The evolution of revolution

By Phil Plait | September 13, 2007 8:37 pm

My mancrush Wil Wheaton just wrote an excellent essay about the information revolution underway (warning: it’s posted on Suicide Girls, a very NSFW but very cool site).

In the essay, Wil makes a point that took me years to get: the internet is making small things big, virally, and it’s doing it for free. A band that can never make it to a record label can get distribution through YouTube. A writer who can’t get a book contract can write a pretty good blog and get thousands of readers. An actor can make movies and put them on any of a number of video sites.

Old media (especially movies and radio) are dying, but their death throes are damaging new media too. Wil makes this point about DRM, the RIAA, and other hurtful acronymicious things. They are scared of teh ‘tubes, so they try to make them knuckle under. It’s not working well.

This took me a while to understand, when I was still mostly doing things for old media. I wrote for magazines, I had a book out through a "real" publisher (and another on the way — caveat emptor; I think the book publishing industry still has lots of life left in it… more on that in a sec). Fraser showed me the path, and I am choosing to walk it now. I will be doing more and more online, and letting the actual end user decide if they like it or not. I won’t stop doing old media if they ask, but I find myself less inclined to as time goes on. The money is good, but that’s not enough to motivate me. That’s why I have an RSS feed; getting more readers is more important to me than squeezing an extra dime out of each one of them. Old media still hasn’t figured that out. And even getting more readers isn’t as important to me as getting good content to them — in other words, more readers is good, but better readers is better. Not everyone will like what I write, and that’s fine. A lot of folks still will, and they can find me.

Put it this way: I have something like 30,000 readers, more or less, and that number is a substantial fraction of the number of subscribers to any given astronomy magazine. My numbers are going up, but the number of subscribers for any given magazine is going down. Why?

Content. Ease of use. Speed: I can post astronomy news in a day, sometimes faster, but a magazine takes months. They have websites, but the sites typically aren’t much different from the magazine itself. They don’t see the difference.

I do. Some of what I write might fit this magazine or that, but all of what I write fits here. The BABlog.

I like print magazines, I honestly do. I prefer to sit and read an actual glossy hardcopy. But they are on the way out, I think. There is simply too much in them the reader doesn’t want, and it’s very easy for that same reader to find blogs that give them precisely what they do want. Books, however, are different. I’m not so sure books are on the way out; very few people I know like to read that much content on a monitor. That’s one of many reasons I may stick with writing books. There is something magical about holding a book in your hands… and publishers are starting to see advantages of new media. I know of a couple of people who turned serial podcasts of their work into novels into "real" publishing deals. My publisher appears happy to have me working hard on the ‘net to promote the book as well. Old and new media can work together and make the transition not only painless but profitable for both.

Radio and movie corporations have yet to figure that out. They seem to prefer jealousy and pain.

Even the website hosting Wil’s article, Suicide Girls, shows his point: it takes the best of old and new and make something even newer. ScienceBlogs, as another example, is sponsored by Seed magazine, and they are making a real go of switching gears. Ironically, I suspect ScienceBlogs may outlive the print mag.

I suspect a lot of things will outlive print magazines. Heck, I’m betting my career on it. I quit my day job to write my next book (which will be published by Viking Press, a respected old media house), but what will I do in the year between sending in the manuscript and seeing it printed? The real answer is, write another book — for a publishing house, too. :-) But I will also be redoubling my efforts here, making this blog better, and vastly increasing my online presence.

This series of tubes is a pretty good thing, and as much as the acronyms thrash, they cannot kill it. They’ll try, and the government will help, but with our participation we can keep this going for a good long time.


Comments (42)

  1. Sing it, brother Phil!

    My writing for Unscrewing the Inscrutable and my own blog is now read more each day than was my regular newspaper column. My novel set in 2052 has had over 5,000 downloads since February. The comments and feedback I get from folks on the web is a thousand times more interesting and insightful than the random remarks I would get from people at the grocery store who recognized me and vaguely remembered something I had written for the paper a week previously. Professionally, I just landed a 5-year project caring for a major collection of books (I’m a book & document conservator), largely because of my business website…which costs me almost nothing to host and maintain.

    And we’re just beginning to see how this will transform the landscape of ideas and business.

