Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


Are E-books Obsoleting Ink and Paper?

Filed under: eBooks,future of printed word,hardcover books,ink and paper — gator1965 @ 5:31 pm

Another interesting question and one I have alluded to in past posts. I don’t feel that printed books will ever go away…they just won’t be the prom queen anymore.

This Paul Levine post in the Huffington Post is informative, descriptive AND funny:

I was standing in a circle of Chardonnay sippers at an art show in Santa Monica when the conversation turned to the future of reading. As a novelist, I had skin in the game, so I grabbed a canape, sidled over, and eavesdropped.

“I’ll never buy one of those electronic gizmos,” said a heavyset man in his fifties, a humanities professor. “I’d miss the smell of ink on paper, the conjuring of medieval libraries and ancient parchment.”

Funny, I don’t recall anyone blissfully sniffing their books until the threat from e-publishing appeared. Now, readers can’t resist comparing their moldy old tomes to the finest Bordeaux.

Respectfully, I say, move over Gutenberg!

E-books are to traditional publishing what the internal combustion engine was to the horse and buggy. Some experts predict that half of all books will be digital downloads within two to three years. That’s astonishing. For 600 years, Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press and its progeny have produced our books, newspapers, and magazines. Now, in the blink of an electronic eye, the application of ink to paper is approaching obsolescence.

Complaints about progress are hardly new. When Gutenberg invented movable type, a Venetian judge whined that “The pen is a virgin, the printing press a whore.” Some New York publishers have called Amazon and Google even worse names.

I’m all for nostalgia. I have dreamy memories of a rickety blue Bookmobile rumbling into my central Pennsylvania hometown, and my standing on tip-toes to haul down a well-worn volume about dinosaurs. But my Kindle holds more books than that old truck, and there are 600,000 more at Amazon just a few clicks away.

A recent newspaper headline asked: “Will the Kindle Save the Written Word?” The hope is that those techno-savvy kids will interrupt their music and games and videos and texts and tweets and blogs…and start reading.

Call me crazy, but I think they will. I predict that packing a portable library will soon become a hip way to impress the opposite sex. More so, hopefully, than a barbed wire tattoo.

So why is that wine-sipping professor so afraid of the Kindle or Nook or iPad or Kobo? There will still be books in hardcover, trade paperback, and mass-market.

Or will there?

Garrison Keillor, the bard of the prairie, recently wrote that “book publishing is about to slide into the sea.” The numbers give reason to worry. For the first quarter of 2010, Simon & Schuster reported a decline in revenue from print, but a 233 per cent increase in digital publishing. Expect that trend to continue, industry-wide. Is the book biz in the same position as the music industry a decade ago? It’s not a coincidence that Apple’s iTunes store now sells e-books, too.

Consider Amazon, where you can buy a 6000 BTU window air conditioner or a Kindle e-reader for the same $189. Amazon is now a book publisher, not just a retailer. The company is cutting deals with fledgling and mid-list authors for original e-books. How long will it be before Stephen King, or some other literary luminary, inks an exclusive deal to publish in both print and digital editions?

Amazon enjoys a huge advantage over both New York publishers and the bricks-and-mortar retail stores. The Internet behemoth knows the e-mail address and reading habits of every customer, and it need not kill trees, run presses, or hire trucks to produce and distribute its electronic products.

There are advantages for readers, too. Classic literature can be downloaded for free. My first two Kindle “purchases” were “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”and “Pride and Prejudice.” Both gratis. Prices of bestsellers are in a state of flux, but they’re consistently lower than paper-and-ink books.

The new paradigm is a great deal more democratic for authors, too. Writers who could never land a literary agent, much less a publishing deal, are putting their books on Amazon at customer-friendly prices. True, the writing often warrants a C-minus in eleventh grade English class, but there will be undiscovered gems to be dug from the electronic slush pile.

The shelf life of dead-tree books roughly approximates that of a pint of yogurt, but out-of-print books get eternal life on the Internet. Recently, I celebrated the 20th Anniversary of my debut legal thriller, “To Speak for the Dead.” The book is long gone from bookstores, which is where e-publishing comes in. For less than $1,000 in costs – scanning, proofreading, formatting, and cover art – I became my own publisher. In the next year, awaiting release of an old-fashioned hardcover novel from the Bantam imprint at Random House, I’ll be publishing eight of my out-of-print mysteries and thrillers.

Woody Allen once said, “I don’t want to become immortal through my art. I want to become immortal by not dying.” The latter remains impossible, but the former – our work living on forever – just became a bit easier.

“To Speak for the Dead,” by Paul Levine, is now for sale at Amazon’s Kindle Store and Smashwords, with all proceeds going to the Four Diamonds Fund for cancer treatment and research at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. More information at


The Fate of the Printed Word…From the Print Media’s View

Filed under: future of printed word,IPEX 2010,printed media — gator1965 @ 3:13 pm

What is the future of the printed word? Is it dead? Will the new digital gadgets finally kill it off?

