E-readers are the Marmite of technology: some people will show you all the new, pointless features on their Kindle and ask to convert everything including your birth certificate into Mobi format, others bury themselves in a pile of first-edition Bronte novels and tell you how good they smell. This debate has been picked up by publishers and journalists too. Publishers of novels, magazines, and newspapers alike are trying desperately to appeal to both groups. Trying to cater to the desires of the digitally- minded and the old fashioned. Should we be encouraging this move forward, or should we stick with traditional publishing?
With print, it’s mainly its physicality that keeps it as a popular format. E-readers can never quite replace the view of a bookcase full with an array of novels with beautiful cover art. And watching someone on a TV show scroll through their tablet indeed isn’t as satisfying as them circling in red ink job adverts from some battered broadsheet. Print also has enhanced credibility. It’s extremely hard to get a piece published in print media as it goes through a large editing process, especially with larger newspapers and magazines. With blogging and sites with community publishing, anyone can post and they can write what they like. This is why the internet cannot be trusted. Ever.
But digital publishing is getting more popular, and with good reason. Our progress in technology and reliance on phones and laptops means we have everything in one place. Even ten years ago, most people would buy a paper for a train journey or to read with their morning coffee. Now our clocks, notepads, music, and connection to the outside world are in our electronic devices. People on the tube use the Kindle app on their iPad instead of reading the Metro laying on a newly vacated seat. When David Bowie died, the whole world knew within seconds because of social media and its integration with journalism, along with the immediacy of the internet. Especially for university students that are interested in journalism or marketing, the digital age makes getting articles or pages published a lot easier. For one, because the cost of maintaining a website is lower, and so they can hire more staff and try newer areas. It also means that, as the first generation to grow up around this technology, we automatically become more qualified for new positions than older applicants.
But there’s a down side to this new immediacy too. Lower-quality content has an easier time finding the light of day, and the anonymity of the keyboard and screen lets people exhibit their rather unsavoury opinions to a large crowd. Infamous figures such as Katie Hopkins, who spread hatred, may not have been the public figures they are back when print media was the only form of journalism. The rise of clickbait articles shows that with the ease of access to a huge variety of content, readers are more likely to gravitate towards content that plays on thier biasis and presents the expected article in a concise and easily digestible format. There is also the horrible possibility that, given the opportunity of annonymity, publishing may loose its accountability to the wider market.
Digital publishing is getting a hard time for bringing about the collapse of the publishing and journalism industries. But really, that isn’t true. Like all industries, technology is forcing the media industry to go through a large change. It might struggle at first, but once we have this Internet thing truly figured out, digital publishing could open links to whole new areas of journalism and writing, as well as positions for those of us facing unemployment after graduation. Nothing will ever replace a full bookshelf, or the satisfaction of spreading a paper over a table in a cafe. But let’s not be as wary of digital publishing, as it is going to open up a whole new world of media for our generation to shape.