Printed Matter Will Survive


Can books and magazines survive the Internet? I’d certainly like to think so. But I’m officially an old guy who should be sitting in a rocking chair on the porch yelling at kids to get off my lawn.

Don’t get me wrong. I spend an inordinate amount of time at my computer reading. Too much of it is on Facebook, mind you. And a good bit of that time is spent opening linked articles and reading them. More time finds me checking in with my bookmarked news sources – the New York Times, Huffington Post, Alternet, Salon, Slate, Daily Beast and Think Progress are my pretty much daily clicks. But much of what I read on the Web is short-form articles.

So even if I have my cranky Luddite streaks, I appreciate the immediacy and diversity that digital media brings into my life. Even if it’s most all short-form articles.

I also try to get to the Longform and Longreads sites that spotlight the best longer journalism. But there’s only so much time in every day. Especially as I’m busy creating my own shorter and longer form writing. Or should I say content?

When I do get time to sit down – or just as often lie down – the tactile pleasures of a printed publication or book feel special. For most of my six decades and then some on this wild and wacky planet, that was just a fact of life. I suppose I need to be grateful to digital media for making me appreciate the pleasures even more.

I grew up in a home with a living room wall packed with books, and magazines and the morning and evening newspaper laying ready to be read. In my teens I learned how to do offset printing. And in the process also learned to hand-set type and do the same on a hot-lead typositer. Early in my writing career I also did lay-out and paste-up for community weekly newspapers, using waxed photo-paper galleys.

Printer’s ink is in my blood. And when an EMP attack wipes out our digital communications system, I’ll be ready to go back to stone axes and chisels.

Yes, it’s been sad to see magazines that once printed fine journalism and writing descend to printing drivel or die altogether (there’s a few good ones left). But the magazine will survive, albeit in a different way and mostly for specialty audiences.

The digital realm means books – at least some of them – are more accessible than ever as eBooks. Audiobooks add to their accessibility. Libraries still abound.

I still love to crack open a book, soft- or hardcover – again, the tactile pleasure of the act, and the visual enjoyment of a printed page. And for the sheer pleasure to be had when reading something really engaging, well written, inspired. When I encounter other readers, it’s always a joy.

Digital music didn’t kill vinyl records, and now that’s a growth industry. The more things change, the more they change. Yet the best of the past can and does survive change.

And truth be told, when I watch the youngsters play in the empty lot across the street, it gives me great delight.

Populist Picks

Checking back in on some favorite TV series: nnShameless – The longer this Showtime series about a Chicago family one could call urban white trash runs, the more its weaknesses and excesses fade and it becomes more a smart look at modern dysfunctional yet somehow also sweet life.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit – Currently I’m captivated by TV series creator Dick Wolf’s new Windy City line of shows – Chicago PD, ...Fire and ...Med. Yet the last one standing of his L&O collection continues to dramatically grow and deliver in its 18th Season.

Nashville – Yep, it’s my soap opera. And I’m glad that CMT picked it up for a fifth season after NBC canceled the show. It’s hard not to be charmed by its characters and music. If only real-life Nashville music and stars were this good.

Rob Patterson is a music and entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. Email

From The Progressive Populist, May 15, 2017

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