    Jim Downey

  2. Amen, Phil.

    I’m the managing editor for a variety webmagazine call and I could not agree with you (and Wil) more. In fact, some of our editors are also employed in the print media and they tell me that the death bells toll for print (i.e. magazines, newspapers). The old media establishment should be afraid… but I think many people miss the point about the whole idea of the internet (that I can easily sidetrack into a net neutrality rant). What you described in your blog entry embodies the very idea of the “American Dream” – developing, inventing, creating, doing what ever it takes to make a difference, and the internet gives everyone a level playing field on which to manifest that. I dread the day the internet loses neutrality.

    I’ll never give up books, though. There’s something very organic about reading ink off of dead trees. I’ll never give up my library.

    Thanks Phil. Keep up the good work!

  3. ABR

    I agree — books are here to stay. I still prefer sitting down in a comfy chair (although, not one used by the Spanish Inquisition) and spending a day reading a book in hand to reading on the Interwebs…not that I would give up perusing certain blogs and/or discussion boards, mind you!

    I think Isaac Asimov summed up the virtues and simplicity of the book very eloquently in his 1973 essay “The Ancient and the Ultimate”.

  4. The reason that books stick around and are still vital, is that books are still the best delivery platform for long, extended, in depth, explorations of a subject.

    The book is a compact, efficient, and sometimes even inexpensive delivery system for lots of coherent content.

    However, for timeliness, cross reference-ability, and just plain discoverability, you can’t really beat a blog or a web site.

    The book medium…bound printed paper…may change at some point. I’ve purchased a handful of programmers reference manuals in PDF format…and on my laptop, with the font size kicked way up, it’s not an altogether unpleasant way to read.

    If palm-sized devices with tactile feedback for paging (iPhone-esque maybe) can display books (without crippled DRM) we may see more digital format books as well.

  5. Lucas

    Being an avid fan of eBooks, I must disagree with you when you say that “very few people I know like to read that much content on a monitor.”

    Isn’t that basically what we do all day long on the internet? When you read blogs or websites, you are reading a lot of content on a monitor. The thing with reading books on a computer is that you must have self-control so you won’t lost your focus on other stuff, like music, browsing, chatting, and the multitude of other stuff available to be done.

    Also, unlike a book page, the monitor actually emits light, so reading black on white can be tough on the eyes. My trick is to read books using a black background and a large, grey, sans-serif font. It helps a lot. :)

  6. To a certain extent, I have to disagree. Old media is not in its death throes. Rather, it is undergoing a complicated and difficult realignment. Television, movies, books and even print periodicals aren’t going anywhere. They’re going to change, certainly, but they’re not going to disappear in our lifetime.

    The reason for this is three fold. First, they’re an entrenched part of our culture. Most people aren’t going to give up watching television or going to the movies. I actually wrote something of some length on the subject here a few weeks ago.

    Second, pertaining specifically to magazines, glossy print periodicals are floundering in part because of the internet but in bigger part because that market has become so saturated. Printing has gotten so cheap and design tools so available that just about anyone with a dash of money behind them can start a niche magazine. I read recently that there are four times as many magazines on the US market as there were twenty years ago. There are simply more magazines than there are people interested in buying them. That’s more a product of the number of magazines than the availability of information on the internet.

    Third, though the internet has democratized communication like no other tool before it, there is a price to be paid for this everyman version of mass media. Simply, the vast majority of home-produced content isn’t very good. It’s not entertaining. It’s not informative or original. This is not to say that most of what’s produced by commercial media is good by any objective definition of the word but there are basic standards as far as style, content and production value. Though one or two percent of what’s on the internet is really exceptional, it’s often not worth sifting through the ninety percent of it that’s crap to get to the really good stuff. Whereas, when turning on the television, I know that I’m going to get a certain minimum quality product that I am not guaranteed through my computer.

    Moreover, this is hardly the first time that a new information technology has changed the landscape. Television was heralded as the end of the movies. It wasn’t. Hollywood adapted. The remote control and VCR’s were going to make television innately unprofitable. They didn’t. The TV industry adapted. TV news was going to end the newspaper. It didn’t. Newspapers reinvented themselves. We’re in a similar transitional period that has yet to sort itself out but it will sort it self out and the traditional mainstays of consumer media will still be there.

