The Digital Divide

kmrado's picture

Dear Readers,

I'm currently in the process of gathering research for a final project.

My thesis is on the effects of the new digital media, on print. e.g.; iPad, Kindle, pdfs, wiki, and any other digital based media that has recently taken over the print market. Print is not dying, but it's recessing back into it's Medieval ways. It's strictly for the prestige. The wealthy. Those who can afford to buy books. The throw away, paper back is going out of style and there is a stronger emphasis on printing books that are of value. Holding to it's craft...etc

So, internet users...whats your take on it? Do you own an iPad? Do you even buy books anymore? When was the last time you bought a printed material?
If your a working professional, designer, printmaker, digital media; how has the digital divide effected you? Positive or Negative? Or do you not feel infringed at all?

Your thoughts are appreciated.
-rado

hrant's picture

You can draw a parallel to letterpress: what was once looked down upon as the over-the-hill poor cousin of offset printing has become a high-end niche product. The problem is that causes most people to see it as a fetish (think of the gaudy over-impression in most contemporary letterpress) so I guess most books will become over-designed, over-decorated too. Another parallel is calligraphy: it's basically art now.

For myself, I'm skeptical of light-emissive screens for reading, but I love my Kindle, not least because it's so passive - it's not screaming at your for attention, and gasping for a recharge. I've long loved reading physical books, but I abhor nostalgia, so I have no problem seeing printed books disappear, not least because it would save trees.

One thing that pisses me off though is that it's become nearly impossible to get very high quality typeface specimens made. There used to be Velox (AKA "RC paper") but not any more, and digital printing is still not good enough for super-crisp b&w, and in this zeitgeist can never become good enough.

hhp

Frode Bo Helland's picture

The throw away, paper back is going out of style and there is a stronger emphasis on printing books that are of value.

Can you back up that claim?

Karl Stange's picture

I have heard of and been involved in a lot of casual discussions around this concept but always in terms of what the future holds, rather than as a perspective on current trends in publishing. On a smaller scale than your overview implies this kind of publishing is already in evidence; custom publishing, vanity editions, self-published titles, but these have been around for some time and are nothing new. Perhaps a revision or expansion (with more references and examples) of what you are trying to achieve would be helpful?

On a personal level, I enjoy reading on an iPad and even the iPhone. That said, in the past two weeks have I have purchased three hard copy books. I think I will always split my reading between the two mediums (partly due to the availability of what I want to read), but I have no idea how representative of a wider trend this might be. I would say that for the majority of texts that I read, content is more important than format or context, but good typography is also incredibly important as part of the reading experience on the page or the screen, for what it is worth...

Bert Vanderveen's picture

It's strictly for the prestige. The wealthy. Those who can afford to buy books.

Not true. In extensive parts of the world the price of a Kindle or iPad is equivalent to the purchase price of hundreds, or even thousands of articles of printed matter. Eg, the price per copy of an Indian newspaper is around 10 dollarcents (5 Rupees — The Indian Times). The ASP for a iPad in India is around 760 USD (40,000 Rupees), although there are locally produced tablets that cost a fraction of that, eg the Akaash, which costs around 39 USD.

For the price of an iPad an Indian could buy 7600 newspapers… which is around 20 years worth of news and information. That cheaper tablet is still more than a years worth of newspaper.

JamesM's picture

It's clear that digital publishing — iPad, Kindle, etc — is the trend of the future and that sales of printed books, magazines and newspapers will decline seriously.

My guess is that two types of printed books will hang on the longest -- inexpensive paperbacks (for readers in lower economic groups who can't afford an iPad/Kindle and who look for budget-priced books) and coffee table or collectable books (large-format photos, fancy bindings, etc).

As for myself, I've always loved books and have a pretty good sized library, but since getting my iPad I've bought all my books digitally. It's just so darn convenient.

hrant's picture

Did somebody say India?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aakash_%28tablet%29
Check out the price.

hhp

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

Type design is the same as it ever was. Only, the tools have gotten better.

We are making fonts today that we hope to look good when reduced in size or web-font-ized. We are going about solving these problems as type designers had to for badly inked hand press work hundreds of years ago.

Movable type is one of the oldest technologies around, and for as long as it has been moving through generations and the creation and adaption of new tools, it is surprising how little it has truly changed.

I think the idea that technology has changed anything is rather weak, insofar as the actual design of type itself, new limitations spring up, and get overcome. Surely technology, mainly the modern computer, has allowed pretty much anyone on earth to dive into developing type, and for the professionals, the time it takes them to create something has shrunken dramatically, but I don't see how this changes the shapes and curves and lines one sees in their head when they are trying to create type.

JamesM's picture

The new iPad just became available in India a couple of days ago. The price starts at 30,500 rupees, which I believe is around $580.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-04-27/gadgets-special/3...

