The opposite of an eBook reader – print publications that spring from individual creativity first expressed digitally

Longtime readers of this blog know I’ve always been a fan of 8020 Publishing (and JPG magazine). I started blogging about the founders when they announced their concept three years ago and later when their first issue was available. I also blogged about it when they announced they were going to expand the concept beyond JPG magazine and I lamented the startup challenges they faced when two of the founders left.

So today, I’m happy to see the New York Times has discovered them and has published a glowing profile.

Quote:

(CNet founder and investor in 8020 Halsey) Minor thinks he can also make money from old-fashioned print. Online readers vote on their favorite submissions appearing at JPGmag.com. Then a tiny staff of 10 designs a layout for the winners and about 50,000 high-quality slick-looking magazines are printed six times a year. They are sold through $25 annual subscriptions and on newsstands for $6 each.

Earlier this week, I linked to this TechCrunch item about a Google patent to, in Michael Arrington’s paraphrase of the patent-speak, “give users the ability to search and browse their own content, and receive an electronic or hard copy version of the final product. And that final product will include advertisements highly relevant to the user.” (As I noted at the time, Dear Google: Please sign me up as to beta-test this product.)

So, during this week of eBook reader hype, let’s consider the Google patent, the first-mover efforts of 8020, or, for that matter, the self-publishing services like Lulu.com or (for some Nashville-centric linking) the technology and unique distribution available through Lightning Source, an Ingram Book business unit that serves as the back-end for many on-demand book-publishing services. During this week when many seem obsessed with painting a picture of a future where print is only “replicated” on a digital device, let us remember that some primordial force is similarly pulling us in the opposite direction. Some force that makes bloggers love to see their names in print. Some force that makes people want to write or buy books about using technology, even technology that needs no explanation — need proof? There are multiple titles on how to use Flickr.

So, let’s not get carried away with the whole “print is dead” meme (Isn’t it ironic that such a book is available in hardback, and not eBook only?). Google understands it’s worth patenting something based on the proposition that print is not dying. And others get it, including Apple and Flickr and, obviously, HP does — they even have a wiki devoted to the topic of getting stuff you create digitally into print — using their technology, of course.

Related: Over the years, I’ve softened my stance on the notion that people may want to view a replication of a printed page on a digital device — but I’ve not completely come off the stance. (And a note to those who don’t read this blog: Obviously, I think people want to access damn-near everything digitally — I just don’t think the best “form” for accessing that material is in a way that replicates how the information appears in print.) Also, In February, I made some predictions about the future of magazines, one of which is likely to become a quote I’ll be known for forever in some circles: “As long as there are coffee tables, there will be magazines.”

Bonus points: The NY Times piece today includes the prerequisite Samir Husni quote.

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  • Sadly, I have fallen out of love with JPG magazine after I learned of what went on recently behind the scenes. I thought it was real crappy:
    http://powazek.com/posts/534

  • Rex Hammock

    I pointed to my earlier post regarding their departure.

  • Oh, sorry. I overlooked it.

  • Rex;

    It’s not a discussion of print dead… print is dead. No, it’s a discussion of what will be the predominate distribution channel for reading? I believe that print is fine and will be around for many years to come, but in the same breath I say that digital WiFi connected reading will be the mass distribution channel. The hardware will get better and better. I am currently reading my 6th ebook on a PDA. I’m an old guy from the hot metal days of publishing and I say the reading an edevice is great and in some ways better then a paper device. I can hold the “book” in obe hand and turn the page with the slip of my thumb. I can look up unfamiliar with the inboard dictionary. IT’s in my pocket at all times no matter where I am.

    When epaper arrives in full flexible color, there will a shift in reading habits by th4e screenager generation. If I can happily adapt so to will the next generation of readers who will actually not have to adapt at all.

  • Rex Hammock

    Like the Dick Tracey watch and the flying car, flexible epaper has been a staple sci-fi product throughout the “history of the future.” Help me out, Bo: Why exactly do I need flexible epaper if, say, I can one-day put on a pair of glasses that provide me a full-vision view of all the reading material in the universe (oh, and all the video and audio, also). Why is there a need to create a digital device that has the physical characteristics of paper if what this is all about is a “distribution channel for reading.”

    I can understand why those of us who love paper would be gah-gah over such a cow path paving approach as “epaper,” but what, really, is the point? Making old peple who love paper comfortable with the concept of digitially delivered reading material?

    Old people (like me) who love paper will stick with paper.

    Old people (like me) who embrace every new means to access and organize information will drop epaper as soon as the next cooler thing comes along.

    At least that’s my theory of the moment.

  • Rex, Write this down. You are correct.

    The platform doesn’t matter. It never did. But the versatility does. I am not beholden to epaper other than as a logocal reference point. It will be the next, but not the last reading platform. Who knows what else is around the corner? Glasses? Sure. Nano-technology? Absolutely! Ionized molecules in the air? Yep that too. (25 years or less)

    When I say epaper I use that only as an understandable reference point. It will happen. And so will other new and even better technologies. Actual paper is very good and has lots of merit. To think that it can’t or won’t ever be superseded by a better system borders on Ludditism. It can and it will be an antique and coffee table item.

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