The Speed of Light Reading A New Introduction to Print is Dead By Jeff Gomez
1. I was a teenager when I first discovered the word solipsism. The instant I learned of its meaning I loved the word for its poetic simplicity, silky alliteration, and the fact that a collection of just a few letters could encompass such a big idea. Ever since then, while hopefully never suffering from solipsism (if anything, I usually experience the opposite), I’ve thought of the word from time to time. It also occasionally surfaces in print or conversation, or else a character in a movie will say it. But while we can all hope to eradicate solipsism—so that no one person thinks that they’re the center of the universe—that doesn’t settle the question of the universe itself. After all, what kind of universe has none of us at its center?
2. It’s been over a year since Print is Dead was first published in paper and electronic formats, and it’s been more three years since I first wrote the original essay that led to the writing of the full-length book. A lot has happened in that time. Since I wrote the essay, Sony has introduced the first (and then second) version of its eBook reader. In December 2008, Sony reported they’d sold over 300,000 eReader devices, and work continues on yet another version (this time incorporating wireless connectivity). Apple has similarly introduced the iPhone, touted by many in the press as the “God device.” Its sales are already well into the millions and, as of April 2009, more than a billion applications have been download to iPhones around the world. In fact, they’re now so ubiquitous on the streets and on busses and commuter trains that, whenever someone’s cell phone rings, the chances are pretty good that they’re going to pull out an iPhone. In addition to this, Apple has introduced a half-dozen new iPod models (all of them smaller, cheaper, and with larger memories than their predecessors), not to mention Apple has begun selling TV shows, movies, and audiobooks from iTunes. Electronic books—for reading on an iPhone—also appear in iTunes, but so far only clumsily, as stand-alone apps in the app store. Rather than being seen truly as content, books are sold alongside gimmicky fare like video games Even in just the last year or so there have been immense changes. Amazon’s Kindle has appeared (with a sleeker 2.0 version already available, as well as a deluxe model with a larger screen), and Google has settled its lawsuit with authors. Meanwhile, more and more people are engaged in the delivery and consumption of electronic content and online participation, getting their news and entertainment from blogs or websites. Recent studies have shown that people spend more time on Facebook than with email, and Twitter is so popular that Ashton Kutcher has more people “following” him than CNN does. Think about that: he’s one person; they’re a news network. In a lot of ways, it’s a pretty amazing time. However, while digital media continues to proliferate, physical formats are becoming more and more rare. As newspaper circulations continue to shrink, along with advertising income, many American papers are going out of business (to list them all would be too depressing). In addition, a number of magazines—from Domino to Portfolio—have also ceased publication. In the music world, Atlantic Records announced that in November 2008—for the first time—digital sales exceeded physical sales. Everywhere you look, people are creating and consuming electronic content. And, to add insult to injury, the publishing industry experienced a major contraction when the financial system and stock markets collapsed in late 2008.
Many prominent New York publishers had layoffs, closed divisions, fired entire departments, and shuttered imprints. And yet, despite all of this activity, and all of the good and bad news, the universe of publishing—the way that it does business—has not changed all that much in the past year or so. Big books and authors—the James Pattersons and Stephen Kings of the world—continue to rake in big bucks and keep their numerous fans happy. Celebrity authors are still given huge advances (even in these tough financial times), the bestseller lists are filled with the usual suspects, and Twilight has become—more or less—the new Harry Potter. At the same time, publishers in both America and Europe have continued to expand their various digital efforts, digitizing their backlists and embracing new software and reading devices (including the iPhone). But most of this digital activity is happening at the edges of the larger publishing galaxy; eBooks are still only a miniscule profit center, a tiny star against a backdrop of big names and paper formats. But if publishing is indeed a universe, what kind of universe is it? ............................... το πλήρες κείμενο εδώ