Maybe not.

Lets take another viewpoint…That of the print media itself.

This from IPEX 2010 (The global event for print, publishing and media that will take place this year in Birmingham, UK during 18 – 25 May 2010):

Will an iPod for Publishing Kill Printed Media?

With Apple’s iPad selling more than 300,000 on its launch in April 2010 and Amazon’s Kindle becoming mainstream, the e-reader market space is hotter than ever and poses a real threat to many print sectors The electronic displacement of print is undoubtedly shifting the competitor landscape. A challenging debate at Ipex 2010 will try to understand the opportunities and threats for printers.

Running on 20 and 24 May, Will an Ipod for publishing kill printed media? Will explore how electronic devices could affect print business models. It is one of a series of free expert panel debates at Ipex 2010 tackling some of the most critical issues facing the print industry today. Produced by world print authority, Pira International in association with Ipex, The Great Print Debates will bring together experts, thought leaders and high-profile industry representatives from 18-25 May 2010.

Playing down fears about the death of printed media, Frank Romano, Professor Emeritus, Rochester Institute of Technology and Great Debate chairperson explains “Neither an Ipub nor its Kindle or Nook manifestations will significantly affect all print volumes. They will affect some informational printed matter such as book, newspaper, and magazine volume. However, these products will continue to have a print base. The reason will be portability – you will not have to tote an electronic device everywhere you go. Print is disposable – and the batteries never run out.”

Pira Print Chief Consultant Neil Falconer also takes a positive view for print businesses but expresses frustration at missed opportunities “The digital media revolution provides printers with a life raft, unfortunately the majority are too busy drowning to realise it.”

One solution according to Pira Consultant and Great Debate chair Sean Smyth is for printers to anticipate new specifying and purchasing channels and get on board quickly. “Buyers will see print as non-key, part of a promotional or marketing spend. Expect new ways of specifying and purchasing, as a Google-App or direct from your I-Phone.”

“There’s no doubt that mainstream media is in trouble” is the more blunt view of PR and marketing commentator Stephen Waddington. “My parents will be the last generation that buys a daily newspaper. I occasionally buy a paper at the weekend when I have the time to read it but otherwise I use a variety of websites. My children will get their news exclusively from the web delivered through devices such as the Amazon Kindle or iPod.”

But Waddington believes this is a story of evolving business models rather than the death of print media per se. “By embracing the internet newspapers such as The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian have become truly international brands. Their challenge is monitising these new audiences.”

The Debates come at a critical time according to Smyth. “The industry is in an unprecedented period of change, exacerbated by the deep recession. Cash conservation is a short-term tactic, not a strategy to build a successful business. These debates provide an opportunity for industry players to put their heads above the parapet and think about how their businesses, and their careers, might progress satisfactorily under new conditions”.

Three other important questions will also be debated: What will the printer of the future look like?, More than ink on paper – how should printers be selling print? and Green print: is it worth it? With full audience participation and interaction, The Great Print Debates will take expert commentary, lively debate and audience interactivity to a completely new level at a major exhibition.

Audience participation and interaction using simple polling technology will allow real-time feedback and drive the questioning of the panel chair, pushing the experts out of their comfort zone. Looking forward to the Debates, Laurel Brunner of Digital Dots reminds the industry, “It’s all too easy to forget that understanding the important issues only comes with interaction and participation.”

Debate participants will take away an exclusive study with scenarios and forecasts to 2020. With input from a special panel of authoritative print and publishing experts from around the world, Print to 2020 will provide a unique global summary of the major challenges, threats and opportunities facing the global printing industry. Building upon the themes discussed at the Ipex/Pira forums, the study will offer an exclusive roadmap for how these issues are likely to develop over the next ten years. Print to 2020 is published by Pira International.


Is Apple iPad Too Late to Save Print Publishing ?

Filed under: digital content pricing,future of printed word,InfoWorld — gator1965 @ 4:29 pm

Another take on whether the printed word is dead or alive OR has one foot in the grave. I have previously expressed my opinion that the printed word will never die out completely…it just will not be the only game in town anymore.

Others feel that people have already gotten used to the faster, mostly free, but poorer quality online content. I still foresee the economics of both a higher-quality, for-pay online content and good printed word formats that many people, including younger people, prefer and will continue to prefer in many venues. Both digital and printed word can exist together. The existence of one does not have to mean the demise of the other…Publishers just have to find the business models wherein each work the best. This will become clearer in the future, I’m sure.

Robert X. Cringely, InfoWorld, has this view:
‘The ship for most publications may have already sailed — because people are too used to getting subpar content for free.

It seems Condé Nast is embracing the Apple iPad as its one and true savior. Vanity Fair, the New Yorker, GQ, Glamour, and Wired are all getting gussied up for Apple’s WonderPad, according to the New York Times. Hey if you’re gonna do it, might as well start with the best.

