Friday, March 21, 2008

The Roundup

- Quirks of the OED

- This post over at Publishing 2.0 touches on the whole digital newspaper thing again, but most interesting is its last paragraph and the conclusion that sites need not fear directing traffic away from themselves straight into the arms of their competitors. Karp calls it "the Google rule": "the better job you do sending people away, the more they will come back."

- A really nice discussion of the leviathan topic "the future of the book" that points out that print is good for some stuff, digital is good for some other stuff, and that there exists a possibility of a happy medium. I'm not sure the medium is so happy (can you say wasted paper?) but it's interesting. (John, you'll like this one.)

3 comments:

John M. Jackson said...

Metonyms! Hold on...I'm still reading...

John M. Jackson said...

I have some major issues with this Penguin Group article which I plan to flesh out to a post. For one, do publishers misunderstand their readers so much that they think a print-on-demand feature would actually be desired? Part of what makes the book such a great technology is its form: a well bound (and acid free) book can last for centuries and handle multiple users. I can't imagine reading Moby Dick on a stack of 8.5x11 print outs. Yes, it costs more money to print bound books but the shape, the size, and the format is comfortable for more reasons than just "we're used to doing it that way." (or am I wrong to assume that printing on demand would produce a less-than-desired bound format?)

Then there is the paragraph about libraries: where should I begin? "All that stuff that makes running a library awful" doesn't happen all that much and even in a "juice bar" format, these error would still occur but only in different forms: the file was accidentally deleted or corrupted, or the student worker printed the wrong book so you have to wait another 30 minutes to print the right one because the line is out the door by this point. We know that books are more than just informational nodes: they are objects history, comfort, and experience. Going to a library is more than just finding what you need. How many times have you found something wonderful by browsing the shelves? I went to the stacks here recently looking for a specific book on Prague and came away with three that happened to be on the same shelf. Can digital formats provide this? (yes they can but I am suspicious of the efficacy)

I do however like the idea of creating a mix tape style book and I would be willing to wait a week or two for the printing and binding. As the cost of production decreases, I hope this is an option publishers will consider.

I'm just writing off the cuff here so I need to think about this some more. But all-in-all I don't think this writer understands reading culture. It's not about on-demand, it's about access. Reader-consumers want to have access to any and all books and the information contained therein. Technologies that facilitate and speed up easy access will be the most desirable. Readers, either serious or light, are willing to wait for a book or take the time to drive to the store to buy it just as long as they have access to that book and its contents. This additionally involves searchability which digital copies can provide. But when it comes to using those books, the game changes.

I have to get back to work...I'll work up a post later but would love to know your thoughts since you are in the biz ;-)

AGW said...

John, what a great set of comments. I'll reread and digest and respond, but just wanted to point out that "print-on-demand" doesn't necessarily mean 8.5 x 11--commercial print-houses do POD that makes hardcover books that are almost indistinguishable from traditional offset-print books. i think the idea that he's trying to get across is the one-off reading experience. i'm not sure i buy that either, but just to be clear what he's talking about...