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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Commercial Printing: Books and Magazines in the Future

I’ve been reading a lot recently about the future of print.

In a Book, It’s All About the Story

In an article by The Sun Daily, the author quotes The Ottawa Citizen: “All the arguments against e-books are about external incidentals—the feel of a book, the crinkle of the pages and so on. None of these things has anything to do with what makes a book worth reading—that it’s a well-written, thoughtful and compelling story.”

Granted, a book’s value arises from its compelling story; however, I think there’s more. I have been aware recently that several print books (as opposed to digital books) I’m currently reading appeal to me in part because their dust jackets are coated with a dull film laminate. I like the way they feel while I am reading them. It is part of the experience. It affects how I feel and therefore how I take in and absorb the information in the print book. I think others may agree.

A Print Book That Beats Its Digital Edition

Another article, this one in Publishers Weekly, describes a book by a Japanese novelist. Entitled 1Q84, this book, according to the article, has “managed to reverse another trend: it has made the book more popular in print than in digital.” More specifically, 1Q84 has sold 75,000 copies in hardcover and 25,000 copies in electronic format as of the date of the Publishers Weekly article.

Clearly, there is something here that people want. In particular, the article describes the design of the cover (the subtle interplay of text and photography) and also refers to a translucent vellum dust jacket. These offer a physical experience that reinforces the effect of the “well-written, thoughtful and compelling story” (to re-quote The Ottawa Citizen). Knopf, the publisher of 1Q84, has acknowledged a desire to make the print book “look beautiful” and “match the tone of the novel itself.”

A digital book may tell an engaging story, but the lack of packaging makes a difference as well. Think about the Mona Lisa without a frame, just a stretched canvas on an easel. The framing brings the viewer’s attention to bear upon the image. Consider also a Cartier watch thrown into a pawn shop case versus the same watch in a high-end jewelry store. For good or ill, people appreciate the trappings. They complement and augment the experience.

Magazine Printing: More New Titles

Here’s another item from a newsletter sent to me by a Midwest printer. It’s a bit old, referring to the first quarter of this year. The title of the article, “More New Magazines in First Quarter,” references MediaFinder, which notes that “54 new titles were launched this year versus only 25 in last year’s first quarter.”

Many of the periodicals I read note that magazine printing and newspaper printing either are being replaced by the Web or will be replaced by the Web. But the aforementioned quote suggests otherwise. More than twice as many new magazine titles were initiated in the first quarter of this year than in the first quarter of last year. Maybe this is a harbinger of an improving economy. Maybe it is a trend.

In my travels I also see a lot of stacks of newspapers and magazines here in Washington, DC, and elsewhere. Most are small tabloids or newsprint booklets. Clearly both are holding their own in niche markets. Maybe there are fewer magazine issues in some cases, but some of these are longer and more elaborate. Sometimes they are even joint ventures, with a print version and an Internet version.

No one has a crystal ball. Things are changing, but that doesn’t mean print is dying—any more than radio died when TV was born.

One Final Thought

One area that will most probably be transformed by digital imaging is school textbooks. High school, college, and graduate students in the not too distant future may carry around a single tablet computer containing all their textbooks loaded in its memory. Not only will they be able to search their electronic books for immediate answers, but they will feel relief in not carrying the weight of multiple physical texts. It’s also cheaper to produce textbooks this way.

When they enter the workforce, these students may be more used to reading on-screen text than we their predecessors have been. We shall see.

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