Friday, January 30, 2009

The Future of the Printed Word

For hundreds of years people have documented their existence, passing on messages, history, and ideas through print form. Now the crumbling economy is threatening to make printed news a thing of the past...

Just recently the New York Times announced that they are facing dire circumstances and "that it is possible that The Times and other newspapers will have to move to digital-only distribution."(read story)

Closer to home the Tucson Citizen has announced they will close the Tucson Citizen on March 21 if it can’t find a buyer. (read story)

Other papers are taking desperate measures and have been forced to cut staff and popular sections.

The Washington Post is ending regular publication of its weekly Book World section, eliminating one of the few stand-alone book review sections left among daily newspapers. (read story)

"Whether or not print dies, its business model will", says Jeff Jarvis, "Physical wares—newspapers, books, magazines, discs—will no longer be the primary or most profitable means of delivering and interacting with media: news, fact, entertainment, or education."

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has now gone out on a limb and made some pretty bold predictions in a recent discussion with Washington Post editors, the biggest of which, by far, is his proclamation that he thinks there'll be "no media consumption left in 10 years that is not delivered over an IP network." So as not to leave any doubt about that, he also went to further clarify that means there "will be no newspapers, no magazines that are delivered in paper form. Everything gets delivered in an electronic form." (read story)

So what does this mean for the Book World?

We know publishers have been forced to cut cost by shortening tours, buying less manuscripts, and spending less on publicity. Which interprets to bookstores as fewer events, fewer posters, fewer books, and few sales. If bookstores all are to survive, they need customers who don't define themselves as customers simply by reading newsletters or attending programs, but by taking it a step further and buying books.

"The other day as a luncheon speaker I sat down by a man, a familiar face, who said he was a Poisoned Pen customer. And he said, I've just read a good book. In fact, I've read 100 books lately. Wonderful I said. And he said, Yes, all on my kindle.

And I said, Then you will be okay when we close the store. And he said, Why would you do that? Close the store? How will I know what to read?

Retail businesses need to sell product, not just services. We are not public institutions or free information providers. No bail out is likely to come our way. It's important to make this decision now when it counts and to stick to it.

You may love your Kindles and e-readers, but we hope you love us, too." said Barbara Peters owner of The Poisoned Pen.

Stuart Evers of the, said it best in his moving story titled "Murder One closing: did we commit this crime? The loss of one of Charing Cross Road's best bookshops is as much down to customer neglect as the economic climate. (read story)

Some are fighting for what they hold dear. More than 100 writers have banded together asking The Washington Post not to shut down its stand-alone Sunday Book World section. (read story)

Are we entering an era in which magazines and books will be reduced to flickering video displays? Will this be a brave new world or a step back into the dark ages? I for one do not want to give up the comfort of curling up with a good book. Yes, for the moment I am safely surrounded a surplus of "to read" books and I take comfort in having a choice at the ready.

I do not want to be forced to do my recreational reading in a digital format. I take no comfort from a glowing screen, reaping only headaches and weak vision...

1 comment:

  1. I live in the SC; visit Phoenix on a busines basis rather frequently. Hope to continue. A trip to TPP is a must do on every trip. Patrick has been great in introducing me to new writers. Would never have discovered some great books without the lagnaipe TPP offers.

    The lagnaipe is what I think/hope will protect and preserve the bookshop of the world.