Is the Printed Page Dead (or Just a Little Sick)?

Is the Printed Page Dead (or Just a Little Sick)?

Summary: Doc is a big believer in the power of print, but I do have to admit some print products are moving in new directions. That's why a recent article at the printing Website, What They Think, caught my eye. It's an interview with entrepreneur and writer Paul Hawken, best known as one of the founders of retailer Smith & Hawken, where Doc buys all his fancy gardening supplies and tasteful door wreaths.

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TOPICS: CXO
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Doc is a big believer in the power of print, but I do have to admit some print products are moving in new directions. That's why a recent article at the printing Website, What They Think, caught my eye. It's an interview with entrepreneur and writer Paul Hawken, best known as one of the founders of retailer Smith & Hawken, where Doc buys all his fancy gardening supplies and tasteful door wreaths.

The interview, by Gail Nickel-Kailing, took place at a sustainability conference in the Pacific Northwest. Hawken is the author or co-author of a number of books including The Next Economy, Growing a Business, The Ecology of Commerce, Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, and Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming.

Here is a bit of the Q & A, which you can read at Whattheythink.com:

WTT: As an author, voracious reader, and book lover, what is your take on the future of books, newspapers and other publications?

Paul Hawken: They're going to go away completely. Pretty soon people won't be able to start their fires because there won't be any paper. I think paper is done. Aren't they worried about the e-reader? They should be.

In terms of 99% of what we read in books, magazines, and newspapers, I think print is over. When I started writing there were 30,000 titles a year published, now there are 170K+ titles published a year now. There is more drek out there; books that don't deserve to be published.

The same thing that happened to the music industry is happening to the publishing industry. I'm surprised there's not more noise in the industry. I can't believe they don't see the writing on the wall. I think it's over.

Having said that, paper isn't done for works of art, for books about art... We will need paper, we will need some books, we will need libraries, but libraries will change completely.

We won't lose rare books. I don't think we'll lose certain documents; libraries are keeping notes and speeches, keeping emails, and working on interesting ways to preserve digital information with technology that will make it readable for the long term.

Those kind of papers and documents will become much more valuable and valued. Things on paper will become really valuable, they will be unique.

Doc says, whoa! That's a pretty stark viewpoint, Paul.

Topic: CXO

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6 comments
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  • The advantages of paper books...

    Books (e.g. trade paperbacks) are cost effective, convenient, shareable/resellable (no DRM), don't require hundreds of dollars in hardware, don't rely on batteries that can run out, don't break if you drop them...
    Tom12Tom
  • Modernization over Death

    To be honest, what about the idea of just refining how many books are out there? The biggest thing I think so many of these "paper killers" keep saying is that there is too much out there, as well as the quality of what's in the product has gone downhill.

    The larger question to ask would be this: When will we see the collapse of the book market, back to more limited authors, possibly best sellers, with lower end artists pushing content through e-books, print-at-sale books, and other related ways of distribution?
    clindhartsen
  • RE: Is the Printed Page Dead (or Just a Little Sick)?

    Printed books were an improvement over hand-written books, which were an improvement over scrolls, which were an improvement over tablets, and on and on. Other than our recent history (most of my scroll-based documents are gone), there is nothing sacred about books; they are a medium of communication. If a better medium comes along, it may well make books eventually obsolete; RIP!
    dBaron
  • RE: Is the Printed Page Dead (or Just a Little Sick)?

    Books are good. Technology is good. Why can't we have both? Some people prefer books. I like books better, because as the previous poster said, if you drop them, they don't break, they don't need batteries and they do not need a 200 buck toy to read them on.
    However, there are those individuals that would prefer carrying their entire library with them on a device. Fine, I say, its all good. Just don't take my books away. And bring back film cameras too while you are at it.
    willowreed@...
  • RE: Is the Printed Page Dead (or Just a Little Sick)?

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  • RE: Is the Printed Page Dead (or Just a Little Sick)?

    Thanks for the comments. Doc's in agreement that there is an evolution taking place in the publishing business, particularly around books. It's true ??? there is nothing sacred about the printed book and it may be the preferred format for some topics for a while to come. But if it makes sense to use a new format, then why not? The market will ultimately decide which formats survive and which do not. At this point no one is forcing readers to any one medium ??? choice seems to rule the day.
    DocuMentor (Doc)