Archive for the 'General Musings' Category

The End of an Era II*: The Beginning of Another?

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

*Note: I’ve mentioned the print vs. digital debate in an earlier post so I promise not to cover the same ground this time around.

First off, a confession. I’m a print guy; always have been and probably always will be. From the first time I picked up a comic book as a kid to printing my own fanzine or publishing my own magazine to working on myriad projects ranging from magazines to catalogs to hardcover and softcover books for colleagues and clients alike, I just plain love the *feel* of paper and the smell of ink. I read it, collect it, enjoy it. And although I’ve seen a sea change in recent years in the industries I love, I don’t see it going away anytime soon.

But does that make me a Luddite? Hell no! I love technology, and I have more than my share of electronic toys. Where once I exclusively used a pencil or pen to create I now more often than not use a tablet or laptop or both. When I read, I’m just as likely to do it online or on a handheld device like an iPad or even an iPhone (in a pinch; my eyes aren’t what they used to be) as I am a magazine or newspaper. I haven’t forsaken my beloved print for digital, I just make use of what’s at hand and “just works” for me at any given moment. But that doesn’t mean the digital revolution hasn’t drastically changed things for magazines and books on the delivery end just as the desktop revolution changed it for creatives.

Magazines are hard

Macworld ceased publication of its print edition with the November 2014 issue, this after producing a magazine devoted to Apple’s Macintosh computer since, well, the very inception of the Mac itself. From the time Steve Jobs himself graced the cover of the first issue in 1984 to unveil his new take on the personal computer to the rise and fall (and rise again) of Apple the company and its development of revolutionary devices like the iPod, iPhone and iPad, Macworld was there to chronicle all things Apple every step of the way: Macworld, the death of print, and the digital revolution

The magazine survived even the Dark Days when it looked like Apple wouldn’t, and now it fades into the sunset as Apple continues an extraordinarily successful run as a high-profile, influential and extremely profitable company. (That the announcement came immediately after the Macworld crew returned from covering Apple’s iPhone 6 and Apple Watch announcements in Cupertino is either cruel or a final coup for those who lost their jobs in the process. But that’s another story.) Subscribers now get the digital edition in their choice of flavors, just as they had before. Except now digital is the only option. Mac|Life here in the states and several UK pubs remain the sole Mac-centric pubs left. All eyes will be on them in the coming months and years (hopefully) to see if they benefit from Macworld’s demise or follow it down the same path to oblivion.

Ironically, technology journalist Glenn Fleishman took to the “pages” of Macworld (online) to bemoan the end of his ground-breaking digital publication The Magazine in his essay How Newsstand failed The Magazine, and what Apple should do That such a beautifully written and produced digital product failed in the marketplace, regardless of the reasons (which apparently are many), speaks to the difficulty of publishing in general, digital AND print. The mortality rate for print magazines has always been high, and there’s no reason to believe digital publishers should have it any easier. Attracting readers and advertisers has always been hard and always will be.

The MagazineBut perhaps even more ironically, Fleishman has a crowdfunding campaign underway to fund production of a second annual anthology in hardcover. Yes, hardcover. As in printed book. This after a similar campaign last year to preserve the best of its inaugural year…in print. So even digital publishers recognize and appreciate the value of print.

Traditional print publishers, on the other hand, have struggled with their transitions to digital. While it’s easy to blame Apple and its oft-neglected Newsstand platform for the failure of The Magazine and the struggles of others, publishers themselves deserve part of the blame for either mishandling digital versions of their print publications or misunderstanding the differences (strengths and weaknesses) between the platforms, as this Talking New Media article is quick to point out.

The worm turns

CNET Magazine

Which brings us to tech industry pioneer CNET, which has covered technology (yes, even on cable TV in its infancy) for 20 years. To bring the print vs. digital debate full circle, CNET has announced plans for a magazine. A print magazine. The comments from the CNET faithful have ranged from supportive (the minority) to downright sarcastic (at best) or dismissive and mean-spirited (at worst). Read them for yourself, if you dare. Obviously the announcement has been met with rampant skepticism, but these days most any announcement regarding print – books or magazines – is met with the same reaction. Many would tell you that print is dead, but it that were true, what still keeps showing up in my driveway each morning, in my mailbox regularly or on the shelves of my local Barnes & Noble? And at least around these parts, comic shops are thriving… and not just on back issues and action figures either. Don’t get me wrong; the struggles are still there and the road is hard. But through it all, at least *some* magazines and *some* newspapers and *some* book publishers survive, even thrive, in spite of their supposed imminent extinction. To paraphrase Twain, ‘The report of their death was an exaggeration’.

So as the war wages between print and digital, I’m reminded of other classic battles: Republican vs. Democrat, DC vs. Marvel, PC vs. Mac, paper vs. plastic. And we all know how those have turned out, don’t we? Is there ever really a clear winner or best choice, or are we better off when we recognize the strengths of each and embrace the solutions which work the best for us in given circumstances? Going down the list, I’ve: voted for both, read and enjoyed both, computed with both and carried groceries home in both. Some were better than others at times, but not one was the hands-down winner in each and every instance. There are no absolutes; or at least there shouldn’t be.

