The death of print?

The Crystal BallPhil: There’s a bit of buzz around the story that the magazine Newsweek is going to give up its print edition. Rumours abound that the Guardian will ditch the print edition soon and go on-line only.

Many commentators suggest that days of big news corporations are over because we can all get our updates free of charge from bloggers and “citizen journalists” rather than well paid hacks.

They then look beyond expensive news production and into the magazine world confident that you’ll soon abandon buying anything printed on a dead tree in favour of downloading it onto your iKindleslab.

Sadly (for the commentators) this proves why they are wrong. Magazine sales may be slipping but e-publication isn’t making much of a dent. With only 1.7% of sales being electronic any loss in circulation is down to other factors.

The point is that just because you say something doesn’t make it true. Even if lots of people are saying it, that doesn’t make it true. Proper journalism, the stuff people don’t want to pay for, involves going back to original sources, fact checking and other boring stuff that takes time. If you want the news according to an Idaho basement living nerd, well you can have it for free but in truth that’s all it’s worth. Just because something is loaded on to YouTube doesn’t mean it’s accurate either. Chances are that when you are seeing is only one side. Balanced reporting takes time and money too.

Of course, “big media” doesn’t do itself any favours sometimes. When you report stories happening outside your door by watching Youtube and Twitter rather than dispatching someone with a camera to go and have a look then those paying for it will begin to wonder. Likewise, some of us don’t think that the opinions of people you find wandering around the streets during the day are a substitute for cold hard facts, even if they are cheaper and more colourful.

“What has this go to do with writing a book?”, I hear you ask.

Well, the same commentators predicting the death of newsprint also tell me that e-books are the future. I’ve played with a Kindle and it’s very nice. You don’t want to kill flies with it or use it prop up a wobbly table leg but for reading it’s lovely.

The thing is that I can write a book to appear on it easily. Possibly too easily. No need to get involved with “big publishing”, they are as much of a dinasour as the big news corporations. Ignore the basic tenets of plots, character development, grammar and spelling – just write and be free!

Is this too easy though? Some numpty keeps e-mailing me something about how quickly you can write for Kindle etc. without bothering to do research. The messages clutter up my Spam folder daily. I think the idea is to churn out unreadable book after unreadable book, sell them for a tiny price and hope that all the sales will bring in a substantial income. (Feel free to correct me as I never read them properly never mind waste my broadband allocation watching the embedded video).

We have looked at e-publishing and technically, it’s not that difficult.

Is it the right way to go?

Is it the future?

Should we just assume that “big publishing” chooses its authors based on the number of weeks they stay in Strictly Come Dancing rather than how much they have to say?

There is a Self Publishing Conference in Leicester in 6 months time. Should we go?

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