Over at Writer's Digest there is an interesting debate on the future of magazines between Bob Sacks, better known as “BoSacks,” a 38-year veteran of the publishing industry whose e-newsletter, “Heard on the Web: Media Intelligence,” reaches nearly 12,000 readers daily and is essential reading for anyone in the magazine and media industry. BoSacks is a proponent of the digital world and is a strong believer in the developments that are happening around e-paper and the growth of various e-readers and netbooks. In the opposing corner is Samir Husni, nicknamed “Mr. Magazine,” who holds a doctorate in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and is the author of Launch Your Own Magazine: A Guide for Succeeding in Today’s Marketplace who has an amazingly optimistic view on the future of print. The two columns, It's a Digital World Now and The Death of Print Magazine and other Fairy Tales are fascinating reading and represent extreme viewpoints from the publishing industry.
Personally, I'm in BoSack's camp. While I appreciate the tactile experience of magazines and all the reading and visual advantages they bring - print magazines are just less relevant today given the developments in the digital world. There will be niches where print magazines survive for many more years but these will look like hobbies rather big business. And that's OK. For those interested in vertical segments and enjoy the print experience there will be publishers willing to serve them. The mass-market consumer glossies will also have their place for as it will be many years before technology replaces the print experience of Vanity Fair for the general consumer. However, to ignore the long-term digital trends, the advantages of the digital format plus the current actions being taken by consumers, is to live in a fantasy world.
It's still some time off before mass adoption but eventually we'll see cost effective e-paper work in various mobile formats. In digital form, e-paper readers will go much further than static text - there will be search, interactivity, social communications, real-time updating via WiFi with audio, video and other multimedia complementing the text format.
As a parent who watches his son hunch over as he carries a huge weight of textbooks to school every day - I cannot wait for the textbook industry to be reformed. It's a total disgrace - over priced, out of date text books are being forced on our kids by an industry trying to protect a legacy business model. An excellent recent article in The Washington Post discusses the jolt that's needed. I truly hope that a company such as Apple or Amazon combines a hardware and distribution strategy to revolutionize the way our children access and interact with information.
Sorry Mr. Magazine, now we live in a dynamic not static world. Print is a vestige of the past - it has many admirable attributes and will be around for quite a while - but today we don't just want prepackaged text pushed at us - we want to be involved in the content and the discussion around it. Digital and mobility are the way forward - clinging to icons of the past is a disservice to the readers of the future. I know whose class I would recommend my kids to enroll in.