According to one article I read (not the URL above), tablets have not sold well in India so far. Neither have PCs (there's only 1 PC per 25 people).

kmrado's picture

@ frode frank

I'm citing work more than throwing my opinion, but I've pulled it from this:
http://craigmod.com/journal/ipad_and_books/

charles ellertson's picture

I haven't looked in a while, but the last time I did, a mass-market paperback was significantly cheaper than a Kindle, I-Pad or whatever book.

Remember too that many of the costs of making the *files* for ebooks are usually born by the print edition, including the publisher's overheads.

Or were you going to throw acquiring, editing, proofreading, correcting, etc. out with the paper?

oldnick's picture

The move to electronic books is simply another step in the overall movement of burden-shifting.

Virtual products relieve their makers of the costs of manufacturing and/or distributing a physical product. Even non-physical goods—like television programming—are migrating from free-to-all to free-if-you-pay-for-internet-access. Telephone companies are currently trying trying to absolve themselves of the responsibility for maintaining landlines. And so on…

While virtual reality may appear to be simply a quest to find more and more inconsequential ways to fiddle while Rome burns, its real purpose is to shake you down in new and improved ways.

kmrado's picture

For the price of an iPad an Indian could buy 7600 newspapers… which is around 20 years worth of news and information. That cheaper tablet is still more than a years worth of newspaper.

Instead of newspapers, I'm trying to focus on books. Newspapers are an affordable throw away item. I might haven't been clear.

kmrado's picture

@JamesM
Hm...that's interesting that you feel that way about what books will hang on the longest.

After you have bought an a book via iPad, have you ever gone out and bought a physical copy to add to your library?

quadibloc's picture

According to the Wikipedia article that Hrant linked, the real price of the Aakash, as the UbiSlate 7+, is $60 rather than $35 for someone who wants to buy one.

$35 is what the government will pay to give one to a student for free.

I certainly agree that paper books are ahead at present. Think of buying a second-hand copy of a paperback book, possibly at a thrift shop or a library book sale: no contest.

But with concern over the size of our forests, the price of brand new paper books is going up, and eventually paper availability will be an issue. On top of that, pushing people to E-books apparently will mean publishers can charge the same price for a book without having to pay for the paper and binding any more.

So I do see this future as inevitable. There is the "Retina display" that is coming into vogue, so it may be that by the time E-books take over, displays will have a higher resolution, thus better presenting type.

But the real issue is that it's unlikely the DRM will allow a way to transfer possession of used books, and so type looking fuzzy will be a small matter compared to:

- the death of the public library,
- the death of the second-hand bookstore,
- books becoming much more expensive, as, in effect, there will only be new hardcovers, no pocket books, no second-hand books

This is what will have a destructive social impact.

JamesM's picture

> After you have bought an a book via iPad, have you ever gone
> out and bought a physical copy to add to your library?

I haven't, and I doubt if that happens very often.

But on the iPad you can download the first chapter of any available book for free, and I could see someone reading the free sample chapter and then deciding to buy the physical book.

> This is what will have a destructive social impact.

You may be right, and I share your concern about libraries. But on the other hand I've seen statistics that the majority of adults never go to the library, they don't patronize bookstores, and they rarely even read a book. If electronic devices like iPads and Kindles make it quick and easy for people to buy and read books, perhaps it might has a positive effect.

kmrado's picture

I guess I'm looking for a more personal level response? I just want to know your preference rather than if my thesis is valid or not. Print vs. Digital for yourself, and why or why not?

kmrado's picture

@oldnick
"Virtual products relieve their makers of the costs of manufacturing and/or distributing a physical product." Do you feel that as a consumer, it may dehumanize the process? Rids of the idea of a physical printed object in hand? Do you agree with the idea of burden-shifting?

charles ellertson's picture

"Virtual products relieve their makers of the costs of manufacturing..."

Really? You think they grow on trees? Guess that's another reason not to cut down trees...

Today, most books have both a print and digital edition. On the balance sheet, guess which edition bears the costs of publishing?

JamesM's picture

The cost of printing and shipping a book is only a small percentage of its price.

The New York Times says that for a book that retails for $26, the publisher pays only $3.25 (12% of the book's price) to print, store and ship the book, including unsold copies that are returned.

The retail book store would keep $13 (50% of the retail price), the author gets around $3.90 (can vary), and the rest goes to overhead, proofing, design, typesetting, marketing, and the publisher's profit.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/01/business/media/01ebooks.html

hrant's picture

Good numbers - thanks. But there's a shift:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-17685120

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

Or were you going to throw acquiring, editing, proofreading, correcting, etc. out with the paper?