    Has the availability of independent information over the net changed things, of course it has, but not in the ways or to the extent advertised. Big business media might have to rethink their revenue streams, business models and methods of engineering content, but they’re still going to be around for a long time.

  7. WordPress didn’t take my link in that last comment. I don’t know if this is by design or if I input the link incorrectly. Anyway, the bit I wrote about the future of in-person movie going is here:

  8. Great post Phil, the future surely is now. Things have changed so rapidly… I was just thinking today how much my life has changed just since I started using a feed reader. How did I ever do it the old way?

    I have to disagree about books though. Don’t get me wrong, I love an old fashioned book, but I don’t think books are popular because they’re so great. It’s because current electronic displays are so bad. Why stop where you did? Why say magazines and newspapers must move online but books won’t, simply because they haven’t yet? If I ran a publishing company, I’d be looking really carefully at what is happening to magazines, newspapers, and music. I’d want to be heavily investing in new display technologies that feel more organic – like books – but offer the versatility of electronic text. Wouldn’t it be great to curl up in bed with a high res flexible display based on reflection rather than emission so your eyes didn’t hurt? What was that quote from three chapters back you liked? Do a search within the book itself. Want to highlight that paragraph? Click and drag. The possibilities are, as we know, endless.

    The other side is audiobooks. Sure there is an expanding market for them online with sites like, but they’re still working on the old mentality. An mp3 audiobook download should not cost as much as the box of CDs you buy at the store. MP3 player + cheap mp3 audiobooks = revolution. Now I can ‘read’ any book I like while skiing.

  9. Quiet Desperation

    “A band that can never make it to a record label can get distribution through YouTube. A writer who can’t get a book contract can write a pretty good blog and get thousands of readers. An actor can make movies and put them on any of a number of video sites.”

    And bad bands, bad actors and bad writers can clutter the internet with their piffle and poppycock. Present company excepted, of course. :)

    The formerly streetcorner kook can infect orders of magnitude more people with his exotoxic memes.

    The anonymoity has reducing the quality of social behavior to the level where you can be called a c*ckweasel, thunderc*nt or f*rtminge simply because you like or dislike a particular show, movie, book or musical artist.

    Spam, spam, spam, hacking credit card numbers and spam.

    Enabling a whole new space age of frauds and scams.

    One big giant virus reservoir. Well, that’s only for you durned fool Windows users. :)

    There’s always a dark side.

    Ah, I’m just being my old contrarian self. But the world needs people like me to keep it honest.

    As for eBooks, there are crisp, high contrast black and white 300 dpi displays working in labs. It’s just a matter of time before you can curl up in a confy chair with one of those.

    I envision a flexible form factor like a paperback book. It’ll even open up and have two page displays. For us older folk with bad eyes, we can get the larger “hard cover” model.

  10. Regarding the difficulty of reading lots of text online: Lucas is right about light text on black backgrounds being the easiest on the eyes (I prefer yellow on dark blue myself), and the bigger the better. For Firefox users I strongly recommend the accessibar addon to quickly change the colours of a page (you can do it in FF and EI through the normal options menus, but accessibar is faster).

    Also, larger text is much easier to read. Hold ctrl and hit the + key a few times to scale up.

    Oh, and if you’re interested in books online you definitely need Project Gutenberg.

  11. I totally agree that the Net opens up a lot of possibilities for those who have more time than money, and a lot of savvy to boot. But I seriously doubt that home made YouTube video is going to be replacing the blockbuster movie any time soon. There is just to much involved in making a good movie, that is way out of the reach of small budget players. Being a good musician takes more talent than money, so I can see the internet being a bigger threat in that regard.

  12. Hey Phil, I wrote about you and this post on my knitting blog (of all places, somehow it seemed more appropriate than skepchick if that makes any weird sense at all):

  13. gazza666

    With all due respect, Phil, I think a large part of the reason you have so many readers of this (excellent!) blog when magazine subscriptions are down is perhaps so obvious as to be crass: your blog is free, the magazines are not.

