Lynne d Johnson



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12.13.07 12:08 PM

Print Is Dead: Is BusinessWeek?

In Jeff Gomez's Print Is Dead: Books In Our Digital Age he writes in the introduction:

"While print is not yet dead, it is undoubtedly sickening. Newspaper readership has been in decline for years, magazines are also in trouble, and trade publishing (the selling of novels and non-fiction books to adults primarily for entertainment), has not seen any substantial growth in years. More and more, people are turning away from traditional methods of reading, turning instead to their computers and the Internet for information and entertainment. Whether this comes in the form of getting news online, reading a blog, or contributing to a wiki, the general population is shifting away from print consumption, heading instead to increasingly digital lives."

While I generally agree there is a shift, because of technological disruption, I'm not quite sure that print's troubles are as huge as say the future of terrestrial radio or the future of the music industry (though neither of them are completely doomed if they can figure out the right digital play and a better approach to true convergence).

And while I don't totally agree with the one quote I lifted from Gomez's book (though he makes a lot of other valid points in it), I have to say that it came as no surprise to me this morning when someone sent me the link: "BusinessWeek reorganizes, confirms dozen layoffs". The magazine is going in the one newsroom direction -- contributors to print are also contributors to the Web. And there are other efforts on BusinessWeek's part to firm up it's digital play, as in "BusinessWeek Joins LinkedIn," with BusinessWeek getting some LinkedIn functionality and LinkedIn getting some BusinessWeek content.

While the BusinessWeek case seems to prove Gomez's statement, I read some news in the print edition of The New York Times this morning on my commute to the office that completely refutes the statement. In fact it points to the possibility of the Internet reviving the life of print. In Crossover Dreams: Turning Free Web Work Into Real Book Sales, Motoko Rich writes:

"Three years ago “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” a children’s novel illustrated with cartoons, was published online, where anyone could read it free. To this day anyone still can, at, an educational Web site.

"Despite laments about youngsters spending too much time surfing the Web and not enough time reading, it turns out that many of them still want the format of old-fashioned paper stuck between two covers. Since an edited form of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” was published as a traditional book in April by Amulet, an imprint of Harry N. Abrams, it has sold 147,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks 50 percent to 70 percent of retail sales. The book, written and drawn by Jeff Kinney, has spent 33 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list. This Sunday, it will be No. 1 on the Children’s Chapter Books list."

So maybe there's hope for the print medium after all, even for BusinessWeek.

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