Friday Rant: Some Ruminations on the Phrase "Print is Dead"

In honor of heading back to school this week (One year left. One year left.), I'm going to rant about books and other printed things today. In today's world, you would be excused if you believed after reading all the marketing hype that procurement is moving completely to "the Cloud" and our beloved books will find new digital homes in the Kindle. Yet maybe there's some truth to the death of print. My workspace is completely clear of paper save the printed calendar I write things down on (call me old-fashioned) and a Moleskine notebook for notes. A Macbook is apparently all the file cabinet we need these days. In many procurement organizations, print no longer exists as a medium to store vendor information (e.g., we don't type out or print out POs any more). Nor do we store supplier information in manual card catalogs.

All of this begs the question: is print really dead? Or dying?

Over on Folio, I found a great article called The State of the Printed Magazine Supply Chain in a "Digital World". In my opinion, we sometimes take the centuries-old printing process for granted. After all, what started as hand-cranked presses with hand-set type (oh man do I love letterpress, still to this day) -- has evolved into a highly-tuned supply process that provides daily doorstep delivered global content for millions of readers, in hundreds of different languages, that they can physically hold in their hands. Arguably, the Internet does this too (minus the paper part). But print did it in the 60's. In terms of supply chain tactics, and as evidenced by the article above, print has a pretty streamlined gig going as far as process, sourcing, suppliers, manufacturing, and delivery. But it's falling out of favor. And fast.

There are definite pros and cons to the printed world, but I'm not ready to send it off to the land of 8-tracks and VHS tapes just yet. I still love the look, feel and smell of a freshly printed book versus the glare of a Kindle screen. Printed material can also be a means to an end, acting as a jumping point to bring the webophobics of the world into the 21st Century: "By bringing bonus content (videos, Web sites, coupons, messages and so on) to print readers, it enhances their experience, generates leads and allows for a much broader upsell to the printed ad," the article says. Of course, one can write a blog or even create a website for free, sourcing content with little-to-no overhead cost in terms of materials and production.

Which brings us to a new problem: if not dead, is print enough for our insatiable appetites for content? The author of this current piece mentions an article dating back from 2006, which says, "Let's put aside the print version. No, it's not dead but it's not enough. The day when you could shovel your stuff onto the Web site and people would bookmark it and come back are pretty much gone. The fact is, you are one of dozens of content sources that people are consuming in an omnivorous media menu. Increasingly, it's not people coming to your Web site. It's people seeing you mentioned elsewhere. It's not people coming to your front page but coming directly to a story because someone linked to it."

In moving into a new role here at Spend Matters, I'll be in charge of metaphorically nudging the "print" aspect (i.e. an author writes a book, you buy it, read it, and perhaps discuss it with your friends -- but never speak with the actual author) of the site into a new online dialogue of sorts. That's right. Start talking back. In the next few weeks we're really going to push for commentary in regards to what you, as our readers what to see, hear, and be involved with on Spend Matters. So look for upcoming surveys, find us on Facebook (type in "Spend Matters" and "Like" our page) and Twitter (@spendmatters), and start talking, because we want to talk back. From 8-5 I'll go digital on Spend Matters: but in school and at home, I'll still surround myself with stacks of my beloved books. Call me antiquated.

Sheena Moore

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