What will the future of print look like?

I just finished an interesting article in Fortune Magazine(the print version, I might add) about the e-reader technologies for magazines.

There are several ventures considering various types of e-readers that would download magazines onto tablets or paper-thin devices.

The article raises several questions, with which I concur, such as whether or not readers would want to purchase another separate device just to read magazines.  Seems like it would be a much more reliable business venture to create magazines readable on the Kindle or iPhone.

As the article also questions, I wonder if consumers would actually pay for an e-magazine in the first place, when currently you can get so much magazine content online for free, which makes me wonder how periodicals would change their financial paradigm.

After reading the article, though I love all things tech, I realized I would really miss magazines that you can touch, hold, and browse through.  E-reading seems so much more purposeful than the way I read magazines.   A page loads one at a time , and its not something you can “flip” through, or tear a page out and post it on your bulletin board, or read by the pool and get the pages wet.  For purposeful journal reading, such a device might work well–but for magazine “browsing” that many readers do, it seems ill-suited.

All of which brought to mind a very prescient speech I heard Molly Ivins give at the University of Texas.  She described the real difficulties facing print newspapers and wondered how they could remain financially viable, and the perils for our society if they do not.

I think in this economic market we are going to see some real shifts, and we really do need to consider how to support those media that are significant and important to education and our society.

The economy may be the tipping point that Malcolm Gladwell writes about that will finally drive changes from print to online.   It’s interesting that e-readers have taken so long to appear on the scene, actually.  I recall hearing about these from Jenny Levine at Internet Librarian a number of years ago. It seems economic issues are accelerating these technologies.

But my question is–is this tipping point really what is best for our democracy?

If we lose print newspapers and/or magazines due to economic pressures, what have we lost?  I’m all for e-reporting and blogs, but excellent newspapers and magazines really do unfold a story in a different way–both with their investigative abilities and the abilities of good print journalists to pull a story together well.

I have to wonder how this will evolve?  And how will we as a society will respond?  Will we continue to have side by side technologies for a long time?  (like printed books which show no sign of having sales slow down alongside e-readers?  Print magazines alongside electronic ones?  What will the world feel like when/if everything is on a screen rather than on paper?   Will our students notice?

2 thoughts on “What will the future of print look like?

  1. I don’t know what the future will bring, and I only truly feel comfortable commenting on my personal experience butspme of my comments may be taken at a more global level…

    I know I am an odd duck, but almost everything I read is exclusively digital on my iPhone. This shift was not the exclusive providence of getting my iPhone last Christmas, I was almost exclusively digital on my MotoQ Global for the last two years ask well. What I find living digitally, print can’t replace. All of my books, blogs, news, (some magazines), documents, video, audio, and applications come with me everywhere… Additionally, I can manipulate them at my will. I use a digital reader that allows me to highlight, annotate,and lookup definations. I use a digital notebook that allows me to “clip” and organize similar and disseparate material for future reference with anytime access. Similar to your “rip out the pages and put them on a bulletin board, but my bulletin board comes with me. I can move information at will as well as corroborate news and information stories as opposed to taking a single source with all the biases that come along with one source reporting. I can forward links to information, complete with my notes and thoughts , and even my notebooks with reference material to collegues or the information (with source) itself.

    Print was and is a wonderful medium, however, I feel empowering it digitally allows it freedom to transend audience and original meaning.

    As an aside, the only way I could know your thoughts, ideas, and questions are through digital publishing and my reliance on portable reading. RSS brings your voice (and many others) to me regardless of my location (of which I am 2200 miles from home and my laptop) and my iPhone allows me to foster and further conversations instantly. Pretty cool I think!


  2. Scott,

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

    I totally value e-content myself–my iPhone has become more and more like my mobile laptop as a way to keep up, do research on the fly, keep up with email, etc.

    But I suppose I was thinking of more casual reading–reading Oprah by the pool, for example 😉 or flipping through the New York Times while I eat lunch.

    There’s something to me about that sort of casual reading and the tactile nature of it.

    I read online a tremendous amount, and it’s connectivity is addicting and illuminating.
    The ability to connect with authors about their ideas as you mentioned is just tremendous in terms of making texts more interactive, so I see the value in that.

    But I guess there is also some value in those solitary ways we read–in those times we can get away from everything and have it just be us and a book or a magazine or a newspaper?

    So my vote is for multiple media 😉

    I just worry the economic pressures are going to drive out ventures that might otherwise have been around for awhile. And inside, I have a secret hope that someone will design the best of both–revitalize the print sources somehow while retaining their paper-based nature!

    Economics sometimes drives innovation in unexpected directions 😉

    Thanks for your comments. You did an excellent job of relating the power of digital resources that we sometimes come to take for granted.

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