Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Demise of Print Publishing?

Print publishing is dead. But is the written word dead also? Do people not read anymore? That’s a scary thought and kind of ridiculous when one really thinks about it. Actually, the reverse is true, because people, as a whole, read more today than at any time in human history. They are just not reading ink on paper print as much as they once were, say, last year.

There’s big shift in the great publishing paradigm going on, folks. In case you haven’t noticed, there are these devices called computers and these devices are all hooked into something called the World Wide Web, and this is where loads of reading is going on these days. This “new” reading material is called Web content, and it provides both fiction and nonfiction selections in the forms of novels, news, poetry, essays, etc., and well as social networking communication.

To give an example of where this is going, a funny thing happened awhile ago. I was reading, on the Web, of course, a news item which quoted Twitter as a news source. TWITTER! This allegedly frivolous social network that feeds the so-called narcissistic nobody’s ego has become a source for newsfeeds. Unbelievable! But I’m not shocked. CNN has been using Twitter and Facebook for quite some time to get instant feedback from viewers. However, to quote a Tweet is something relatively new. What does this have to do with print publishing and its demise? Quite a bit, actually. First though, let’s take a trip into the past.

New writers don’t understand that publishing, as we now know it today, is a fairly new concept. The publishing houses that we call the Big Five were actually small, privately owned companies just a few decades ago and became the giants we know now not back in ancient times, but in the 1980’s. Of course, to many of the editors who work for corporations like Penguin Putnam and Simon & Schuster, those were the dark ages because it was before most of them were born.

Things change fast these days, so don’t be too surprised if within one more generation, those that we know as major publishers are no longer the ones producing our reading materials. As a matter of fact, are they actually producing it now? Do the Big Five produce what the majority of readers read? No. If what’s been stated above is true, that the majority of people read Web content, then what’s read is produced by you and me, or rather the you’s and me’s who write on the Web as people interacting with other people.

So who gets paid for all this writing? This is a reasonable question, isn’t it? At least it’s reasonable for those who write and expect to get paid for their words. Is there so much free, interesting reading material out there now that no one has to or wants to pay for it? Something for the writer who just finished a 140,000-word tome to consider, and just a thought to leave you with until our next post on the changing world of writing for publication.