    I’m not by any stretch of the imagination saying that it’s not worth paying for your stuff (I’ve bought Bad Astronomy at least 4 times, for different people, all of which you’ve signed at various TAMs). But pay-to-play web content is always tricky; there have been many attempts to have a subscription based magazine or newspaper on the web that have failed through no problem in quality – they are always up against the persistent expectation that everything on “teh Interweb” should be free. I don’t see any real likelihood of changing the zeitgeist any time soon.

    Perhaps the best way to handle this is with some sort of broadband tax, as many have suggested. Certainly the current attempts to DRM everything are meeting with scorn by all right minded individuals – and such measures will always be circumvented anyway.

  14. Jarno

    Excellent entry. The fact is that while just ten years ago I had two or three magazines (science and computer related) delivered to my home, I’ve since canceled them all; I don’t NEED magazines, when I can get more current information, more conveniently, in searchable format, for free, on the net.

    I don’t buy newspapers anymore either – I read my news on-line. I haven’t given up books though, and I don’t see that happening any time soon – as mentioned already, books are convenient, easy-on-the-eyes, portable media for longer content. Also, there’s something to be said for that quiet moment in the day when you take a little time out in a cafe, relaxing and reading a good book; or for the virtues of a good book for passing time on planes, trains and busses.

    New technology may yet replace the book, with portable, flexible flat screen technology, if it can be made to mimic the look of text on paper – if it can be made easy for eyes. That sort of advanced technology may come to hold advantages over normal books in convenience and searchability. But as it stands, I don’t expect that to happen in the near future – for now, I’m still a two-books-a-month guy. :)

  15. Movies will stick around. Television will stick around, but it will turn into the on-demand model. Twenty years from now the notion that you had to sit down at a specific time and tune to a specific channel to watch a program will be as quaint as listening to music by sticking a needle in a spinning vinyl disc. Popular magazines and newspapers will be dead. Journals and technical periodicals will probably stick around.

    Books will be around forever. I don’t see any electronic device doing a better job than books for comfort, convenience, and reliability. Somehow I can sit in front of the computer for hours and read a lot of different articles, but reading one specific piece is very hard to do. I don’t know what the difference is there.

  16. Dunc

    Books rule. It’ll take a lot more than a drive crash to wipe out my library, and the format isn’t about to go obsolete. You can lay a half-a-dozen books out side-by-side on a desk to cross reference, and they don’t need batteries. Most importantly of all, they’re durable. They can still be read after a thousand years sat in a cupboard, and you can’t say that for electronic media.

    Oh, and they’re completely immune to DRM. 😉

  17. Jason

    I work for a traditional magazine publishers and have been advocating the need to evolve more as a web-based publisher. For some reason though there seems to be a lot of reluctance in the industry as a whole, maybe this is down to advertising revenues in traditional print vs online, or maybe a fear that the web-bubble might burst (again)!

    Only now (in 2007) are the company I work for doing things that were mooted way back in 2001.


  18. Gnat

    As someone who has neither a blog nor a cursory interest in IT, and therefore a low-level grasp on many things internet, I think everyone’s comments immensly interesting. I don’t have an ipod (I wouldn’t even know how to begin downloading a pod-cast), I don’t text message anything, and I don’t even have internet access at home (I use work’s, which means there are a LOT of sites I have never seen).

    All that being said, I don’t have any magazines or newspapers anymore. I visit various newsites (some from traditional networks, some not) and surf the web for the fun stuff I used to get in magazines. Is “surfing” still an accepted term?

    So, if someone as barbaric as I am can be so affected by the internet, I do think newspapers and magazines are dying. But maybe they’ll pull a “Doctor Who” and become something with new teeth.

    But books are forever for simply one reason: they are romantic.

  19. Doc

    As an aspiring author, I’ve been considering the “necessity” of books a lot in the past several years, and there are a couple of points I keep coming back to:

    1. I can’t take a computer into the bathroom with me. A small, light ebook reader would take care of this issue, but I’d still be more reluctant to use an expensive piece of electronics while in the bathtub.

    2. Similarly, a cheap paperback is great to have on the beach where sun, sand, salt water, and neglect could cause problems for electronics.

    3. People are more likely to steal an ebook reader than a book.

    4. Even after a hundred years, a book’s batteries don’t run out.

    5. When the publishing industry changes printing formats you don’t need to have a book converted to the new standard, buy new reading equipment, or throw out all your books and buy them again.

