Maybe I’m just an old crank when it comes to my current musings about the challenges facing magazines, newspapers and printed books.
Though I live on my computer, I come from a print background.
In college, I was editor of the newspaper and, at the same, time a professional journalist with the long-defunct Hartford Times. I went on to become a stringer for Time magazine while getting my graduate degree in communications at Stanfrod, edited a magazine for public information officers in the Navy, became a national writer for the Associated Press and was a Money magazine writer.
So, my affection for print is hardly surprising. Yet three recent events and one insight have brought the issue (no pun) to the top of my mind.
First, returning from vacation last Sunday evening, I was on a Bolt Bus that had not one empty seat.
Toward the front, a woman was reading a magazine. Everywhere else, the only light emitted came from electronic devices.
I was the only passenger with a book in his hands (House of Cards, which I am happy to recommend). Across the aisle from me, a young man seemed intent on reading dense text on a PDA of some sort.
“Excuse me,” said I, “are you reading a book?”
“Yes,” he affirmed with a smile that I took to be sheepish. “But I’m reading it because I just finished one.” As he spoke, he gestured to the overhead shelf.
The second development was a piece quoting the soon-to-be new owner of Newsweek. Sidney Harman, 92 yesterday (!), is quoted in the New York Times as saying this:
By no means do I have a sense that print media is done. We are at an inflection point among print, mobile and digital.
Then comes the news that Barnes & Noble is for sale. According to the Times, analysts were surprised and publishers were alarmed. The publishers “have watched as the book business has increasingly shifted to online retailers and e-book sales, leaving both chains and independent sellers struggling.” Doh.
Finally, whenever I post information about upcoming auctions, I tend to be first. It took me a while to figure out why no one knew what I knew. The answer proves to be quite simple: I have the New York Times delivered, and there do I come upon printed notices of real-estate auctions in Manhattan and elsewhere.
In fact, there are several reasons I like having the Times outside my door, including the leisure of reading it while in an armchair sipping my morning coffee rather than chained to my desk in front of my desktop computer. Another important reason is that advertisements provide important information that I otherwise would miss.
Is print dying? Unquestionably, it is suffering. My hope and, indeed, my expectation is that Mr. Harman is right.
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022