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The competing opinions continue apace.

Will people almost wholesale go over to digital literature? Or is there still a place for printed pieces? No one knows for sure, of course, but a story broke recently that is juicy for readers.

Barry Diller, chairman of IAC/InterActiveCorp, said that there is a plan to end the print edition of Newsweek. The comments came from IAC’s “quarterly earnings call,” and no doubt traditional printers are apoplectic.

Newsweek, born the same year FDR entered the White House, is one of our national institutions, of a sort. Countless copies have been hurriedly purchased in airports, drugstores and newsstands.

It could be gone?

The first official quote from Diller came from Politico’s Dylan Byers: “The transition will happen. The transition to online from hard print will take place. We’re examining all of our options.”

Wow!

Although the print edition won’t disappear overnight, it’s clear that digital delivery systems are the future. That doesn’t mean libraries will be bulldozed, but it does mean some of the biggest changes ever in publishing are right around the corner.

Apparently, Diller was referring to a general transition in the industry – which makes sense – and we know it will be somewhat gradual. Still, the prospect of ol’ Dad reading the evening paper on his iPad has a certain futuristic sexiness to it.

As with most things, the Newsweek issue is driven by profit. A financial analyst told Reuters: “Newsweek is not necessarily a distraction for IAC management, though investors may get perturbed about it not being profitable and weighing on the company’s bottom line.”

It is important to keep in mind that this news doesn’t mean we’re going George Jetson overnight. Publishers will tell you that major revenues still come from print advertising and circulation.

It is even true that at the moment, the e-publishing market has not developed to the point that there is even direct competition between print and digital.

In fact, the most innovative book publishers at the moment realize that print sales can be actually enhanced by the release of an e-book.

From a 2009 (ancient history!) blog at Chesapeake Procon, we learn of some advantages to publishing, say, a magazine electronically:

  • Increase the international subscriber list by offering a reasonably priced magazine that would not include the high cost of shipping
  • Connect with the active cruising audience without a snail mail address by delivering the magazine electronically
  • Offer expanded multimedia services to advertisers by hot linking from their ads and/or embedding animated images or video into their ads
  • Improve reader experience with the digital version’s search ability
  • Reach new subscribers by allowing digital subscribers to forward an issue or article to a friend.

All these items make sense, especially when you consider the potential of greatly expanding your audience. To be able to offer electronic delivery to folks around the globe opens amazing possibilities.

As I’ve said before, I am embracing the changing technologies. From two large bookshelves bursting at the seams (and more books falling out the closet, underneath the desk, etc.), I am now down to one shelf with breathing space. I am also paring that down to the point that if I had to, I’d walk out of the house with a small box of print books I can’t live without. Several of those are autographed copies.

My goal is to have my library on my MacBook Air. I like that. I can purchase a Kindle version with a couple clicks, and it’s instantly available on my computer. That way I can read Flaubert while having some Chicken McNuggets. It’s also nice walking through an airport with a light bag, rather than the bulging duffel bag of old.

I don’t even mind reading a book on my phone, and in fact, I think this is a most amazing development.

No, print isn’t dead yet.

What do you think?


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