    6. Sometimes when doing research, I have two or three books open at once. Sure I could do this digitally, but to have exactly the same effect I would need to have two or three full-sized ebook readers.

    7. Audiobooks are nice, but they’re no substitute for the written word. The brain processes text in a very different way than it does sound, and reading is the closest thing we’ve got to having a data port in our heads.

    I’m not a Luddite though. I think that electronic texts are invaluable for many purposes. In fact I recently finished transcribing a 15th century text into digital format to allow it to be shared and used more easily.

  20. Edward Cohen

    I love to read a good book. Reading off the monitor
    is a little tiring.
    Off the subject, Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” would
    make a great mini-series. Or maybe, not so mini.
    Thanks for the interesting reading.


  21. Al

    Some time ago there was a Danish (IIRC) TV ad featuring two men and a buzzing insect in a train compartment. One tried to swat the insect with his newspaper, the book reader calmly waited until the insect was in range, then flattened it by deftly snapping his book shut around it. I imagine the contrast would be even funnier with electronic media…

  22. I must admit, I’m a bit of a luddite in that I prefer books, magazines and newspapers. I read a few blogs online, but I do that as much for the discussions that accompany each article as I do for the articles themselves.

    The problem with “the tubes” is that it means money is going out of the “old media”. If the money goes out of it, a lot of content of all sorts is going to disappear. Sure any actor can make a movie and post it on YouTube, but I enjoy seeing the occasional blockbuster, and you won’t get blockbusters posted on YouTube because those blockbusters cost big bucks to produce. The people who make them will want to recover that cost and won’t be motivated to produce them if there’s little chance of recovery and profit.

    The alternative, of course, is advertising on the net. But I think it’s fair to say that most people think advertising on web pages is, at best, irritating, and at worst, an abomination. Personally, I go out of my way to block advertising, as do many others. Web sites are already starting to emerge that will block users who use ad blockers.

    So where does that leave us? I agree that old media is dying. New media is going to have to have a paradigm shift, however, if we collectively plan to maintain the selection and quality of media we have. It’s a fact that advertising and consumer dollars pay for this stuff. Unless people are prepared to start accepting advertising happily, or paying subscriptions to web content, there is going to be a problem much sooner than later. Right now, neither option is deemed acceptable and that is only a supportable position because other media sources are available.

    Advertising is a major issue. With traditional media, you can pay a premium price for advertising-reduced media (Consumer Reports magazine has no advertising, for example), or you can ignore the advertising (I throw the flyers in the newspaper directly into the recycling bin). With computers, the advertising is much more in-your-face with cookies and pop-ups, adware and spyware, look-at-my-ads-or-get-lost code, and so forth. The consumer is getting less choice.

    To put it simply, I’ll pay $50 to buy a hardcover copy of a book rather than read the book online for free with each page having a banner ad. I believe I am not alone in that stance.

  23. Stephen

    To a large extent I agree with Thomas up there, especially in regards to the utter lack of quality control on the Internet. YouTube is a prime example of this, and my first encounter with the concept was when I hung out on back when I was in high school.

    Part of me wants to say that the fact that any Joe with a webcam can post videos to YouTube is going to discourage *real* artists from trying to stand out from the crowd, but even I know that’s silly. Part of this whole democratization of information thing does bother me, but it’s mainly because I really do prefer books and newspapers and I don’t want to see them left behind. But “real” artists are always going to be striving to stand out from the crowd, and part of me hopes they don’t have to give in to the YouTube hysteria just to survive.

    But one point Thomas didn’t touch upon is that, in the near future, people are going to start to realize how silly it is to own a TV and a computer when the latter can do the job of both. Nonetheless, that won’t kill the “old media” television format, because only the existing television studios have the resources necessary to create shows with decent production values. They’re just going to start doing it over the Internet. The current cable and satellite models are going to die out, I think. The current cable infrastructure will survive, of course, to provide us with broadband Internet, but I don’t know if satellite television will make it through.

    NBC is already catching on. You can watch their shows in their entirety on the Internet. Free but ad-supported, which is no worse than TV commercials. Brilliant idea, I think, and the only person who loses out is the cable provider (unless you’re watching it over your cable provider’s ISP, of course, like I am). But the quality is crap, so until Internet speeds can handle high-def streaming, people are still going to be motivated to go out and buy Heroes on DVD.

