Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. In July 2015, the featured blog post is "The printed book will never die" by Gonzalo Castro de la Mata, Chairman of the Inspection Panel at the World Bank.
When will the printed book die? Some think that its replacement by electronic media is imminent and promote this view using arguments that are both romantic and utopic: a new society where massive amounts of information can be accessed instantaneously and free, and with reduced environmental damage because of a decrease in the use of paper.
Although neither argument can stand serious analysis, there is no question that the electronic book is rapidly gaining in popularity. Most major “brick and mortar” bookstores have gone out of business, and today Amazon sells more electronic books than printed ones. There is also an explosion of blogs related to every imaginable (and unimaginable) topic, and there is no question that electronic media have some advantages over certain printed media such as newspapers and magazines.
On the other side of the argument are scholars of the stature of Umberto Eco, the famous author of “The Name of the Rose” and Professor of Semiotics at the University of Bologna, who recently published a dialogue with Jean-Claude Carrière, a French dramaturge who worked with Buñuel on several films including the 1977 “that Obscure Object of Desire.” In other words, two of the most important intellectuals of our time.
Much has been said about the decline of print newspapers, but the fate of the magazine industry is less well-known. In a reversal of recent downward trends, total magazine revenue is expected to increase from $97.1 billion in 2013 to $98.1 billion in 2018, according to PwC’s Global Entertainment and Media Outlook, 2014-2018. Similar to the newspaper industry, the Internet is also affecting magazines, with digital advertising revenues accounting for much of the increases in earnings.
A few weeks ago, the Economist provided an interesting take on social media, the Arab Spring, and the Reformation era. The article, How Luther Went Viral, claims that centuries before Facebook and the Arab Spring, social media helped bring about the Reformation era. Led by Martin Luther, the Reformation was a period of religious revolt that led to the division of Western Christianity and the start of Protestantism. The developments of this period were propelled by the advent of the printing press, which the article describes in rich detail. But it begins by making an interesting claim about how Luther and his allies promoted the message of religious reform with the social media of their day—pamphlets, ballads and woodcuts. So basically, the central argument of the piece states that what happened in the Arab Spring is what happened in the Reformation era: a new form of media provided the opponents of an authoritarian regime an opportunity to voice their concerns, affirm their discontent, and mobilize their actions.