This post, by Craig Mod, originally appeared on his site in March of 2010, but it’s as relevant as ever today.
Print is dying.
Digital is surging.
Everyone is confused.
As the publishing industry wobbles and Kindle sales jump, book romanticists cry themselves to sleep. But really, what are we shedding tears over?
We’re losing the throwaway paperback.
The airport paperback.
The beachside paperback.
We’re losing the dregs of the publishing world: disposable books. The book printed without consideration of form or sustainability or longevity. The book produced to be consumed once and then tossed. The book you bin when you’re moving and you need to clean out the closet.
These are the first books to go. And I say it again, good riddance.
Once we dump this weight we can prune our increasingly obsolete network of distribution. As physicality disappears, so too does the need to fly dead trees around the world.
You already know the potential gains: edgier, riskier books in digital form, born from a lower barrier-to-entry to publish. New modes of storytelling. Less environmental impact. A rise in importance of editors. And, yes — paradoxically — a marked increase in the quality of things that do get printed.
From 2003-2009 I spent six years trying to make beautiful printed books. Six years. Focused on printed books. In the 00s.
And I loved it. I loved the process. The finality of the end product. I loved the sexy-as-hell tactility of those little ink and paper bricks. But I can tell you this: the excitement I feel about the iPad as a content creator, designer and publisher — and the potential it brings — must be acknowledged. Acknowledged bluntly and with perspective.
With the iPad we finally have a platform for consuming rich-content in digital form. What does that mean? To understand just why the iPad is so exciting we need to think about how we got here.
I want to look at where printed books stand in respect to digital publishing, why we historically haven’t read long-form text on screens and how the iPad is wedging itself in the middle of everything. In doing so I think we can find the line in the sand to define when content should be printed or digitized.
This is a conversation for books-makers, web-heads, content-creators, authors and designers. For people who love beautifully made things. And for the storytellers who are willing to take risks and want to consider the most appropriate shape and media for their yarns.
Defined by content
For too long, the act of printing something in and of itself has been placed on too high a pedestal. The true value of an object lies in what it says, not its mere existence. And in the case of a book, that value is intrinsically connected with content.