    So Thomas is right; old media will adapt. TV will have the easiest time, as I described above. Newspapers? Maybe not so much.

  24. Bob

    This appeared on Warren Ellis’ mailing list Bad Signal back in may. A good explanation of why the web beats most magazines. (fair use):

    “I love print. I love magazines that commit and pay for long articles
    and long fiction. The web rewards neither approach. It’s a packeted
    medium, a surf medium. Short bursts are the way to go. The web
    isn’t a replacement medium — it’s *another” medium. That said, if
    your concept of a magazine is something designed in one-page
    bursts, or three pages that only carry 500 words due to the mass of
    images, then, really, you’re not doing anything the web can’t do
    better, are you?”


    I haven’t picked up a copy of Wired in years but I read two or three of their blogs daily.

    Just as an aside: I love books but I hate dead trees. We should have started making paper out of hemp or other massively renewable plants a long time ago.

  25. I have to agree with you nearly completely, Phil (and isn’t that a refreshing change?) – the only point on which our views do not align here is with books. I recently read Accelerando, and somehow the fact that it was a Word file was more appropriate for the content than printed dead-tree form would be. Having said that, books are here to stay; the facts that one doesn’t need electricity to read them, and that their durability is measured in centuries, are huge bonuses in their favor.

  26. KaiYeves

    But BA, if you’re on the web, only we geeks can read about you. If you want to go more mainstream, you need the old media, too.

  27. Ken

    I can’t completely agree with you. Old media definitely will have to change, but it’s not yet even close to being on the way out (although I won’t speak for newspapers).

    I know at least on the radio side, you’re always hearing from the iPod People blather on and on about how they haven’t listened to radio in years and they only hear what they want and so on… yet, the audio stream from my station’s website gets a phenomenal amount of listeners. It took radio quite a few years to realize the benefit of streaming their audio, which they didn’t want to do because of royalty payments, but now they find they can complement their listener base tremendously and increase ad revenue significantly.

    This is a pain in the neck for me as a producer, because now I have to produce two versions of any piece I put on the air, one for broadcast, one for streaming. But I know at least radio is adapting. I can see it in TV too, although cable’s doing a much better job so far. However, it was very neat and smart of NBC to put their new fall shows (including Bionic Woman) on Amazon Unbox for free downloads to Tivos and PCs. I’d love to know the number of downloads they’ve gotten…

  28. Kat

    Thomas said: “when turning on the television, I know that I’m going to get a certain minimum quality product that I am not guaranteed through my computer”

    I disagree that you get a minimum quality product from the television. Yes, television shows generally have high-quality cameras, good sound, and well-paid content generators, but they don’t always turn out good quality content—I’ll offer the endless Reality TV shows as an example.
    You still have to separate the chaff from the wheat with television.
    Moreover, television lacks the community and social aspects of the Internet. On the Internet, there are millions of other people who might be interested in the same kinds of things as you. Chances are, a few of them have blogs or have established a web-forum to discuss the kinds of content the like. These communities are great at separating the superstars from the average YouTuber.

  29. Thanks for the nod Phil.

    The point that I think people are missing here, is that it’s not about Internet vs books. Youtube vs television. It’s about stripping away the intermediaries between the creator of content, and the people who enjoy it. Goodbye gatekeepers.

    In the past, there were a limited number of places a person could reach an audience. The gatekeepers made all the decisions. In some cases they had their finger on the pulse of what people wanted to see, and in other cases (Firefly, for example), they botched it in every single way possible.

    The Internet as a model allows me, the producer (writer, recording artist, director, etc), to reach you without anyone deciding whether or not it’s marketable. When you strip away all those intermediaries, there’s plenty of money for the people who create the content.

    When I write a book, I can release it in paper form, publish it over time as a blog, sell it as a downloadable book, read it out as a podcast, and set it to interpretive dance. The need for an external party to market and distribute it is over, as is their commission.

    I still think you should publish the book yourself Phil. 😉 Baby steps, I understand.

