Saturday, June 02, 2007

Print Ain’t Dead – It Just Mutated

© Copyright 2007 Ray X

Beware. The “Print is dead” meme is on the loose again.

Recently a bookstore owner in Kansas City, Missouri was suffering from a surfeit of used books. Since he couldn’t give them away, he decided to burn them. According to the news story about the incident, the owner said that people don’t read anymore. When someone dies, it was observed, they usually leave behind five TV sets and three books.

Well, I don’t print think is dead. I read more stuff than ever, but not packaged in the usual mainstream hardcopy formats. I still have piles of books and magazines around my apartment, but added to the mix are printouts, corner-stapled compilations produced from the Web.

Using my computer I put together my own news zine, selecting just articles I want -- “comping,” if you will. ThanX to Bloglines I can check on various blogs and other sources all in one spot. If an article grabs my attention, I copy and paste it into a wordprocessing file, reformatting it as needed. I might spend a couple of hours reviewing all sorts of stuff, winnowing what I really want to read. Then I print out my self-made compilation that sometimes runs to 20 pages or more.

I know I could save time and physical space by reading all the stuff on the Web, but I’m a pager, not a screener. I like to lie in bed and read; the squatting juggernaut that’s my desktop computer ain’t suitable for that activity.

Obviously, I’m not alone when it comes to comping. It’s no wonder why newspaper, magazine and book sales are declining. It’s not competition from TV because that medium has also been losing eyeballs. And it’s not only a cost factor, i.e., I’m cheap. If something is worth the price, I’ll pay for it. But I don’t think Fortean Times – a good publication – is worth $12 (US funds) or whatever it’s going for this month. It’s all about content. And I find articles online that are just as informative as what I can read in FT.

Some writers lament that all this free content on the Web is hurting their livelihoods. I can sympathize, but since I’m not an established writer, I “give away” my writing online. And while generating income from my wordsmithing would be great, I have one major goal as a writer: to be read. Since the gatekeepers in mainstream publishing have never been impressed with my efforts, here I am.

All I can hope is that people out there are comping my words and enjoying them as part of their perusals.

Comment via email:


X. Dell said...

It's funny, but I used to say that the big advantage of books over computers is that I can't take a desktop tower on the bus. But nowadays, everybody (else) has a laptop.

I actually prefer reading hardcopy, as I know a lot of people do. It frees you from the computer space, it's easier to read, and far more flexible in its usage.

Unfortunately, a lot of the used book stores around here have bitten the dust over the last ten years. At least The Strand survives.

Ray said...

X. Dell:

I'm gone digital with photography, but until they come up with a format as good as or better than paper, I'll stick with hardcopy. Maybe I'll end up one day reading a flexible plastic sheet that switches to a new page with a touch of my finger.


News & Events

Plastic Logic raises $100 million to enable the first “take anywhere, read anywhere” electronic reader products

03 January 2007

New volume manufacturing facility to ramp-up in 2008

Cambridge, UK – 3rd January 2007 – Plastic Logic announced today that it will build the first factory to manufacture plastic electronics on a commercial scale. The facility will produce flexible active-matrix display modules for ‘take anywhere, read anywhere’ electronic reader products. It will utilize Plastic Logic’s unique process to fabricate active-matrix displays that are thin, light and robust; enabling a reading experience closer to paper than any other technology.]

Susan said...

Growing up I thought the real sign of accomplishment was having not a home theater system or a 4 car garage but a wall of books and one of those rolling ladders with which to access it. I was just talking to my niece about this tonight and we agreed that even though it's convenient and wonderful having everything at our fingertips, there's just nothing like sitting down with an Encyclopedia.

Ray said...


Can you imagine what a pain in neck an encyclopedia would be if Bill Gates designed it? Volume 3 would need rebooting now and then, volume 11 keeps crashing, and you would have to download an update for volume 18 or it won't read properly.

The simplicity of hardcopy.

Doug said...

I often print out pieces from the web so I can read them on the train. The real downside is that I cannot comment right away, and by the time I get home (and can access the site I printed) I may not remember what I thought hours before.

I rarely go to The Onion's website but I like the print version that comes out weekly, so I can read it while I eat lunch. I can fold it and put it in my back pocket; that I can't do with my laptop.

I'm "giving it away for free" myself, but I'm hard-pressed to believe I'm putting any publishers or bookstores out of business by doing so. But I can pretend I have that level of influence.

Ray said...


I don’t think all the free Web content is putting publishers out of business. But I don’t think it’s helping them, either. Just like with the big TV networks. One theory about the overall drop in television viewers is that people are accessing stuff online instead of sitting half-dazed in front of the boob tube. I watch TV with rabbit ears, off the air, and so it’s free content for me. But most of it is crap. That’s why I spend more time online because with some digging it's easier to find better free content.