Printed Magazines Will Follow the Path of the Plastic Record
To paraphrase the sages, publishing is a journey, not a destination. We have been on a very long journey, reaching out to more and more readers as our business models, our technology and our society have progressed and morphed to the challenges and changes of the reading public.
There are enormous new pressures on publishers now, and I think a case can be made that they are different and more complex than ever before. As I stated in a previous column in this magazine, we have been storing out-of-memory text for more than 25,000 years—a very long and noble tradition of teaching and sharing. But where once we had functionally slow and predictable growth strategies, we now seem to have almost instantaneous structural change and a mandatory global outreach program.
As far back as you can go, publishing was always local. Whether it was books, newspapers or magazines, it was a locally constructed, man-made event that required a certain amount of craftsmanship. (Is that term even used anymore?)
That localization included, in almost every case, the “thinking” as well as the physical product. If there was a broader distribution, in most cases it was an aftereffect, not a planned affair.
Until very recently, publishing, writing and printing were handmade products. Until the advent of the typewriter, authorship was constructed by hand with ink and paper.
Even the use of the elegant typewriter was still a process of pecking on a keyboard, which used a mechanical and understandable process of levers and gears to affect the keystroke. I wonder how many of my readers have ever used a typewriter? No, not you geezers—the question really is directed at the younglings.
How many readers understand that paste-up of mechanical boards was just that? Artists took galleys––paper that had typography or ink on paper in columnar, long sheets––spread glue on the back and actually, by hand, pasted the type onto a cardboard sheet, hopefully in an artistic and readable style.