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Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009: The End of Print - Andrew Keen


Who the heck is Andrew Keen?

We will get to who he is at the end of this report but for now, he is some dot com millionaire who wrote a book and convinced me to never reference Wikipedia.

On his blog, The Great Seduction, he posts 2009: The End of Print.

His reference point is similar to mine in The Death of Print - 12,000 Layoffs And Counting and PC Magazine Dropping Print for Online. My observations reflect the dire straights in which print media finds itself.

As a matter of fact, the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press (Detroit being one of the last cities with TWO major newspapers) have moved to eliminate home delivery and shift assets toward their digital versions. A point Keen observes in his writing.

Indeed, in his piece on Internet Evolution, he explains how 2008 was the beginning of the end and how 2009 will be "the year that the print business literally falls off the cliff". 

He nails it:

"...And yet 2009 will, ironically, also bring much, much, much better news for a media in the business of selling textual content. The truth is it’s not their newspapers, magazines, and books that are dying, but rather the archaic medium of print. And the good news for both trees and technophiles is that in 2009 paper is finally being replaced by affordable and ergonomically sophisticated digital devices for reading electronic content..."

Additionally, Dan Costa, PC Magazine, comments on the decision to go completely digital:

“...Trouble is, print publishing is hugely flawed. . . . Print media is simply behind the times by design. Print businesses aren't dead, but they do need to change. Printing should be reserved for archival information—artifacts you'll hold on to for years instead of hours or days.” - here.

It is not the perceived media bias, the lack of credible content, assaults from the polarized cable news networks, or even the millions of "monkeys with computers" flooding the 'net with blog after blog and stealing readers - it is, as Keen says, the "archaic medium of print". 


Back in February, when I first tapped fingers to keys and named this blog, I admit I was being cheeky. Cute and a bit clever I thought.

Nobody would seriously consider the days of copiers to be numbered; for this to be a reality, the paper itself would need to be completely eradicated.

"uh-oh, uh-oh".

But today, during this slow season of reflection, while reading an array of bloody reports, I was struck with an epiphany - I found myself like Chicken Little exclaiming to nobody, "The sky is falling, the sky is falling, nobody will use paper anymore".

And then, my sudden, striking understanding - a product of the swirling storm of uncertainty - took on a more deviant, second dimension. The current turmoil in our industry is but a cloud burst, the Perfect Storm is over the horizon.

The colliding elements of this tempest: Paper, energy, environmental costs, economic strains never before experienced by today's generations, technology advances on the cusp (Magic Paper, bend-able screens), changing business models, and changing consumer prejudices, industry consolidation, cloud computing, Web 3.0...Roll all this up, raise the pressure, and boom - we've got a Perfect Storm.

After this upheaval, we will find that copiers have gone the way of the buggy whip and loom.

Kindle, Schmindle -

The buzz around the Kindle started in 2008. But to date, I have not seen one in use - at Starbucks, the beach, hotels, or airports. I did see one at Borders, but it was not in use - certainly, units have been sold and purchased, it's just that compared to the iPod, or the iPhone, days after they were released, seemed everybody had one.

Heck, last time I was in Vegas, at the "iBar", I indulged in adult beverages and played like Tom Cruise in Minority Report, on one of the five Microsoft Surfaces.

Of course, I have yet to walk into a living room and kick my feet up on one, like any normal coffee table.

The Kindle, exceptional as it is, represents the first iteration of the "new medium". Better technology could be on its way.

But wait - from Business Week :

"An electronic-text reader by Plastic Logic of Mountain View, Calif., due out in 2009, will be aimed at business travelers. The 8½ x 11-in. device, which downloads online content from newspapers and magazines as well as word-processing and other work files, uses technology that recreates print, not Web, versions of publications. The plastic-encased screen is thinner, lighter—and larger than’s Kindle. Plastic Logic also is working on a reader flexible enough to bend like paper..."

Imagine - 

You are walking from your car to your cube, or setting on your deck in the San Bernardino Mountains. You pull out a sheet of plastic, 8.5" x 11" x 0.25" in dimensions, the Drudge Report displayed. A slight wave of your hand replaces Drudge with the Detroit Free Press; while checking the latest Wired articles, an email alert pops in and an S.O.W. needing immediate approval is displayed - you sign, send and return to Wired.

This seemingly trivial exercise illustrates the huge reduction in paper use, print generation, and energy consumption – The Detroit Free Press no longer needs to be run on huge digital presses, a 500-page Statement of Work document is not printed and FAXED for final signatures – fewer resources consumed, less energy spent, more accomplished in less time - not a copier in sight. (scroll up and check out the picture of the stack of magazines and a paper pad, the one on top, isn't)

Uh-oh, Uh-oh, Uh-oh

A Silver Lining-

With no paper - the value of the medium will increase - "books" will be important once again, heirlooms. It may be easy to read my copy of Wired or FaceFull on a flexible display, on a daily basis - but the interaction between me and Hemingway, or Thoreau, or Macbeth, the intimacy is enhanced by the human touch.

The Phaser, CLC, and Color LaserJet are wonderful technological advances - and now so prevalent their existence is mundane. Yet, can a color, 11x17 output image of Starry Night compare to the original? How many 21st-century Monet's are going to use PhotoShop and a Phaser to create the next Houses of Parliament"?

A paint-covered brush will still strike paper.

The End of Print is upon us all, once again - but this time it could be for real.

Andrew Keen -

He is an author and a dot com millionaire. In his book, the cult of the Amateur, he illustrates and argues how the "Internet" and specifically Web 2.0, by democratizing knowledge, has dragged us all down the level of hobbyists.

He says we can no longer trust the information presented to us, because the "guardians of knowledge" have been usurped, their authority neutralized by the masses.

He finds trusting university-educated and trained journalists easier than believing the millions of anonymous bloggers.

In the beginning, I would reference Wikipedia. After reading his book and investigating further on my own, I no longer go to Wikipedia - we can not trust the knowledge of the masses.

He thinks we are getting dumber.

He has been called a Luddite.

He is correct on the first and certainly not a Luddite.

His little book held nothing revolutionary for me, but he did crystallize the nagging issues I have about this whole "everyone is published" move.

I recommend the read, but rather than give you his site address, you should Google him, he loves to be Googled.

More to read:

Dan Okrent, author, Time Editor, and "actor" - wrote The Death of Print, circa 1997.

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