Digital revolution takes hold of publishing industry

Unless you have been living in the deep wilderness for the past decade or so, I would be willing to bet that you have noticed a revolution occurring across the world.

A digital revolution.

The emergence of high speed internet, mp3 players, laptops (and I mean laptops that are actually portable), e-readers etc., has made our lives easier.  Everything from navigation to finding restaurants is as easy as pulling out your portable smartphone and letting it do the rest.

While its changes seem to be for the benefit of everyday people, like you and me, the digital revolution has altered industries, such as film and music permanently.  CDs and DVDs have been rendered virtually obsolete now that you can simply download them to your computer, phone or mp3 player.

Despite this change, musicians will continue to make music and directors and actors will continue to make films.

So, I think we can agree that what we listen to and what we watch have not been too negatively affected by this change.  But what about what we read?  What is to become of newspapers and magazines? What about books?

I would make the argument that no one has been forced to adapt as much as the publishing industry.

Now you can download books on e-readers, and you can purchase “magazines” for tablets as well.   And there is virtually no use for newspapers – pun intended – now that news outlets have apps that offer extensive coverage.

So is there any point to continue printing books, magazines and newspapers? Is print dead?  The correct answer is no, but it certainly appears to be in trouble.

Here are some statistics to put into perspective.

Per the 2011 State of the News Media, newspaper ad revenues have dropped by roughly 43 percent since 2006.  The three major print categories, retail, national and classified, have also experienced drastic regressions in revenue.  Retail and classified are down 42 percent and 67 percent since 2005, respectively.  National has gone down 45 percent since 2003.

Per the 2012 State of the News Media, overall magazine sales in 2011 dropped one percent, while magazine subscriptions – about 92 percent of magazine print revenue – were flat (.04 percent).  Newsstand sales went down by 8.9 percent, the fourth consecutive year of sales decline.

While print sales continue to decline for print editions of newspapers, magazines and books, digital sales continue to increase.

As per the Alliance for Audited Media, digital replica magazines currently make up 3.3 percent, or 10.2 million editions, of total magazine sales.  That is nearly double what digital editions sold in 2012.

Digital book sales, however, have been, far and away the most successful of the three types of publications.  As per Publishers Weekly, in 2012, digital book sales rose 44 percent.  But, that is somewhat of a low figure compared to what digital books have sold since the format came to be in 2008.  Since then, digital book revenue has risen 4,660 percent.


That is pretty amazing, isn’t it?  Meanwhile chain bookstores are closing down left and right.  Look at what has already happened to Borders.  Look at what is currently happening to Barnes and Noble, or did you not know?

The reason why Barnes and Noble was able to survive longer than Borders is because they were quicker to adapt to the digital revolution by introducing the Nook.  Consumers are already infatuated with the Amazon Kindle and even the Apple iPad.  It also doesn’t help that their former CEO, William Lynch, resigned this past summer.

In a blog ran by The Washington Post, Lydia DePilis described the flaws in Barnes and Noble’s plan for innovation.

“…Having an integrated physical and online e-book store didn’t create enough of a sales advantage to beat the robust ecosystems already built into Amazon’s Kindle, Apple’s iTunes, and the Google Play store.”

Listen, I am not that guy who loves his new iPad/Kindle, or whatever, and wants print to be completely run out of the industry.  I am a reader, and, as a reader, I love the tangible feel of print.  I love flipping the pages in books and magazines and newspapers.  I love folding the corner of books to save my page, rather than using a more practical book mark.

I am a huge fan of print, and I would be devastated if I woke up in the morning and read a digital headline reading “PRINT IS DEAD.”  Having said all of that, I do fail to see the practicality of print moving forward.

What do I mean by that?  Well, with the accessibility and interactive nature of digital, why should we continue to use print?

E-readers can fit an obscene amount of books in their tiny little hard drives.  If I am in class and my professor tells me a short anecdote about a book that she read, I can go home, hop on my Kindle and download it in less than three minutes.  And if I am reading that same book and I come across a word that I am not familiar with, I can simply click on the word and the Kindle will define it for me.

I do not think that print will die.  I do not even think that print can die.  Over the centuries it has become a mainstay for the human race.

All I am saying, is there is a new sheriff in town, and they go by digital.

About Geoffrey Knight 37 Articles
Geoffrey is a senior communication studies major and religious studies minor from Ann Arbor, Michigan. He has a passion for sports journalism.

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