Is Print Where Words Go To Die?
Print is where words go to die.
I heard this statement in a lecture the other day. It’s a great catch phrase. Is it true, though?
A first reaction is no. Non-fiction books have revised editions to keep them fresh and contemporary. Fiction books have series. Given the lead times to bring a book to market (anywhere from six to 18 months), however, how fresh and current is the content? I believe the speaker referred to the immediacy of the information, not the core content.
Other, more current technologies provide more immediate information. These include wikis, blogs and instant messages (IMs).
The first question a book printer may have is what is a wiki and a blog? Wikis are relatively new and blogs have been around for several years.
A wiki is a user editable Web site. It is comprised of many pages covering different topics. The idea behind a wiki is that one user posts some information on a subject and others add to the knowledge base. Some of the information added may be inaccurate or incomplete. That’s part of a wiki. Another user simply goes to the incorrect wiki page and corrects it. At all times, users can hit a “revert” button that returns the wiki to the last saved version. Sounds chaotic, doesn’t it? It is.
How did the wiki get its name? Wiki is Hawaiian for quick. You may have seen the vehicles in Honolulu called Wiki Wiki cabs that ferry tourists from the airport to the beachfront hotels. The wiki’s inventor, Ward Cunningham, wrote a few lines of code to create a place for co-workers to collaborate—quickly.
Blog is short for web log. A blog is a site where an author, such as myself, posts ideas on a particular subject of interest or expertise. Others may add comments to each of the blog postings to further elaborate an idea.
What are the differences between a wiki and a blog? Wikis and blogs are dynamic. Both leave a “memory” on the Web. That’s where the similarity ends.
Blogs promote the identity of the person writing the blog and the users who contribute. A blog is also one single web page. After a few postings accumulate, they are archived for future reference. On my blog, for instance, I accumulate the postings by month and year.
A community of users, on the other hand, creates a wiki. It suppresses the identity of the originator and all contributors. No one knows who wrote what. A wiki is also a complete web site with multiple pages covering multiple subjects or subtopics.
Why are wikis, blogs and IMs better than print? The lecturer contends that the instantaneousness of wikis, blogs and IMs make them more flexible and dynamic than print. Print is a legacy technology. These other technologies surpass it because each marks our lives as they happen.
Yet wikis, blogs and IMs have their limitations. Instant messages are well suited for synchronous decision-making or information disseminating. “Meet me at Tutti’s at 5,” is a perfect use for an IM. Instant messages die, however, once the user deletes them. Wikis and blogs, while they live indefinitely on the web, are hard to search and index for reference.
What, then, is the role of print? Print is good for memorializing thoughts, ideas and events. Print lends credibility. One often hears the phrase, “if it’s printed, it must be true.” More and more frequently one hears, “memorialize that statement” in business-speak. For now, whenever something must be kept for future reference, print is the medium chosen.
Ironically, one of the great sales opportunities for book printers is blogs. Many bloggers want to publish their blogs in a more permanent form, books. Searching out prolific bloggers and contacting them may be a way for a book printer to capture more business.
If you enjoyed reading this, please forward the URL to colleagues who might also enjoy it, http://bookprint.blogspot.com.