Magazine article Information Today

Why Isn't Print Dead ... Yet?

Magazine article Information Today

Why Isn't Print Dead ... Yet?

Article excerpt

The other day I was reading an essay analyzing the impact of this fact on scholarly societies: Academics now expect and prefer to read journals online.

Societies typically offer free or sharply discounted subscriptions to their print journals that were "included-in-your-dues." The practice has been effective for recruiting and retaining members, since even members with little interest or opportunity for participating in other society activities can appreciate the regular arrival of content that interests them. But what happens when the society journals merge into an aggregator's RSS feed that combines multiple sources? Or what happens when a scholar is already drowning in digital content from licensed and open web sources? Even scholarly societies with century-old histories can find themselves taking a hit. Is this just another example of the web revolution, the Google Age, or Digital Destiny? Is it yet another scythe poised in midair, aiming at traditional information formats and the providers behind them?

Welcome to the 'Chip Generation'

As the people born and raised in the 1970s and 1980s and their children dominate the demographics, the "chip generation" may come to find print formats a retro oddity. While the demise of print has long been predicted, I notice that not all the paper and pulp producers have closed their factory doors or sold all their forests to developers. However, with the heavy dependence that publishers still place on print as the format from which all else flows--or at least subscription revenue--and the print-driven justification for physical libraries, print's survival certainly remains an issue of interest for all kinds of information professionals.

How long can print-based content survive? And why should it? I asked an info pro. His answer focused on certain convenience factors. To be specific, though not indecorous, he referred to how a particular household facility could accommodate reading print publications while the same facility would not so easily accommodate a laptop computer.

Convenience alone seems to be a thin basis for building the future of a product line, however, especially considering that convenience is in the eye of the beholder and those eyes can wander. People born and raised with computers and digital content may not desire lights behind their head that enable them to read a page, or they may not find lights shining up through the content all that irritating. Digital content providers have advantages that print providers simply do not have, and those advantages expand daily. Interactivity with other content; the social networking of reader with author and reader with reader; enrichment of content through online sources, including author and reader input--these are all attractive and inspiring to creative content development. And then there are all those opportunities to monetize content.

Books as the Last Great Holdout

The last great holdout for print dominance remains books. Scholarly journals, newspapers, government reports, and even trade journals have started to succumb to Digital Destiny. As content and information industry professionals keep soldiering on with hybrid strategies serving print and digital formats, it sometimes seems as if everyone is waiting for e-books to become the tipping point leading to an all-digital reality.

That day may come, but maybe not that soon. Ebooks remain unloved. And you know what happens to the unloved. They don't get kissed much. In this case, they lose out on the KISS of smart business acumen (and that's KISS as in Keep It Simple Stupid). …

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