The Future of Print…?

My inlaws are visiting, so things are a bit hectic at the house. Good, though, they’re great people.

We spent a lot of time around here in the web talking about digital: digital formats, digital content, extra content, audio/video, and all the rest of that junk. Well, yesterday, my father-in-law brought my eldest son a book. Yes, a real, live, actual book made out of paper. And it was a big, beautiful thing. Hardbound with magnificent illustrations, thick paper, elaborate border work — it’s awesome! OK, since you insist… It is A Kingdom Far and Clear: The Complete Swan Lake Trilogy by Mark Helprin and illustrated by award winner Chris Van Allsburg (he did the Polar Express).

This book is really something. I mean, I thought my deluxe illustrated version of the Chronicles of Narnia (that you can’t even get anymore) was cool, but this… It’s impressive.

Anyway, holding the thing last night and flipping through the pages, it hit me. People are so worried about digital content — but digital is growing by leaps and bounds (700% year over year growth!) with no extras whatsoever. People want digital – it’s neat, organized, cheap, and easy. I don’t think anyone needs to put much extra bells and whistles into digital for it to sell. Paper on the other hand…

You can’t add much to a paper book except for quality. As the content becomes digital, what you’re selling with paper is the ideal of the printed book. Cheap trade paperbacks won’t cut it. How much longer before all books are like this beautiful tome next to me? Because I’ve got to tell you, I don’t buy paper books anymore, but I would buy this book as well as others like it. And I would pay a premium to do so (this one has a cover price of $40 –on Amazon for $26 — and worth every penny). Because I’m not paying for content — I’m buying the experience of reading. Like getting a Ferrari, I suppose. A Yugo will get you there, but a Ferrari makes it an extra pleasure.

I think that digital will bring back the best of print — the romance of it all. Special stitching and binding, illustrations, solid paper, and that awesome book smell. It has to. When you can get the content at the push of a button, why else get a book if not for the pure pleasure of reading it?

About Rob McClellan

Rob is the founder of ThirdScribe, a unique author services platform and social network. As a naval officer and diver, he spent a majority of his career doing a lot more than you would think with a lot less than you can imagine -- a skill that has proven extremely valuable in the start-up world. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

One Response to The Future of Print…?

  1. I am that In-Law Rob mentions in his comments… a sixty-something guy whose career has been in print and software publishing. I think Rob’s comparison of a Ferrari to a Yugo is on the money, and is likely the defining comment on Print VS Digital delivery. It helps us shape publishing strategies as we think about the future of our industry. A print version must be rich, slick , elegant in production and design; likewise, the digital edition of the same work (yes, it need not be one or the other) must also be digitally elegant, with appropriate use of graphics and audio elements, along with useful links to web sites that add deep background and clarity to our publications.

    I like the way the world is shaping up, which is saying a lot for this old out-to-pasture publisher.

    Way to go Rob… I am proud of the work you are doing.

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