Does Gutenberg Get the Last Laugh or Is He Spinning in His Grave?

The debate about print versus digital delivery of everything from college textbooks to newspapers and magazines has seen enough discussion to take out in the traditional print form, an entire forest. On the surface it would appear a foregone conclusion that the printed word (or picture) is going the way of the carrier pigeon.

While the financial motivation might be there there is more to this than meets the eye. The endgame will probably be some sort of coexistence for the foreseeable future. Let's look at both sides of the coin.

One area of division can clearly be found in the demographics along the lines of age. People who grew up with print generally like print. Certainly there are age related issues where larger type becomes required. This is an area where e-books can really shine. It is easy to adjust the font size and even the font in many cases.

Digital delivery absolutely crushes the cost overhead of traditional print. Of course making corrections is also clearly superior. The naysayers say that the displays are not up to snuff for print to be snuffed out. Clearly the folks holding that position have not looked at the latest versions of E-ink and E-display. Both the monochrome and color versions are becoming quite snappy.

Displays using Gorilla Glass and IPS (In Plane Switching) are replacing TFT displays in all but the lowest end devices.

If you've ever been involved in the details of putting out a technical manual you understand they thousands of dollars it must be paid to the professional indexer for creating the back of the book. An e-book eliminates this job niche. Annotation and notes can accompany hyperlinks in the E versions.

As a professional career author I switched over to E versions only several years ago. And even with this I am still not a complete bear in my view about print. Print will still be around, admittedly in a slightly different form. What is getting completely demolished is print and ship in large volume. In many cities entire newspapers have either gone completely digital (Seattle Post-Intelligencer), along with news-magazines (Newsweek).

Yet print will still be with us because of a new creation from Hewlett-Packard. Some years back they discovered the technical limits of the laser printer. They determined in the print process the fastest they will be able to go is one page a second (letter-size/A4). This is because the part known as fusing (where the toner is heated and pressed into the media) cannot go any faster than that.

However they have had some success with a two-part printing process of incredible color vibrancy and resolution. It is not unlike mixing two-part epoxy glue. First the media gets sprayed with a part A and then has a reaction (chemically) with a part B. if you have used one of the instant photo printers in one of the department stores you have probably experienced this technology and not known it.

It does not take a rocket scientist to see where digital delivery can be married to a localized print on demand.

There is a far larger force at work here that is accelerating an e-world. Is the ability for an author to work either solo or in a small team and not be beholden to a publishing company for getting their work out. Certainly that means there will be considerably more subpar material. It will also give the small diamond a chance to shine in its own niche.

Our near-term future seems less about print versus e-book. Rather far more about a change in the delivery methodology which includes much of the traditional book publishing joining the record industry in the La Brea tar pits along with the dinosaurs.

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