The publishing industry is still trying to figure out what is going on. They're blaming the digitization of everything on their weakening sales (both at the newsstand and in terms of advertising dollars). Are that many people leaving the print version of newspapers and magazines behind for their online counterparts or are there just too many media choices and natural selection is at play?
Those were just some of the thoughts that I was personally grappling with while attending the O'Reilly Tools of Change for Publishers conference in New York City last week. It seems like the book publishing industry truly believes that their entire industry is in peril due to the e-book and Amazon Kindle. For years, that same industry was complaining that fewer and fewer people are reading books as people's interest shifted to television and magazines. So, has the Internet and newer digital channels simply become the new scapegoat?
We really don't hate print that much, do we?
Every month I look forward to the new issue of Wired Magazine. My passion for publishing has not changed, even though fewer and fewer magazines of personal interest are published. I still enjoy a stroll through the aisles of the newsstand. With every visit, there's this faint hope that a new issue of Wired Magazine will magically be ready. Three weeks out of four, I am disappointed. At the same time, everyday there are fistfuls of new pieces of content uploaded to the Wired website. I don't even have to go looking for it, through the magic of RSS and Google Reader, I am immediately notified when Wired publishes anything new online. Here's the big question: why do I care so little about constant and fresh updates from Wired online while - at the same time - a new issue of the print magazine feels like the perfect gift has just arrived? I enjoy the printed version so much more that I spend a couple of moments strategizing when I can cozy up with the issue and give it its due attention.
Are we wired for print? (pardon the pun)
Reading different formats produces different results. Whether it's a book, online article, a piece on the iPod Touch or a PDF eBook, the way we intake every character and sentence is different. Why? For some reason, we read books differently than we read Blogs. Maybe it has to do with the focus of having something printed in your hands and not being able to simply click away from it? Maybe it has to do with how much content we are all trying to consume online - many small pieces of snackable content and only the really sharp ones stick out in our minds? Maybe when we have to wait for something and then pay for it, we put a higher value on it? Maybe because something printed on paper feels more "real" to us?
Whatever the reason - and I'm sure there are many people much smarter than I am uncovering how we consume content as a scientific experiment - print is not dying because of the digital channel. There are just that many more choices and people are having to make very difficult choices. An amazing novel will come out and still sell millions, just like a new Blog will pop up and rocket to the top of Technorati.
It might be as simple as: great content will always find its audience regardless of how it is published.