We recently welcomed the young British author Niven Govinden into our studios at Midori House. He talked to us about some of the benefits of digital publishing but he also discussed his love of the book as a physical object.
Govinden described the Indian hardback edition of his latest novel, Black Bread White Beer. It was the attention to detail he valued: the texture and colour of the cover, the quality of the paper, the beauty of the typeface. The book was an object that had value in itself, something which was worth having.
We often hear how newspapers are struggling, e-book sales are up and certain established magazines are failing to retain their readership. But around the UK and the rest of the globe, the printed word in physical form still has power. Most developing and emerging economies still have thriving newspaper and magazine industries. And even in mature western economies, there has for several years been an increasing trend of people publishing their own small, creative titles. Far from seeing the end of print, it’s evolving. Jeremy Leslie, creative director at MagCulture regularly refers to this being “a golden age of magazine publishing.”
Here at Monocle 24, we’ve just launched a new programme, The Stack. Hosted by our editor in chief, it’s a weekly show dedicated to print journalism. And we’re not the only ones still flying the flag for physical in this digital age. As media expert Mario Garcia recently pointed out on his blog, Bloomberg and The Washington Post released a special magazine and newspaper for the Republican and Democratic party conventions. While these were only for a limited period and to serve a specific purpose, it shows that given the right focus and context, there is still a market for these kinds of products.
Then there are the practical advantages to enjoying books and magazines in physical form. You can’t take a laptop into the bath with you. You can’t cut out and keep part of an e-reader. And your paperback can’t run out of battery halfway through a flight.
But beyond this, these objects form a part of our lives. They decorate our homes and define the spaces in which we work and live. At a deeper level, they say something about us and the kind of people we are. And while a CD collection may have looked a bit messy and heavy on the plastic, a well-stocked bookcase is warm and inviting.
It’s about creating a quality product which has value in itself, something that people would want to own and being able to believe in it. Because our appreciation of the physical object, something you can hold, touch, smell and enjoy, will always remain in some form or other.
The vast bounds of the internet are near impossible to comprehend but walk through a library, a newsstand or a good bookshop and it’s tangible, real.
And if you want a good example of a beautiful printed product, I know a great monthly magazine that you can buy all over the world.