  30. Fraser, Phil, I think the weakness of your argument is that I still don’t know a way to find the content that I like reliably. Yes, the band that I would love to hear may be on YouTube right now, but I still end up relying on other people to find it, because I’m not going to go through them all individually. In practice, that means I find the things that are popular. Then, not being immune to suggestion (You say *you* are immune to suggestion? You lie, sir.), I end up liking things *because* they are popular.

  31. AndreH

    I do not believe the “old media” will die out. Ever tried to use a lap top in bed, in the bath tub, on the beach or hours away from the electricsl grid?
    Ever tried to reread an article on a blog after a year or so? Ofcourse you could read a newspaper from a Laptop in the bus. But if you forget or loose the LapTap it will be a damage of several 100 bugs.

    I agree the new media are faster and more interactive. It is nice to share opinion with other people. But books and magazines dying? No I don`t think so.


  32. Yogi-one

    Lots of great points on this discussion. I have taken to using a light yellow print on colored background on my sites (which are not purely text driven, since I have “artsy” sites).

    Our thinking is moving towards adjusting to the online universe. Case in point being that black text on a white background is a format inherited simply from centuries of book-reading.

    The medium will evolve its own standardized preferences, and as the technology keeps improving, the problem of reading a lot online will become less.

    Also the nature of the medium will redefine what we now know a “book publishing.” Old thinking dominates this model too – for centuries we read books one page at a time, and in fact, in the very early days of writing, we even scrolled to the next page of content.

    Now, however, a new, more fully integrated and interactive style of publishing is coming. The user now can choose how he wants the content displayed by setting preferences on his own computer (thus negating the idea that you have to format the book to a fine degree in the first place).

    Secondly, instead of a continuous reading of paragraphs, the user reads a small chunk of material, then clicks on a video, views an image or interacts with a graph or chart, or even sends his own input back to the author or other readers. The pix, vids, graphs, and interactive elements are woven directly into the “book”.

    The whole way of defining your readers experience will be changed.

    This is not to say books will disappear. They will still continue to bind some books. But to stay competitive, they are going to have to open up online operations equal to or greater than their book-binding operations.

    The price they pay if they don’t is lost customers. And the quest for customers usually is sufficient to drive business models to change.

  33. Old media will die out a few months after computers bring us the paperless office that we were promised more than three decades ago.

  34. IMHO the real value of “real” publications is in their reputation. I’d rather get my news from the Washington Post or the NY Times than the Podunk Gazette, or, because I know the big papers have reporters and editors who presumably know their stuff, and do their job well enough that if a story makes it past them, then it’s not likely to be crap.

    Likewise, research journals engage in editorial and peer review, which also helps ensure that those articles that make it into print aren’t likely to be crap. Even sites like slashdot have an implicit promise that “if you’re interested in geek news, you’ll find it here.”

    In short, editors provide a valuable service as crap filters. I can’t see that going away any time soon. In fact, teh intertubes has much higher bandwidth than print media, so there’s a hell of a lot more crap to be filtered.

  35. I ordered my Kindle 2.0 a few weeks ago and have already become very attached to it. In addition to purchasing Amazon books, I’ve used the various free book websites you can find easily on the internet (just check Wikipedia for some entries) to download public domain books or books from publishers (like Baen Books) that provide some of their titles for free.

    Downloading books from most sites, or emailing attachments to yourself, is pretty easy. I had a few minor hiccups at first–using the Kindle to browse the Amazon store, for example, is less easy that simply using your PC–but the manual is easy to use and reasonably comprehensive. You don’t have to be tech savvy to use the features of the Kindle.

    I do have one fairly minor complaint (it didn’t detract from my rating), but I really feel that the Kindle should come with a cover. They could have put together a cheap cover and still sold a better one, but a cover feels absolutely necessary to me.

    I do recommend than anyone who purchases a Kindle take a look at the “999 boycott” tags, though. This is NOT a slam at Amazon or the Kindle, but a few publishers have decided not to pass the savings they receive by selling Kindle-format books on to their customers, charging standard book prices for ebooks. While they are free to do so, Kindle purchasers also have the right to say they won’t purchase books that don’t reflect at least some of these savings. Again, Amazon is not responsible for setting these prices, but the publishers need to be sent a message.

    Go buy a Kindle 2.0 and support the publishers that understand what a boon for the publishing industry this is!


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