It’s Not the Printed Word Anymore, It’s the Published Word

Posted on April 18, 2011 by 4 Comments

Did you know that for a professor to get credit for being “published,” an actual copy of a book — as in ink squirted on dead trees and bound up — often has to be printed? This seems absurd, especially because the cost of printing a book is so high. Many academic works are printed in tiny batches and end up costing hundreds of dollars a book.


Printed books

In a world that is quickly going digital — more ebooks were sold in February than paperbacks — worrying about print seems increasingly antiquated.

That’s why it is encouraging to see that a 2011 Pulitzer was awarded to a group of stories that were never published in print.

Additionally, ProPublica, a nonprofit that isn’t creating content to sell ads and doesn’t have its own media outlet, won that award for reporting on how some Wall Street bankers, seeking to enrich themselves at the expense of their clients and sometimes even their own firms, at first delayed but then worsened the financial crisis.

Do you care about the printed word?

Image courtesy jm3 via Flickr.

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • Posterous
  • Tumblr
  • email


Luigi Serio on April 19, 2011

I’ve read a few “books” on my wife’s Kindle, but I don’t enjoy that experience nearly as much as reading from a paperback in my hand. It just feels better, more natural. On the other hand, the obsessive reduce, reuse, recycle guy in me likes the idea of fewer trees becoming paper and, ultimately, books. What’s a lover of reading to do?

Grady Locklear on April 19, 2011

Though I’m Gen Y and read almost everything online, I’ve never read a novel on a screen. I enjoy my full-size books in physical form, but everything served in smaller written portions can be read online, in my opinion.

Marc Oppy on April 20, 2011

I’m with Grady on this one.

My family hardly goes anywhere without their Kindle 3Gs, but I’m not sold on it. While it’s small and light and renders text better than any electronic device I’ve ever used, the buttons are in the wrong place for me. I’m always accidently flipping pages or screwing up the display just because of the way I want to hold the Kindle. Plus, it renders illustrations poorly and it’s something of a hassle to “flip back” when I want to reference previous pages.

For now, it’s paper books for me, electronic for everything else.

foleymo on April 20, 2011

I’ll be the first guy to say it: kill paper books. Paper is just a dead medium. Actually, that’s not true; that would imply that it was ever alive.

Paper doesn’t link well. You can’t link from one paper to another. You have to read bibliographies, and then you have to track down all those other books.

Paper isn’t easily shared. It takes an enormous amount of energy and effort to share a thought on paper. You used to have to clip something out of a newspaper or photocopy it. Then you’d have to look up the person’s address, find an envelope and a stamp, and wait around for the postman to deliver your thought. Now, just hit the “share” button and off it goes.

Paper is elitist. Paper books force you to come to them. I’ll be happy when all the world’s books are digitized and catalogued online. eBooks are the beginning of the great liberation from geography of the world’s information and knowledge. In the age of books, a tiny rural village only had access to the knowledge stored at the local Carnegie library. Now, that same village with a web connection has access to just about everything. It would seem like magic to our ancestors: order up any book and have it delivered to your fingertips in a snap.

Paper kills trees. Think of your favorite tree. Now, think of your favorite book. Is that book worth killing that tree? What if you could have that book in digital form? Would you still kill that tree?

Paper wastes energy. How much energy does it take to kill a tree, turn it into paper, put ink on it, ship it you and dispose of it when you’re finished? Now, multiply that by every book that could be stored on your Kindle, Nook or iPad. Seems like a waste of precious resources, doesn’t it?

Paper wastes space. How much extra room would you have in your house if you could simply get rid of all your book shelves? Perhaps you have some books packed away in your attic or basement. Why not liberate that space in your home or office? Why not just put all those books on an external hard drive, or better yet, on While we’re at it, we should empty all the libraries and turn them into community centers or study centers. Servers are the new libraries, and we can access them from just about anywhere.

Paper gets old. So, you’ve slaved over your book. You’ve done the research. You’ve documented everything. You’ve copy-edited it to perfection. You printed it. Now it’s outdated. You can’t go in and change things after you’ve printed a paper book. You can’t add a blurb about some groundbreaking new research. You can’t fix that typo on Page 76. It’s permanent and it’s getting more irrelevant with every passing day.

Why would we want to hold on to the old way? It’s a dead medium for sure. Digital books are alive.

← Back to