Sunday, March 18, 2012

RIP (Rest in print?)

I noticed this headline today, small and in an obscure section of a news website. Encyclopedia Britannica ends print, goes digital.

If there ever was a first nail in a coffin, another sign of change from what we grew up with, that has to be it. Well, maybe not the first nail, but one of the big ones. The venerable encyclopedia that has been in print since 1768 is going digital. No more rows of thick books with matching binders for students to pull down and plagiarize from to write their history papers.

I came into publishing in the days of etaoin shrdlu. (No, contrary to what people think, I didn't start with Gutenberg) For those unfamiliar with the phrase they are the letters in the first two vertical columns on the left side of a Linotype machine keyboard. You see before computers, if a printer made a mistake in a line he couldn't go back and type over it, he had to write to the end of the line and then eject the zinc-lead metal and start over. The quickest way to get to the end of the line was to run down those two left-side columns of keys to quickly fill out the line with the mistake and then eject it. Thus many a line reading etaoin shrdlu ended up back in the melting pot.

There are very few people still working in journalism today who ever worked with hot-lead printing, where to read type you had to turn it upside down and then read it backward in order to understand to make a cut on the stone as we called editing in the composing room. I did what might have been my first real editing "on the stone." The stone was actually called a turtle, the stone being only the top surface, a thick, flat piece of steel on which the lines of type were arranged into pages. When there was more type than space, the printers would leave the excess type on the stone for an editor to make a trim to make it fit. That was my first editing, making cuts on the stone. And that was my first job in the four eras of news production I have managed to live through.

I have seen the old lead printing change to what was called cold type, where the stories came out printed on shiny paper to be cut with an Exacto knife and pasted onto a page for a camera to shoot to make an offset printing plate.

I have seen paste-up go away when computers came in and the editor also became the printer, doing the work of all the people who lost their jobs in composing rooms around the world. At every step there was a sense of loss, of craft, of art, of craftsmen, yet we always embraced the new technology.

And when the chance came to edit in the newest era, web publishing, I jumped at it, though looking back there were some young techies who would tell you my feet were still stuck in the lead.

At every step jobs disappeared, people were forced into new occupations and many of them died. The International Typographical Union used to own a sanitarium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where union members made ill when the fumes of heated lead and zinc had affected their lungs could go. It seems to go along with recent trends, the home today has been designated a State of Colorado historical site.

I will admit to reading books on my iPad so I am just as guilty as the next person, but I can see an iPad just isn't as warm and cozy-looking as rows of shelves filled with books. At each step of the way it always seemed like there was still room for the old way and people who would cling to the established and then a few years later, the old way doesn't exist anymore. One would think something as venerable as the Encyclopedia Britannica would be one of the last to hold onto the book in hand. And what is going to happen to those ubiquitous encyclopedia salesmen who came to the door trying to convince you that $20 per month for the rest of your life wasn't all that expensive considering the huge amount of knowledge available to you. Come to think of it, I haven't encountered one of them in a long time. Another job lost to the downloadable book?

This announcement seems like a big step, on the loss side, but I suppose for those students still plagiarizing history papers, copy and paste is easier than copying with pencil and paper. Of course it might be a good idea to change the font or something just to make it look original.

Questions remain. What are we going to do with all those bookshelves? The makers of techno gadgets probably are already inventing ways to fill them, so maybe the bookshelf makers aren't in any trouble yet.

Think about the movers. What will the movers do? A 6-year-old child can move an iPad, but what happens to the guys who used to have to lift those huge boxes people insisted on filling with books when they moved? There are so many ripples.

And what will we do when the power goes out?

1 comment:

  1. Despite it all I just do not see print going completely away. Actual printed and bound books might become a status symbol for those wanting to put on airs.

    At one time I said I would never own an ereader like a Kindle. On a whim I got one and see now they actually allow more people to "publish" their works. The amount of cheap but excellent books available by no-name writers blew me away.


Interesting quotations

· " “Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” — Ernest Hemingway

When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth. Kurt Vonnegut

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a cheque, if you cashed the cheque and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” Stephen King

The thing about ignornance is, you don't have to remain ignorant. — me again"

Never debate with someone who gets ink by the barrel" — George Hayes, former Alaska Attorney General who died recently

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeareon Twitter

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

Best headlines ever

Sister hits moose on way to visit sister who hit moose.

Man loses his testicles after attempting to smoke weed through a SCUBA tank

Church Mutual Insurance won't cover Church's flood damage because it's 'an act of God'

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Meerkat Expert Attacked Monkey Handler Over Love Affair With Llama Keeper

GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality

Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy

Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high

Give me all your money or my penguin will explode

How zombie worms have sex in whale bones

Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower

Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles

Nude beach blowjob jet ski fight leads to wife's death

Woman stabs husband with squirrel for not buying beer Christmas Eve