on white paper and have had to use special blue paper for their class assignments.  Still, many of us will take what comes and roll with it and be fine. 

I'm just saying that it's not exactly the same story as with the music industry and the advent of digital music.  You might make an argument that the quality of the recording is affected by the recording medium (vinyl, CD, 8-track, wax cylinder), but you are ultimately listening to music the same way: through speakers.  Crappy speakers, Bose speakers - but still speakers.  Reading on a device, however, beyond the lighting, is just very different than a book in the hand.

And a digital dog-ear is not going to placate me, thankyouverymuch.

The bottom line, though, is that the costs are changing and the business model has to change with it.  It is sad that, in so many cases, print media is being dumped instead of adapted.  It would be depressing if the print market that survives becomes a novelty for the wealthy.  The sticking point, to me, seems to be the cost of publishing as it has been done.  What we need is a technological advance in one-off publishing.

Imagine walking into your favorite bookstore...  Maybe the shelves are stocked with "review copies," or maybe they have kiosks where you can browse digital editions.  Maybe you can bring in your Nook or whatever and get a digital sampler.  And if you decide to purchase ye old fashioned paper book, the bookstore can then ring you up (first!) and go to the back and print off a decent Trade Paper or Mass Market edition of the book for you.  Or do it up front in the display windows, like when they make fudge in a candy shop.  With everything those 3D printers are making, you figure there's got to be some way to make it happen for books.

I don't know how things will have to change.  I don't know how to manage the costs to make it all cost-effective.  I do know that resources for printing are going to become more and more scarce, and publishing tens or hundreds of thousands of books per run (especially when so many titles die each year) is just not feasible.  But I also know that, while many of us are content to live a life of mixed media, we don't all want to go all-digital.

Thank you.  Curmudgeon, out!

No comments:

Post a Comment