Anyone can post their work online for the nominal fee of getting online.
At the moment, that cuts out the quality control.
But automated, creator-driven ways will emerge to put some order into the mass of content.
Going viral will become less random.
Or writers will just have to rely on really good first lines.
It’s the best of times…

5star's picture

If you measure a progress by the standard of being independent - a book doesn't require batteries, it's a lot more portable, and far more maintenance free. Oh ya, don't drop your digital device on to concrete / payment etc..

So which provides independence digital or non-digital? Independence is the measuring stick of the Individual.

Today I read the daily paper and picked up a fashion mag, and sourced out large format photographic printing. How much of what I consumed today is of recycled material? Beats me ...I leave that to the forces of the environmentalists ... just as I do for the inevitable disposal associated with all the toxic digital waste.

Oops! I just dropped my iPhone.

At the end of the day I wonder what the ecological footprint will be for all digital devices?

I'm not a prosumer (professional consumer), I don't care about the latest digital version of whatever but, as a freelance designer I do consume both digital and non-digital products. But I do it because of 'needs' and not 'wants'.

Governments that become involved in such consumer products such 'tablets for the people' are more concerned with the countries economy rather than it's ecology. The return business is what really matters. Hook them early and do it on the cheap.

Free tablet for every new born!!

Mitt Romney's campaign manager ... take notes.

n.

oldnick's picture

Do you feel that as a consumer, it may dehumanize the process? Rids of the idea of a physical printed object in hand? Do you agree with the idea of burden-shifting?

Probably no more or less dehumanizing than fake friends and sultry electronic handmaidens. Remember, the pre-internet definition of virtual was “almost or nearly as described, but not completely or according to strict definition.” Fake is the new real; unlimited is the new whole big bunch; Limited Edition is the new “limited to as many as people will buy.”

Regardless of my preferences, burden-sharing is here to stay. Plus, it pays my bills, so I can’t complain.

dezcom's picture

I buy more books than ever but none of them are novels. Most of them are reference books and illustrated. I do not own a Kindle, etc. I am an old fart so my patterns differ from the current generation.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

I think the day when color fonts are pervasive, by which I mean everything from microsoft wordpad to the Sony Vegas video editor can use raster or gradient based color fonts will be a huge landmark in type design. There has been some discussion of this re the icons available for the iphone and windows 7 phones.

Of course after this will be pervasive 3 dimensional fonts, and after that 4 dimensional, the 4th dimension as time, and thus motion.

flooce's picture

Of course after this will be pervasive 3 dimensional fonts, and after that 4 dimensional, the 4th dimension as time, and thus motion.

I am waiting to see a tasteful useage of that. :)

sko's picture

My sister uses a Kindle a lot, but she uses it to read classic literature almost exclusively, as they are often sold for much cheaper than a retail bookstore or ordering a physical book. Her reading is sort of split 50/50 with physical books though (often got at similar prices from a 2nd hand bookstore).

For myself, I generally read illustrated or reference/textbooks which are unsuitable for electronic readers a lot of the time.

kmrado's picture

@sko & @dezcom

You two both say you read illustrated books more classic literature. So graphic novels? Are they're any web based graphic novels you follow? (Penny Arcade, Nothing Nice To Say, etc...)

kmrado's picture

@flooce

Does this mean your against the digitizing of type? What examples would you use that demonstrate the un-tasteful usage?

kmrado's picture

@Ryan Maelhorn

You seem to be gun-hoe for augmented reality. After viewing your site, you design type as well. Do you design your type geared toward screen legibility?

kmrado's picture

@Nick Shinn

Going viral, do you think that'll be the future for most writers? If so, how do you think that'll effect printed literature?

5star's picture

kmrado, I replied to your email.

n.

dezcom's picture

The only graphic novels I have read were on paper (and written by my son). I am not familiar with any of the web based graphic novels you cited. Keep in mind that I am 68 years old.

5star's picture

dez, coolness! Does he have anything up on Issuu dot com?

Have you seen the tv series Afro Samurai?

I'll be doing Lords of Graphite in sort of a graphic novel format but in moving imagery kind of like Afro Samurai :)

n.

quadibloc's picture

Of course after this will be pervasive 3 dimensional fonts, and after that 4 dimensional, the 4th dimension as time, and thus motion.

I remember a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode in which an alien language whose written form consisted of whirling colored balls appeared on a computer screen... so apparently at least one alien civilization succumbed to this temptation.

dezcom's picture

All the alien worlds I have visited no-longer require written language. They have perfected thought transformation to such a high degree that children, just after birth, are infused with all the knowledge of the cosmos in a few seconds time. The other good part is that cell phones have all vanished or been put in mental museums..

sko's picture

@kmrado

I mean more of textbooks or art books, which need pictorial examples or largish pictures as the purpose.

I have read a few graphic novels, but it's not really something I do regularly; I don't read a lot of fiction in general.

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