Vive la difference!

Let’s do the Time Warp again…

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Believe

So much for “dreaming big.”

2012 came and went in a blur with nary a post since March. In that time we’ve seen triumph and tragedy, old things become new again, a contentious and costly election and definitive proof that the Mayans weren’t such great prognosticators after all. And through it all I didn’t stop once to stare out the window and reflect on what to say here (or anywhere else, for that matter). But hopefully that’s about to change.

With the “chance” the Mayans could be right and our time on this earth was even more finite than we’d ever dreamed, it was the perfect time to take stock of our lives and appreciate what a gift this world is – especially in light of the horror and sorrow we watched play out in places like Aurora and Sandy Hook and the waterlogged eastern seaboard. But did we? I didn’t, but I realize I should have, and I plan to on a regular basis from now on. And I hope you do too.

It may sound simplistic, but I’d just rather force myself to stop and smell the roses once in a while than spend my days worrying about when I’ll be pushing up daises.

The Future of Publishing…?

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Making history

Publishing history was made recently with the release of GRAPHIC DESIGNS 1, one of the first ever “creative compilations” produced exclusively as an eBook. Wilson-Lewis-Wilson Design is one of a small number of design firms from all over the world with work included in GRAPHIC DESIGNS 1, and we’re proud of it…although in a way it makes us feel like we’re “cheating on print.” (We have printer’s ink in our blood, you see.)

When Amazon.com introduced the Kindle reader in late 2007, the move to eBooks began. In less than four years, Amazon was selling more eBooks than hardcover and softcover books combined. Until very recently, all eBooks were black and white, type-only pubs with little to offer the reader visually. But with the overwhelming popularity of the iPad, Kindle, Nook and other tablet readers, the digital experience is improving rapidly. And now David E. Carter is producing full-color eBooks, loaded with hundreds of examples of outstanding creative work exclusively as digital editions.

Carter, who created over 110 “creative compilations” on logos, graphic design and advertising as ink-on-paper books, is the top-selling producer of books in the history of graphic design. Now, he has released eight new graphic design eBooks through his company, Bright Books. The full-color eBooks can be viewed on an iPad, Kindle Fire, other tablet devices, or on any computer. For Carter, the most exciting thing about eBooks is the economics of the new media. “My oid books used to cost $49.95. My new books are under $10,” he said. “This is a game changer for creative compilation books directed to creative people. They are now very affordable.”

Carter founded Bright Books in March of 2010, a month before Apple’s first-gen iPad was released. “Once the Kindle came out, it was inevitable that eBooks would eventually have color,” Carter said, “and I wanted to be the first mover in eBooks for the graphic design world.” He has realized that goal with his eight new books, which focus on logos, posters and graphic design. He will produce 13 more eBooks for the creative world by the end of 2012. The new books are available for instant purchase and download through www.brightbooks.com. The site also offers free 20-page sample downloads of each book.

We’re honored to have our work featured in David’s books. But I’d be lying if I said I won’t miss holding a big, fat, beautifully printed hardback in my hands. *sniff*

The End of an Era

And now comes word that the venerable Encyclopaedia Brittanica has decided to abandon print editions in favor of a digital-only strategy that, quite frankly, has been in the works for years. Their sales numbers had shrivelled to a fraction of their all-time high of 120,000 sets in 1990 and, after 244 years, it just didn’t make economic sense to continue their traditional publishing model. But it’s still a shame. Those mammoth volumes have served generations of scholars and school kids alike. A Google search may make research a breeze, but there’s still a lot to be said for exploring and discovering with the flip of a page.

Perhaps Marvel has the right idea. Their ReEvolution plan combines digital and print in a symbiotic relationship that makes the different media complementary, not competitive. To a self-described techno geek who still loves the smell of ink and the feel of paper, that’s music to my ears.

Such stuff as dreams are made on

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

If you’ve arrived here looking for Don Quixote, I’m sorry to disappoint you. While I have done more than my share of tilting at windmills, please don’t expect me to break into song about dreaming The Impossible Dream. (Robert Goulet cornered that market decades ago.)

No, “Impossible Dreams” is more about dreaming big, which is something I did as a wide-eyed twentysomething when I actually had the… oh, let’s say “chutzpah” to start my own science fiction magazine. And in each issue of Questar, I used my editorial – “Impossible Dreams” – to explore topics big and small. Back then, installments of my print soapbox speculated on the future and reexamined the past, the same kind of timeless exercises which lured me to science fiction and fantasy in the first place. In that same spirit of adventure I’ll add my own unique (and sometimes twisted) spin on news, business, technology and all things popular culture in this new online incarnation.

So stick around. We’re just getting started, and when you dream big, there’s no stopping you!

–Bill Wilson

 

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