Big Print

We hear all about big pharma, big banks, big oil, etc., ad nauseum. And the phrase “too big to fail achieved household-name status in 2009.

So, what’s happening to the big publishing model? It comes as no surprise that the long-time print-based industry has been/is/should be changing big time.

Here are a few perspectives:

Kindle Armageddon: How the Publishing Industry Is Slitting Its Own Throat


Once upon a time, the only books that existed were books copied by hand by monks and scribes and sold to the very rich for the equivalent of $5000 or $6000 a book.

Once upon a time the only books that existed were books on paper made by printing presses and sold to the rich and not so rich and not rich at all for enough money to make publishing houses worth hundreds of millions of dollars, enough money to pay high salaries to publishing executives.

Anyone with an imagination about the future of technology and commerce knows that the printed book on paper is already on its way to obsolescence. The wrangling and beefing and whining about prices and protecting demand for printed books by publishing executives is both amusing and tragic.

Anyone who believes this new technology is going away is dreaming. Anyone who believes the print publishing industry has a chance to survive in its present form is dreaming.

Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable


It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem [print-based] publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem.

Revolutions create a curious inversion of perception. In ordinary times, people who do no more than describe the world around them are seen as pragmatists, while those who imagine fabulous alternative futures are viewed as radicals. The last couple of decades haven’t been ordinary, however. Inside the papers, the pragmatists were the ones simply looking out the window and noticing that the real world increasingly resembled the unthinkable scenario. These people were treated as if they were barking mad. Meanwhile the people spinning visions of popular walled gardens and enthusiastic micropayment adoption, visions unsupported by reality, were regarded not as charlatans but saviors.

Museums (as publishers of print and electronic media), take heed. Where are you in the process of transitioning to the post-print publishing reality?


~ by jockuly on February 16, 2010.

4 Responses to “Big Print”

  1. I like your new site. I can’t resist chipping in with this bit on Mark Twain’s HUCKLEBERRY FINN from today’s Writer’s Almanac (makes “photoshopping” seem much less problematic somehow):

    ‘It was set to be published in time for Christmas in 1884. But in late November, someone in the publishing house of Charles L. Webster and Company realized something that had escaped the notice of Webster, the writer William Dean Howells, and Twain himself when they looked over the proofs: Somewhere along the way, someone had tinkered with the illustration of Uncle Silas on page 283, making it look like he was indecently exposing himself. Two hundred and fifty copies of the book had already been sent out, as advance reader’s copies; but 30,000 more were printed and ready for people who had ordered the book on subscription. The publishing house had to make a new plate, then go through every printed copy, cutting out the offending picture and replacing it with a cleaned-up illustration.’

    Still, I don’t see books and magazines disappearing entirely, though newspapers might. I’m not sure the auto industry analogy (in your first reading suggestion) is exact enough; I’m not sure media and transportation are alike enough for it to be exact enough. Plus, what will we call “the free press” if post-print is for real??? Until that clicking question is resolved, pause the revolution!

  2. Beautiful. Now that would be a collector’s item.

    I don’t think books will go away either. The economics and production process will continue to change, though. Readers may end up, more often than not, being the printers of their own material — as they are already becoming; “professional” one-off printing (on demand) will continue — and increase in the near future; and buying pre-printed books will most likely “always” happen, albeit on a smaller scale.

    And we probably won’t ever be making our own cars when we need them. Or will we?

  3. You do have to wonder about “it all” when, as I did last week, you go to Coffee News on Grand, where about 75 percent of the people have faces four inches from their laptop screens, and see one lone kid reading a big glossy issue of MAC WORLD.

    What would be the unintended consequences of pure post-print, to parallel all the unintended consequences of car culture? I definitely want a printout of the “how to make your own car” manual, by the way, ‘cuz I wouldn’t want any grease getting on my keyboard.

  4. […] Related post — Big Print […]

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