Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The death of print to come? Maybe it's just an education.

Sweet and Loman: Annalee Newitz on “The future of paper”

Digital Journalism, Paper Packaging http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2007/07/digital_journal.html

Full disclosure, I read the first few sentences and then skimmed the rest. I'm probably not talking to all the points and therefore proving myself out as a reliable source. Continue readings (or skimming) if you can be bothered.

See the thing about all of no more books, newspapers or printed materials is that I just don't believe it to happen anytime in the next few centuries or at all. (Unless there is a technology that people are so comfortable with and it changes cultural and social behaviors that printed materials are so passe as to not even be necessary for official invitations).

Here's why: Education is still based on paper. So as long as we're teaching each generation by using paper, it's going to be the media preferred by the general public. I'm not even talking about just the US, I mean everywhere. Now, I realize my point is assuming the replacement is digital or a digital equivalent for paper. This may be a bad and wrong assumption, I may be very wrong. That's fine, I'm not in the business of prediction. What I do still think is that paper isn't going to die. Maybe tree-based paper will go away based on resources and energy and environmental trends. "Paper" will only go away when we as a species don't prefer to learn by it and don't a deep association with something tangible. I think it's a human trait to enjoy touching and looking at print on paper or a paper-like material. It's also an attractive Luddite-ish tendency I have to prefer having something that doesn't require a battery.

I also think that print designers, writers, printers, etc are (of course) differently disciplined than those of the web. I have a great respect for people who pull off great design in print. It's a strange bias to have as a web person (although I started my path as an English major, so there you go I guess.)

Print designers can't take it back from the world. They can cancel an order, they can do a reprint. A mistake is a mistake that has a permanent mark. How many of you have gotten a frantic call that there's a typo on a website and rushed off to fix it? Boom, done. Of course if the server crashed or there's a fatal flaw, it's got a bigger history and the web remembers.

Maybe it's my penchant for the printed word. I don't completely agree with the Internet is dumbing us down however I do agree that it's a push toward skimming a LOT (hello RSS feeds!) and only focusing interest on key points. It's the long tail, I suppose.

There are many bloggers, writers, commentators who work in the internet-only world had to work in print publishing they'd do it differently. Better? Perhaps. Many come from a print background, so perhaps I'm too harsh.

I've worked in publishing three times with a cumulative time of 8 years: once as a writer and editor (3 years), once in customer service (2 years), and once in media/interactive working with editors (3 years). I have to say, the respect I have for a good writer, editor and designer (and a good printer) is because of the diligence they have on their final product. This is not to say that anything produced for online consumption or experience is any less, it's just different. The respect of the greater US public is far less for online than print. People get print, it's easier to say that it'll take X amount of time, money and talent. You get balked at for doing digital if you properly assess how much time, money, effort, talent it takes.

People in certain spheres are consumed by what web 2.0 is going to do for education and what the "millenials" are learning. What most of them don't get is that it's all about efficiency. A smart leader once told me that and he's damn right. Students (since probably the beginning of time) have done whatever is most efficient. Students are people and people do whatever is efficient to get to spend more time on what they enjoy. For example, not doing the before class
is more efficient than doing it after. Why? Because reading it before is reading it out of context. A good professor puts the learning into context. So reading (or rather skimming, since that's more efficient) after class is more efficient. If at all, since not reading might be the most efficient, depending on the grading/course structure.

I'm not making my point as eloquently as I would like. I'll get it together eventually and repost.

No comments: