chewing ideas down to stubble, then moving on…

Will Print Media Ever Die?

Posted by Jason on December 9, 2008

So we’ve heard that newspapers are suffering. Major book publishers are suffering. The failing economy seems to compound the decline of printed information that we’ve witnessed for several years. There is no arguing that the digital revolution has severely changed the scene for publishing of all types. This is a sink or swim time for the publishing world. Adapt and overcome, or face extinction. Will the world of words on the printed page ever cease to exist? Will print media turn to dust and museum fodder like the dinosaurs?

It almost seems that books, newspapers, and magazines have been relegated to the world of luxuries these days. A television is indispensable for news and entertainment, but a newspaper subscription or shelf full of books connotes a higher class of people. People that have those things have more or less stable incomes and static living situations. Any book lover who has moved can tell you that he or she would have far less books if moving were a yearly event. It reminds me of Edison’s reported quotation: “We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles.” Instead of electricity, it’s information. Only the rich will read books anymore…

Many writers certainly welcome the digital revolution for its ease of communication with publishers and editors. Furthermore, all these advances make dispersing of their information much faster and they have access to many more means of communicating their messages. Blogging lets pretty much anybody self-publish with little or no editing for style, clarity, etc. All kinds of people who never had a voice in print now do. Feedback, good and bad, is immediate. These things are all wonderful.

However, writers must have a physical record of their ideas. All the different technologies will change some day, and nobody will be able to read from a standard hard drive as we know them, since there will be 8 million other things a hundred or 200 years down the road. This blog will cease to exist once I die… maybe? Does the blog replace the diary? Will future generations have any access to their favorite writers once print media kicks the bucket? So many different electronic versions and formats will exist of any given piece of literature: how will we know what was actually written or intended by the author? Or will “faithful enough to the original” be the industry standard for literary fidelity? 

I don’t think printed media will ever completely be wiped from the face of the Earth. But we could see a time when it is only reserved for the uber-cultured; those who delight in harkening back to a time when ink needed to meet paper in order for the word to be spread.


9 Responses to “Will Print Media Ever Die?”

  1. Schevus said

    I think that books have been a luxury for those well off for quite some time. With a paperback running $7 – $8+, it is hard to justify when someone is having a hard time putting food on the table.

    I personally had to haggle and harass my mother for books when I was growing up (how horribly nerdy that sounds), because we were almost always on a tight budget. “Go to the library” was the usual retort, but as any paperback fan can attest, libraries do not have the greatest selection. This is especially true of rural libraries such as mine growing up. I’m a British Sci-Fi junky and you just don’t find that stuff at the library.

    – Schev

  2. Jason said

    So do you think there will ever be a day when no new things will be printed?

  3. Schevus said

    I think of course that time will come eventually, assuming our species survives that long. Without stretching into the unforeseeable future though, I think you are right that printed material will become more and more of a luxury for the elite.

    – Schev

  4. I work in this industry…so let me chime in. Book sales will be relivant for at least another 30 years as there is no acceptable digital delivery system for reading texts. the data is all digitized…people just won’t read 2ar and Peace on a kindle

  5. Schevus said

    I actually know several people who have switched to reading primarily on a digital reader. Granted, I do hang out in more of a tech savvy crowd. I am tempted by the idea, but the price is prohibitive for me right now. I don’t spend hundreds of dollars lightly.

  6. Currently e-books are only 2.3% off all book sales

  7. Jason said

    How long do you think textbook publishers are going to hold out? I’ve seen increasing digital integration in a lot of school texts. Even though it’s not a complete replacement of the books yet, there is quite a bit of supplemental material that is extra-textual these days.

  8. Brooke said

    Just my opinion as an avid paper back fan… I think you may be right that at some point no new written things will be in print form, but I think that day is a long way into the future.

  9. kktucks said

    agreed. i think the future lies in virtual books, or hologram book even. think about it, the story comes to life in a hologram…kinda harry potter-ish.

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