Cat Rambo on Electronic Publishing Vs. "Traditional" Print Publishing
1. Any debate about the current struggle between electronic and traditional print publishing begins with this fact: no one thinks that online publishing will not eventually overtake the traditional, hold-in-your-hand, made-of-dead-trees model. While you may well continue to be able to slip something paperback-sized into your back pocket two decades down the line, we all know that the odds are that it won’t be made of paper.
Those thinking that they can successfully continue with a traditional model of publishing for an unlimited time are as delusive as a historical Luddite thinking a solid sledgehammer blow capable of holding back the forces of industrialization. It is human nature to yearn for next year’s model. We are clever monkeys – we tweak, we twiddle, and of such moments Progress is made. Accordingly, while the metaphor of the page will continue, I suspect, for centuries, the everyday object is doomed to be replaced — made obsolete within the next century.
Books may survive, but in the form of curiosities rather than staples. One by one, we’ll see the various manifestations of books challenged by electronic publishing in the coming years.
Most will fall, while those that remain will most probably find themselves dramatically and irrevocably changed. Paper textbooks will be among the first to go — are in the process of doing so right now, in fact, and who, remembering the days of ten pound science texts, can not count that as progress? Children’s books, with their emphasis on texture and art, will last much longer. As for the common paperback, well — once the Sony BeachReader, which I’m sure is due out any day now in six waterproof colors, appears, vacation reading will shift dramatically.
Those who claim that online publishing and its adherents are killing traditional publishing are being disingenuous, blaming the small mammals supplanting the dinosaurs for bringing them down. If anything, at the moment online publishing is helping traditional publishing by encouraging the love of reading that pulls one into a bricks and mortar bookstore.