May 25, 2010 / by James Whatley">James Whatley / Come on!, Geek, iPad / 21 Comments

We surf the Internet. We swim in magazines.

I repeat, the iPad will not be the death of print.

Props to Rolling Stone, Steve Waddington and Jon Mulholland; three voices of sanity in a sea of madness.

Technology is a wonderful, wonderful thing. But people always seem to forget the practicalities. The feel of a good book in your hands, the smell of a fresh off-the-shelf comic book, the joy of being able to pass on that knowledge-imbibed article to the next suitably eager set of hands.

I think it was Russell Buckley, now a VP at Admob, who quite rightly pointed out that although mobile vouchers were indeed ‘the future’, nothing could prevent the person behind the till forgetting their glasses that day. The iPad overheats, it reflects poorly in bright light and it, just like every other new piece of media technology of recent years, is just another medium.

As Steve puts it quite rightly in his blog post:

The iPad will no more spell the end of print than any previous generation of technology. Radios, TVs, PCs, CD-ROMs and the internet were all at one time set to hasten the demise of print.
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The iPad is simply another device in the ongoing narrative of an industry reeling from the shift towards advertising online, the internet as a low cost real time distribution platform, and competition for consumer attention from screen based media.

For the record, I quite like my iPad. But the death knell for all paper-based ocular consumption it is not.

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21 comments on “We surf the Internet. We swim in magazines.”

  1. Very smart piece of writing that makes a lot of sense

    N

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  2. Ms. Jen says:

    What I see around me is that a new medium will grab someone who otherwise wasn’t excited about a technology and then will over time re-engage them with other media and they will enfold both into their lives.

    I buy more magazines now, then I did 5 years ago. I love the internet, but having The Atlantic or Nat Geo or La Cucina Italiana in my hands to peruse when I don’t want a screen open makes it worth while to spend $4.95+ at the news stand for a print mag.

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  3. Yep, and that’s not even taking the price barrier of the iPad into consideration. It’s not cheap. You think the average Sun reader wants to pile hundreds into purchasing one when they can pick up a paper for 36p? (or however much it is now…). No chance.

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  4. Richard says:

    been using one of our studio ipads for over a month now, i can’t figure out what it does other than add more weight to my bag, thoroughly disappointed to be honest.

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  5. macintosh says:

    nice metaphor
    though it’s a little misleading (dodgy stats) and clearly lobbying for the print industry.

    as you rightly say there is no book/magazine/iPhone/whatever else killer
    there’s room for all good things.

    rubbish things die they don’t get killed

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  6. dani2xll says:

    Lest people forget, take a look around your library next time you visit, that is if you can find a library open at a suitable time of day without one of those, open mon 1-2, wed 3-5, closed fri, sat, sun mon etc etc etc. The requirement for printed material is diminishing with the influence of e-books, magazine applications on-line and on your phone etc. Some industries are blooming while others are flagging or being forgotten in the internet stampede.

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  7. It’s a clever metaphor to be sure, but it also nicely demonstrates just how misleading metaphors truly are, and, in my humble opinion, are a curse upon modern humanity. Metaphors are useful for learning new ideas and concepts with speed by associated something new with something familiar. But they are often used as substitute for real investigation and true understanding.

    The article you quote states that the Internet grabs you and that magazines are immersive, they offer no explanation as to why or how, they just put it out there, because it sounds nice and poetic and because it supports their personal world view perhaps? They are right, but they don’t explain why and hence have no clue about how their empire will fall.

    I’ve worked in print my entire life. I own a print company. I live and breath the stuff. I’ve witnessed firsthand how technology impacts print. The impact of the Internet has largely been offset by print technologies that have allowed for growth in the print industry by increasing the speed of production whilst reducing the costs involved.

    But now digital technologies β€” and yes I’m talking about the iPad and it’s offspring and foreign cousins β€”are outpacing print technologies at such a pace that it will, without any doubt whatsoever, start to have an impact on the printing industry as a whole.

    Print is nothing more (or less) than a content delivery technology. It’s been mankind’s greatest content delivery technology for hundreds of years, but it’s about to be surpassed.

    The magazine industry β€” in western society β€” will be in tatters by 2018. I’m not gloating over this, I love print and I *adore* magazines, but there is little point in deluding myself.

