BoSacks: The Profit Prophet: Time to Go Hunting
This month I am going hunting. My intended prey are several publishing myths that seem to predominate the psyche of old media. The first myth we need to ponder is the idea that truth can only be found on dead trees, and that once words of any kind are written into an electronic format, they instantly lose their validity and are forever more unreliable. I call those who adhere to this mythology “substrate purists.”
These purists will tell you that only paper-based products have fact-checkers and proofreaders. Those would be the same fact-checkers who declared on the front page of newspapers that Dewey beat Truman, or the same copy editors who declared that a “BatBoy was found in caves underground.” No, my friends, the truth is substrate-indifferent. But if you are in doubt about a digital story in this day and age, you can do an instant electronic verification of any data or information contained in the story. On the other hand, no matter how hard you press or click on a 36-pound sheet of lightweight coated paper, you aren’t going to get anything extra but a hole in the substrate.
The second myth is of comfort and delight. Here, the druids of fiber perfection will swear that there cannot and will not be a comfortable way to lounge with an electronic reader. They say that if you are not reading on paper, there is no way to reach the true nirvana of the pleasurable reading experience. This is, of course, an absurd line of logic, and I am sure it is one that the scroll makers of yesteryear professed as well when the linear book came into fashion. Fashions come and fashions go, but functionality is the main and true decider of comfort and the eventual ubiquity of any device.
The final myth in need of some fresh air is the idea that print is dying. This rumor comes mostly from disenfranchised ink-on-paper publishers and reporters. They mistake a change in dominance for death. A historic example might be Rome. It ruled half the world and was the dominant government for a thousand years. Today, Rome is still here and still vibrant, but it is no longer the overlord of the area it once ruled. The same can now be said of radio, TV and newspapers. Loss of dominance is not equivalent to death—it just feels that way.
What is happening is a mythological transformation, like a caterpillar to a butterfly. The beast is no longer earthbound and can travel any which way its whims, desires or needs move it.
If just 20 years ago you prophesized that we would have the ability to read, in part or in full, any passage from any book, magazine, newspaper, blog, encyclopedia or you-name-it that exists, at any time, as well as the unique ability to pursue not only the topic we are reading, but any other related topic just by clicking on hyperlinks, you would have been deemed a madman.
My expectation is that future generations will think in 3-D. Linear thinking and linear reading may be responsible for slowing our forward progress. I think the next generation of readers will have a “whatever-device,” which will be a relatively inexpensive product, and they will use their 3-D thinking to leap ahead into possibilities we have yet to explore or understand. How could we, with our two-dimensional upbringings, possibly understand 3-D logic?
Bob Sacks (aka BoSacks) is a printing/publishing industry consultant and president of The Precision Media Group (BoSacks.com). He is also the co-founder of the research company mediaIDEAS (MediaIdeas.net), and publisher and editor of a daily international e-newsletter, Heard on the Web. Sacks has held posts as director of manufacturing and distribution, senior sales manager (paper), chief of operations, pressman, circulator, and almost every other job this industry has to offer.