Mourning the Death of Paper

It appears print media is fading depressingly fast. A short while ago it was announced that PC Magazine is going 100% digital. Today I logged on to Gamasutra.com and found that another of my long-time favorites, EGM, is closing up shop as well. As John C. Dvorak puts it in “Summarizing the Death Throes of 2008”:

When you combine this with the push to take what was a unique American industry and pretty much hand it over to Asia, because it’s cheaper to do things over there, then pretty soon everything is done there. While this in itself isn’t a bad thing, Asians as a whole have no interest in print magazine advertising. Culturally speaking, they aren’t about selling more sizzle than steak. And while this is commendable on some cerebral levels, it creates a humdrum if not out-and-out depressing environment.

I remember my first issue of EGM, way back in 1990. It had a pixelated screenshot of Castlevania 3 on the cover, and a foreboding warning inside that the game might not be released in the US. I was hooked from then on. The drama, the games, the reviews and previews—but most of all the feeling of a crisp new issue in my hands every month. Paper is pleasure. I’m sure some of you have seen that webcard / e-card of the naked woman reclining on a sofa with a comforting volume poised on her chest. I won’t post it here, but you get the point. There’s a sort of sensual nature to having wood pulp in your hands. An intimacy. Computer reading is much more monotonous, best suited for quick bursts of news, directions, or instructions. Reference stuff. It’s so not fun laying in bed with your laptop or e-book reader propped on your beer gut as you try to get through a Dean Koontz novel. It’s kind of like staring at photographs of the Grand Canyon but never actually going. Yes, the print outfits listed above have their online counterparts, but it still saddens me that these long-standing institutions have fallen by the wayside along with the likes of Science Fiction Age, Omni, and my personal favorite of the last decade, Incite Magazine:

Incite Magazine, issues 2, 3, and 5

Incite Magazine, issues 2, 3, and 5

I’m not knocking the possibilities of digital media. There’s a lot to be done with the technology. It’s just that the printed word is going extinct before a viable alternative is truly available. E-book readers require batteries, and there’s a software learning curve from device to device—to say nothing of compatibility issues (I don’t think any hardware manufacturers have agreed on a universal e-book format yet). And who’s to say if the formats we have today will still be around thirty years from now? With a printed book or magazine, the only requirement is that you understand the language in which the material was written. E-books require that your device manufacturer keep up-to-date with changing formats, aging or damaged hardware, computer viruses. And maybe that’s the idea: to infuse the publishing industry with tech conventions. Upgrades, planned obsolescence, re-buying compatible copies of your favorite e-books every five years instead of buying a single paperback and hanging onto it for life.

Maybe I’m reading into this too much. I’ll know I’m right if and when the Random House Reader hits the market. ;)