    There are very good reasons why the Internet hasn’t killed print. The Web/Computer combo that has been the home of the Internet until now is a poor substitute for the glory of high quality print.

    The iPad is different, the iPad is the first real contender for the crown.

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  8. DeanB says:

    There is another major problem with the notion that iPads might replace magazines – payment mechanisms.

    Most magazines are not bought on subscription, but as one-offs. Outside the US and Japan, this is also true for mobile services: most people pay-as-you-go.

    What is the model for non-subscription magazines bought on electronic devices? Some sort of third-party billing system like iTunes? Not for everyone, especially those without credit cards. Charged to a mobile prepay account? Possibly, but bear in mind the average balance is usually around $5-8, and most users will not want to wipe it out to purchase a magazine.

    One option might be retail or coin-operated kiosks, with instant transfer / download to your personal device. But that needs an entirely new retail infrastructure.

    Then add in problems about roaming (do you pay 10x extra to buy a magazine while in a foreign airport?) as well as practical niggles like sunlight, inability to read during a flight’s power-off periods, backup, churn etc. Will we need a law insisting on “content portabilty” when you switch network or device?

    Overall, the iPad (and likely clones) is a glamorous niche. But I cannot see it being that important in the long term.

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  9. Terence Eden says:

    iPad won’t kill magazines. Magazines are committing suicide. Every magazine is just page after page of adverts. Seriously, I picked up a fashion magazine (which someone had paid a fiver for) and waded through a dozen pages of adverts before I came to the first article. That article may as well have been an advert – it was just promoting some bit of tat.

    If you like looking at glossy pictures trying to sell you something in a content free environment – you’ll probably “get” the iPad. For the rest of us, it’s just a laptop with a slightly worse form factor for lying on the couch.

    Why worse? You have to hold it. My laptop screen is perpendicular to its base and stands by itself. The only thing the iPad has going for it is a big screen.

    For books, I’ve moved to eInk. Smaller than a paperback, lighter and I can carry my entire library with me. Black and white has done ok for books for the last few centuries, I see no reason for that to change.

    I’m obviously a very grumpy old fogey…

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  10. lemondrizzle says:

    Magazines do not equal the whole of print. Newspapers are clearly struggling because of the net. Glossy magazines aren’t (AFAIK). They’re two different things and two different arguments.

    The extract is a nice piece of copywriting but it doesn’t prove anything. CDs killed vinyl as a mass-market medium. Downloads are doing the same to CDs. New technologies DO often spell the end of old technologies.

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  11. Mike Rowe says:

    Great article James but not sure I agree with you, for three reasons:

    Firstly, the immediate involvement and interaction that publishing on the iPad allows. Had you written this in a magazine I almost certainly wouldn’t have responded.

    Secondly, the opportunity digital publishing allows for magazines to be living and morphing entities rather static and rigid once a month publications.

    And thirdly, and most importantly, the economic and environmental argument. On a long term basis it makes no sense for forests to be felled, huge printing presses to be grinding away, and juggernauts to be thundering up and down motorways, when instead the publisher presses the ‘send’ button.

    Would I prefer to have my magazine in paper format, absolutely; but I don’t think I will have the choice. Magazines will be washed up on the shore by the tide of progress.

    Technology doesn’t necessarily make things better but when it makes things faster and cheaper, it generally wins.

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  12. Computers have always sold themselves as making our lives easier. Yea, tell my back when I am lugging my notebook and the cables and supplies I need for it which weigh 3 times as much!

    Those who say something is dead have a heavy investment in the thing they are saying is the killer. When I first read this post, it was on my E72, which I turned off and picked up the paper-bound book I was reading. We will always have a mixed-media world.

    mp/m

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  13. nik butler says:

    On August 1st 1981 MTV launched with “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles . In 2009 Supernews was publishing a animated skit about the Death of MTV ( http://current.com/shows/supernews/89904538_mtv-down.htm ) It came it distrupted and it moved on and people spawned their own and it died a death. There was years of disruption and people bemoaned the death of Radio and now we see Podcasts and Audio thrives, spawns and recycles continuously. Things done die they are renewed and recycled and revived when the platform that best supports their promotion is reborn anew in technology.

    Incidentally when the printing press ensured that creating and sharing books was a simple task many people suggested that books would mark the end of effective education.

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