Bob Dylan’s lyrics couldn’t describe in a more efficient manner what we’re dealing with as we look at the future of journalism and publishing. The Associated Press reported today that the Boston Globe plans to cut 50 more newsroom jobs as they try to deal with “falling advertising revenue, declining circulation and readership shifts to the Internet.”
As a reader and a freelance writer it’s sad for me to see the decline of physical newspapers. One of my most treasured memories from my childhood is my grandfather sitting in his chair, reading the daily paper and catching up on the news. It made me want to read the paper and see what was so darn interesting about a recap of the daily events. I still remember the first thrill I had in college when I had my first byline on the front page of the student newspaper. Now, all those newspapers I was published in sit in a box in storage, collecting dust. Most of them were never published online because it was on the old website then; one without sufficient online archives. If I want to find an article I wrote, I have to sort through a few boxes of old papers.
When The New York Times decided to make their newspaper available for free online, it changed the way I read my daily news. When literary bloggers started providing links to the latest in the publishing world, I bookmarked the sites and then eventually compacted it all into my Google Reader– a nice and indexed way to get my daily dose of what’s going on. It’s true that it’s so much easier nowadays to be connected to what’s happening around the world. I’m a huge fan of the internet and all the convenience of digitalization of print.
That doesn’t stop me from worrying, though, about how it will effect the future of books. It’s one thing to get your news and blogs in a digitized manner. It’s another thing to put pages and pages and pages of books on the Kindle and threaten the future of independent bookstores. I still prefer to read books in their original format, thank you very much. The process of reading an actual book is something tactile and not just about the words themselves. So when my friend sent me a link this morning to a blog post from Gutenberg.com explaining how 2009 will be the year of the Ebook, I read it with the utmost skepticism. Would I like to try an e-reader? Sure. I don’t think having one will replace books entirely, though, in the same way that iPods makes it so people don’t really feel a need for their CD’s anymore.
I guess what I’m saying is that I’m approaching the digital reading revolution in a circular fashion. I’m like a dog who is spinning around and around, trying to find a comfortable spot. I am all for advances in technology but not if it replaces entirely the importance of the object itself.
What are your thoughts?