I say, more power to them. If anyone can create a digital marketplace for a dying industry that has consumed much of my working life, it’s the Conde Nasties. But I fear the ship for most publications may have already sailed. It may simply be too late — because people are too used to getting subpar content for free.

(Now I’m going to take off my geek hat and put on my editorial chapeau. Please talk amongst yourselves while I slip into something even grungier.)

Here’s the nasty little secret most publishers would rather you not know: Their online versions aren’t nearly as good as their print versions. The reasons are pretty obvious.

The premium rates publications charge(d) for print advertising subsidized a great many things — like teams of researchers, fact checkers, copy editors, and multiple line editors — that online ad models simply don’t support. So the very first thing that goes when a publication moves online is quality control. When faced with producing lesser-quality content or no content at all, that’s an easy call to make.

Meanwhile, in the print world, you more or less had a fixed amount of copy you had to produce to satisfy your readers each day, week, or month. Online, though, the need for new copy converges on infinity. It’s a hole that can never be filled. Publications are under intense pressure to produce more stories with fewer people, which is why so many of them moved to a blogging model, generating simple stories that can be produced quickly by a single person without a lot of oversight. (And sometimes that can really come back to bite you.)

More often than not, what you read on the Web is the work of a single person. If you’re lucky, a copy editor scanned the post quickly before making it go live — one of dozens he or she might have to edit in a single day.

(For the record: All InfoWorld blog posts are copyedited, which is why so I don’t sound quite as foolish as I otherwise might. Thank you Caroline and Uyen for saving my sorry behind.)

Don’t believe me? The Columbia Review of Journalism surveyed more than 600 print publications with online editions. Slightly more than half of them fact-check online articles in the same manner that they fact-check print articles; the rest use a less-stringent process or none at all. Per Victor Navasky, the big cheese behind CRJ:

“One of the things that it appears to mean is that there’s this trade-off of standards for speed,” Mr. Navasky said of those topics. “The conventional wisdom is that you have to be there first in order to get traffic, and you need traffic in order to sell ads, therefore you do not have time to do conventional copy-editing and fact-checking.”

And there you have it: Internet publishing is a different beast. The problem is that readers haven’t adjusted their expectations accordingly. They still expect the same kind of quality control they got when magazines were fat and happy, even though they’re paying even less for it than they used to — usually nothing at all.

Now having said that, you can still find original, well researched, well-written articles on the Web (on InfoWorld’s site and elsewhere), but the vast majority of online content is none of those things. And as more of it gets machine generated, that will only get worse.

The notion behind putting magazine articles on an iPad is that, assuming people are willing to pay, publications can still afford to produce quality material without taking a financial bath. But the question is, are people willing to pay? Does quality matter? Or have we passed the point of no return, where fast and cheap trumps fast and good, and everything else be damned?’


The Future of Reading

Is there still a desire for the written word? Yes there is, and by 12 year olds at that, as Josh Quittner of Fortune magazine found out from his own daughter:

A few months ago the most amazing thing happened: Unbidden, unpressured, and all by herself (armed only with my wife’s credit card), my 12-year-old daughter subscribed to a magazine.

While Clem has long harbored a fantasy of one day being the editor of the French version of Vogue (inexplicably, she is a life-long Francophile), it still surprised and thrilled me when Vogue started showing up in the mail.

Magazines, books, newspapers — all that printed stuff is supposed to be dying. Advertising pages, which have been steadily declining, dropped 26% in 2009 alone. But here, surely, was some evidence that publishing might have a chance. If an adolescent who otherwise spends every waking hour on a laptop still craves the printed word, then maybe, just maybe, there’s a little new growth left in old media.

This tender, green, old-media sprout began to bloom in a curious way, however. Each month Clem was excited when Vogue arrived. She’d rip into the issue and scamper up the stairs to her chambre à coucher, with enough enthusiasm to do Anna Wintour proud. But after digesting each issue, Clem would reappear with it hours later — only now a zillion Post-its jutted from its pages, stegosaurus-like.

Over time, one by one, those stegosauri began to stack up, spines out, in her closet. One day I decided to take a peek at the dinosaur graveyard to see what my daughter was tagging so furiously. It turned out that she was trying to annotate each issue, sorting the material by outfits, accessories, footwear, and other categories for later reference. I noticed that the more issues she tagged, the more frustrated she became. This was a lot of work. So why was she doing it?

“Don’t you get it?” my wife observed. “She’s trying to turn the magazine into a computer.”

Et voilà! Of course she was.

The more I thought about it, the more I decided there was good news for the evolution of the publishing industry here — and better news. The good news is that 12-year-olds, just like their parents and their parents before them going all the way back to the publication of the first magazine in 1731 (the year Charles Darwin’s grandfather was born), still enjoy the medium. But they want it delivered in an exponentially more useful way.

Raised to expect instant, sortable, searchable, savable, portable access to all the information in the world, these digital natives — tomorrow’s magazine subscribers, God and Steve Jobs willing — could well become the generation that saves the publishing industry.

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