Roman Sturgis Take care of each other and make good decisions.

June 3, 2009

Predictions on Publishing

Filed under: Blog — Roman @ 10:08 am

I’m with Marty in Alexandria. Last night we went out for a burger and a beer and stayed up late talking about the future of publishing. It was flippin’ rad.

Marty tends to be one of my go-to guys when it comes to anything journalism related, especially in DC, where he works. He’s been with a range of newspapers from the Boston Globe to specialized niche publications like Inside Washington Publishers, where he covered industry news for the Air Force. Currently, he’s working for National Journal Group, covering nuclear and biological warfare.

Marty was telling me that National Journal Group is funded by a non-profit and has many publications. His feeling is that a lot of news writing will eventually be subsidized by similar non-profits with missions to to prop up the fourth estate. Coming soon: The Chicago Tribune, made possible by a generous donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (That’s just conjecture.)

A few days ago, Marty sent me this article about BookExpo America, where the conversation seems to have revolved around digital publications.

So Marty and I were trying to figure out what the realities of digital publication are–not the hopes and desires some enthusiasts place on digital publication, but the tangible benefits that might ultimately sway more (most?) people to use digital over print. Trade comics, for instance, don’t translate to digital. A Calvin and Hobbes or a Garfield can, sure, but a graphic novel? Far too much eye-strain involved. For those of us who read comics, there is a major difference between holding the comic and reading it on a screen. I think this has to do with the artwork more than anything else. You just can’t peer real close at the e-book version and marvel at how the layers of ink and print work together. This hinders the other great feeling you can sometimes get from a good comic: the wish that you had a fraction of the talent the artist had when he drew that two-page panorama of Gotham. That moment when you pause and say: holy crap these guys are good.

Our guess is that comics will continue to be successful in print. Magazines too, especially those that are assembled with a keen eye towards the design of the thing. A magazine like WIRED, for instance, might be kept for a long time, because of its high quality. ( Just think about how many old National Geos you’ve seen in your life.) Comics are kept, collected. Novels, too. If it’s a very good novel, it’s dusted off every once and awhile and reread, but mostly it’s just there on the shelf for show, or reference, or comfort. Comics, novels, sometimes even magazines, are passed around from friend to friend. That’s a cultural tradition that shouldn’t change, and I suspect it won’t, because we’ll still crave solid things sometimes. Books might become more rare, but they’ll also become more special. And possibly more expensive, especially considering their carbon footprint.

So it seems safe to say that things like The Kindle won’t kill novel printing. But as the Kindle technology improves and comes down in price, people could realize that having the choice and portability of a Kindle is sometimes preferable to lugging books around. Travelers, for instance. Do you remember having to choose which cds to bring on the plane with you, or not deciding, and bringing the whole damn case, which added like, ten pounds to your backback? Now, it’s all in the i-pod. This would totally work for students, too. Every text, from Math to Spanish to English Lit, right there in your Kindle. There might be schools of the future whose curriculum is almost entirely electronic texts.

Okay, lock it up, Roman.

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