Print is…

Re-imagined.So we all have heard over and over how “print is dead” right?
well, even as people debate over the future of publishing its starting to look clear what it’s becoming.
“Print is dead” was never more than a reactionary term anyway… anyone remember the whole “God is Dead” fiasco? People love to declare things DEAD… or POST.
Globalism is dead!
Rock is Dead. Long live Post Rock!
Yeah, whatever.
It’s just change of one kind or another… or a blurring of what is understood as one linear definition into multiples.

But back to the “print” issue.

What do we mean when we say “print,” anyway?
Just words or images on physical paper?
Mostly, but the term “print” has also come to represent an aesthetic – the design of the page. The most desirable structure for the eye to absorb information. With it comes the discipline of typography, color theory and the benefits of a century of design experimentation.
Paper may recede to realm of enthusiasts and collectors, but the way we have come to view work on a page, the aesthetics of print design, will survive and adapt to new media.

One of the best examples is Flypmedia… a real visually engaging hybrid of a print magazine and a website. More websites are retooling their home pages closer and closer to the way print design uses layout to present a story or idea. Another emerging platform in this vein is Blio.

With the rise of itunes, Tivo and Apple TV it is clear that the primary future of content is going to be in data transfer, rather that any physical object, with Art books perhaps being an exception.

For a long time it was clear print was in a deep decline, but where content was migrating toward, and in what form, was still unclear, but now it looks like smart phones and e-readers and new forms of hand held computers is the next stop.

your iPhone is an eReader with Stanza

In another 5 years almost all movies and music and news, books, magazines, etc. will be downloaded to a device of choice or viewed online. TV and computers will further blur into hybrid devices.

Barnes and Nobles Nook eReader

While I love physical books, I also welcome this change. Paper is an expensive resource, and much of what is printed is total crap… So fine, reserve it for special things and let everything be data. Content has been liberated from the bondage of print as the primary vector of distribution.

Ex libris handcrafted books

Books certainly aren’t going away, but there will soon be a lot less of them as physical objects.
Those that remain will be geared toward collectors- people for whom the object itself a functional thing of beauty.

Mass market titles will quickly go the way of the digital format.
In addition to the book form we now have the Suessian array of alternatives:  the blook,  the vook, hooks, and blogs, vlogs, and the vast assortment of book sharing sites that a google or yahoo search turns up. Say that five times fast!

In the last decade we have seen tremendous shifts the ways we record, share and even think about the world around us.
Digital photography has replaced film, email has transformed letter writing, blogs have replaced personal journals, Skype and instant messaging is replacing telephone calling, iPods have replaced CD players. Most of all the expansion and sophistication of internet has lead this charge.

“the internet is training us to read in a distracted and disjointed way.” this will continue to ripple outward in unexpected and unique ways. —Nicholas Carr

While many publishers and record labels have gone out of business, more and more independents and individuals can afford to produce their own work. There is no shortage of interesting content. It’s an explosion of ideas and thoughts and images…  and its easily overwhelming as much for the mind as the wallet.

Instead of all the money vanishing into a corporate black hole, more and more artists and writers could potentially profit a lot more from their own work.

Focused branding will sustain the best of the small presses and indie/neighborhood book shops and sites and book discussion blogs. Used Books, Book clubs and social sites, like FaceBook and Twitter, will fill in the blanks spaces. There are exciting new experiments like Bookkake, The Institute for the future of the book, Book Glutton, LibriVox, Book mooch, BookNinja, Kobo, Shelfari, and Storybird creating new ways to discover, share or create great books and stories.

Content will be mixed and remixed, Do-It-Yourself books self published by places like EditionOne, Lulu and Blurb are enabling people to create their own work at a reasonable price, and to share or sell it easily.

Sites like Octavo make classic seminal texts available to anyone for a very modest price.

Sites like Slate and Salon have become the new popular “magazines”  examining the pulse of an truly interactive and multimedia culture.

Wikipedia allows you to research, enter, edit entries on any subject anytime, from anywhere.

Personal videos posted on sites like YouTube can now launch careers.


New technology like google wave and Skype are making it easier to connect, Social networks like Facebook, and Twitter allow people to share ideas and information and stay connected. This can be profound as well as tedious.
I never cared for Twitter until I saw how it helped young protesters in Iran connect and strategize.

One of the most amazing things to me is how almost all of this is free. Some think the future of content is “free,” though most aren’t convinced. Which brings us to the thorn in all this- How do we all survive when so much content is (and expected and demanded to be) free?

Some are going to try to charge… early attempts at this have failed, but who knows if it easy and cheap enough it may work. Micro fees may be the way. Would you pay pennies to read individual stories on your favorite sites?

Journalism is particularly in free fall as sites expect people to write for next to nothing or worse. Advertising revenue is well below projections for even the biggest news and information sites, which means smaller sites can rarely be sustainable. Writers can’t survive writing and researching for nothing.

While the vectors of the new media are coming into focus, the financial arrangements may yet still reshape the content delivery landscape dramatically. But really, it’s still so new so unsettled, anything could happen.

Apple’s rumored new Tablet computer may be the device that captures the imagination of the public and propels all this forward. An announcement is scheduled for January 26, 2010.

Another “artists rendering” of what the new
Apple Tablet computer may look like.

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