Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

02/11/2010

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.

Read more @ http://alturl.com/qq26

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