The Future of the Print Industry

By happenstance, I came across an interesting collection of articles and ideas about the future of publishing.

The first article I read, in my paper based but soon to be electronic Alumni Gazette, was titled Does the Print Industry Have a Future? Noting the emergence of e-readers such as the Kindle, author Jenni Dunning raises the issue of newspapers and other paper-based printing companies struggling in the economy, struggling to latch onto a secure vision of the future and in fact, struggling to know how best to survive. Other factors include moves to various electronic forums and our collective efforts to be ‘green’. In my mind, the key point she made was to stop focusing on the newspaper of the past and look at how journalism can be delivered in the most effective way. Read Does the Print Industry Have a Future?

Later in the day, I found a Twitter post that caught my eye called Textbook Deathwatch. The article looks at the use and cost of textbooks in the K-12 education arena. Noting the challenges of slow change in large systems, resistance to change, high cost, competing costs in school boards, shipping costs of print materials and the rapid rate at which books become outdated, the author puts key questions right on the table?

1. Are textbooks the best use of instructional funds?
2. Are their more effective ways to utilize available funding?
3. What would a system look like that was much more ‘e-based’?
4. If ‘e-based’ is the solution (in whole or in part), then how do we change more aggressively?

Read Textbook Deathwatch

Looking at this from the end user point of view (consumer, learner or worker), there are many possible solutions to moving to e-based content. We have been talking about this in my Board too, in particular about the use of iPods in this regard. Admittedly, this prompted me gather some updates on the current status of the various e-readers. The links below will provide fairly current information.

Wired’s eBook Reader Roundup
A Kindle and Sony comparison
Sony now offers 1,000,000 eBooks from Google books

Getting back to the original point, the future of publishing, I don’t have any doubts about the future of publishing. I think it is a case of what it likes like. We will always need excellent journalism, reporting, resources, instructional materials and ways to effectively prepare, deliver, read and use them.

To my way of thinking, if the e-readers are going to go anywhere, at least in the education systems, we have to avoid hardware, software and electronic rights management issues that really only serve to build islands of incompatibility. In turn, this would limit the possibilities for students and potentially make the move to e-readers (and e-content) more expensive than it needs to be. If this happens, then we would end up with the e-reader system that continues to challenge the funding questions identified earlier.

Ultimately, this falls into the same jungle of issues as content filtering and students & teachers using personal equipment on Board owned networks (network access control) etc. Lets hope that sanity and smart thinking lead us to useful and cost effective solutions within the education realm that allow for e-based reader solutions, more electronic content delivered in a way the is easily utilized by Board or personally owned devices all in support of better learning and teaching.

As I am writing, I recalled seeing an interesting podcast outlining a very innovative approach to publishing. I was able to locate the presentation by Richard Baraniuk from Rice University. In this presentation, he introduces Connexions, an open-access publishing system. This presentation is well worth the watch and provides an excellent example of the future of publishing. View Richard Baraniuk’s presentation (18 min.)

~ Mark

2 thoughts on “The Future of the Print Industry”

  1. I read an interesting Tweet last night about the two problems with newspapers. “News” and “paper”. The only time that I’ve recently read a newspaper was when I was without internet access. Even then, I didn’t read the entire paper – just bits of it. My readings online tend to be a collection of news sources rather than a single one. In education, replacing textbooks could be the same way – using a variety of resources to address all sides of an issue. Used properly, it can provide a richer experience. Used improperly, it can be a quick copy and paste job to get the task done. Education and society needs to react though. How much longer can the publishing industry exist in its very expensive fashion.

    While moving things online is attractive, we need to ensure reliability and equity as well. It’s not a simple solution.

    1. You have raised some interesting points Doug. Like you, I am very much a ‘bits and pieces’ reader, most of it online. Come to think of it, I don’t know that I have ever read an entire newspaper.

      I agree, moving things online is not a simple solution for the reasons you mention. I was talking about my post with my wife yesterday and as I was explaining my viewpoint, I also started to think about our earlier conversation about access, reliability of band width, role of the ISPs etc. Certainly, a wholesale move of everything to online is not like the right fit either, at least right now. I do see a world where more online publishing (with issues identified addressed) would be beneficial and take things to the next step bringing more resources directly to students while at the same time pushing towards the integrated use of netbooks, e-readers, smart devices (phones, ipods etc.)

      I am interested to keep following this topic of discussion.


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