Saturday, January 03, 2009

Internet and the printed word.

Eric's guest post got me thinking if there are any publications that are safe in the Internet age. The answer to that question is books and magazines.

Books, despite being available in a digital format, are still an experience. In order to really appreciate a book you have to go to a bookstore, pick it up, and hold it in your hands. There is a feeling you get from holding a new book in your hands.

I am not quite sure how to describe this feeling, but I think it might be akin to first love and borders on the sublime. To me it is one of the reasons I keep going to my local Barnes and Noble, or any other bookstore, over and over.

Centuries ago books belonged to the nobility since they were expensive to reproduce and only the nobility and the clergy knew how to read. Then Gutenberg invented the printing press and the literacy revolution began.

Now there are more books on more topics than you have time to read, but the value of books has not diminished along with their cost. Books are as important today as they were in medieval times when monks painstakingly reproduced them by hand.

Magazines have more in common with newspaper than with books. Their message, however, is less time sensitive. A newspaper that was printed yesterday is old news, but a magazine that came out last week still makes for a good read.

Another reason magazines are superior to newspapers lies in their publication frequency. Since magazines are published less often, the magazine writers have more time to work on their stories. This results in better researched and better written articles.

Unlike newspapers, magazines have built-in content for their websites. Magazines can put their past issues online, providing their readers with a centralized archive which might not be available otherwise.

Books and magazines can exist in both printed and digital format. This, however, does not diminish them in any way. The experience of opening a book or of getting the new issue of a magazine in the mail can not be duplicated in the digital world.

So, books and magazines are safe in the Internet age because they offer something that can not be easily replaced by online publications.