Publishing Now: Still Publishing Later? Part Two

One day, in my class Contemporary Issues and The Creative Economy, we had a guest speaker by the name of Paul Micklethwaite come and speak to us about “sustainability” and what it means for the creative/cultural industries. Of the industries that are the leading the way towards a sustainable future, publishing is one. Which is interesting to me because part of building a sustainable future is learning to produce products with little to no waste or attacks on the environment. But if we’re looking at a future where physical books are still produced at the cost of deforestation, how sustainable can the industry really be?

Understand, I love my books. I rarely read books on platforms. I’ll read other things on platforms, but books are just not the same if they’re not in my hand and I can turn the page, bookmark pages, all of that stuff. However, I do wonder, in a world where it is becoming clear that human civilization needs to drastically change the way it operates or face extinction, how long before paperbacks are no longer the norm, but a luxury, or worse a reason to be ostricized?

Remember back in the day when wearing fur was cool? It’s not cool anymore. Society has no respect for people who wear real skins and it’s not just because we love animals, but also because of the endangerment over-hunting has caused. We now understand that the endangerment of one species puts a lot of other plants and animals in danger as well.

Because of lack of understanding how human behavior effects Earth’s behavior we are now facing deforestation, flooding, ozone depletion, and so on. Everyone is trying to stay global warming for as long as possible until we can figure out a way to reverse it. (By the way, if you’re one of those people who still doesn’t believe in global warming, check out these weather conditions: California, Thailand, Japan).

We’re trying electric cars; we’re using recycled paper; we now have faux fur. And we also have media that has been digitized, saving paper, saving trees, saving the environment. If we look at our environment use like a budget and see where we can cut things, seems like most media that has shown promise as a digital outlet would have their physical counterparts cut. People rarely buy CD’s anymore. Most of us download our music. We download or stream movies and TV shows. We can download books. Eventually, CD’s and DVD’s will be cut from the budget. What’s going to happen to the paper market?

While we will always need paper (because we all know what happens when a computer file gets lost), we will have to start redefining its use. Are physical books and newspapers necessary when we see our planet in peril? Could we be resigned to using paper for notebooks and other things deemed “necessary?” The price difference between an ebook and a paperback is often staggering. People can sell their books online anywhere between .99 and up. In stores the price usually starts at 7.99. Paperbacks are becoming a luxury before our eyes. But are they a luxury we as a society can afford?

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this subject. It would break my heart if my kids never got to go into a bookstore or library and experience buying a book off of the shelf, of sitting down with a good book on a rainy day. Screens cannot substitute for the real thing.

But if having that experience means my grandchildren won’t have a planet to live on, should the book not be sacrificed?

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3 thoughts on “Publishing Now: Still Publishing Later? Part Two

  1. I think books should be the last “cutback” when it comes to paper waste reduction. home printers, office printers and photocopiers would be what I’s label as the “enemy”. Just look at paper junk mail. Its those useless printouts and little ads that go straight to the trash that should be SEVERELY cut down. Books are cherished, kept for years, if not generations. I have an old hardback of german fairy tales that was my mother’s when she was a little girl. So no, books aren’t a “waste”. Pages of phone bills, electric bills, banking, graphs, ads, emails…. etc are things that should definitely go digital first. Then again, as Paul mentioned, even making things digital isn’t necessarily Eco-friendly because computers and the electricity they consume are a threat to the environment too. Its just a matter of what’s less harmful.

    • I completely agree that books should be the last thing to go. I’m definitely not giving up mine any time soon. But that’s the thing. Using computers takes energy. Making books takes energy. If we could cut one of them out, how much of our planet would we be saving?

  2. I do agree with Maha, that it is not the medium – paper or digital, that is the issue, but rather the quantity of conusumption and that is when resources get in the picture. I do feel the same way about real books and I can not imagine not to have them some day. I guess we could rather think of producing less and sharing things, instead of buying new ones. This, off course could be an issue for the industry, or not? Maybe there is a creative way to start charging people for finding a book to share for them?

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