Flip-Flopping To Phew

Life and natural disasters have kept me a bit quiet of late (I won’t bore you with the details here, but I will bore you with them in my next, soon-to-be-posted blog, which charts me consoling myself over these testing times by purchasing an iPad Mini). Said disasters are precisely, though, why I’m happy to concentrate on some good news: the publishing industry isn’t kaput.

I’ve been discussing with peers for sometime now that, despite all the sky-is-falling-in headless chicken predictions, the industry has been not dying but rather reshuffling. Just as cinemas and DVDs now sit alongside each other fairly complementarily, so too are/will digital and physical publishing. There’s enough room for errybody, I feel like shouting. It’s not about what form it takes; it’s about its usability and inherently delivered value.

Hermione Hoby (yes, I officially love her name, although I’m not sure whether her naming pre-dates or was influenced by Harry Potter) penned something hopeful (and far, far more articulate than I could) a few months back:

This is meant to be a bleak time for young people and words, as an entire generation is assailed by ‘death of journalism’ notices and financial catastrophe. Yet economic collapse can bring opportunities. When there are no jobs to be had at established magazines, and when the spectre of student debt makes further study impossible, you can either despair or you can, like a growing number of New York graduates, just set up your own thing.

Publishing in New York (where else?) is undergoing something of a new-generation revival, she writes: ‘… a new, post-digital dawn in which a web-literate and politically engaged generation is re-energising journalism with fierce-thinking in stylish print and online publications’. In essence, a bunch of emerging writers equipped with talent, nous, determination, and freely available digital tools are creating their own eminently readable publications.

Just yesterday, esteemed online journal Kill Your Darlings (a publication that’s arguably an Australian version of said quality publications run by emerging writers) published Connor Tomas O’Brien’s ‘The Great Old Media Revival’. O’Brien argues (and quotes others who argue too) that great artists ‘dance the flip-flop’. Roughly translated into plain speak, to ‘flip-flop’ is the act of going from physical to digital and then back again. One example cited here involves:

  • carving a statue out of a physical material
  • digitising the statue with 3D technology
  • printing the image to make the statue physical again.

O’Brien echoes what I’ve been thinking/saying: far from being rendered obsolete, old-school media is undergoing a revival. Cue O’Brien listing a bunch of stats comparing traditional papers, magazines, and bookstores closing and opening in recent years (hint: there’s quite a few of the latter).

We’ve had such a massive shift towards digital in recent years, he argues, that the novelty’s worn off. Instead, he says, we’ll likely ‘look back on 2012 as the year of ambivalence, the year in which we started to understand [and, presumably, embrace] the nature of flip-flopping’, where digital and physical become complementary and ‘intertwined’.

With articles such as these, it seems we’re finally getting past the end-of-the-world predictions and instead to the more realistic, good-news ones. The sky isn’t falling in, there’s room for both digital and physical, and there are opportunities for emerging writers. Phew.

Published by

Fiona Crawford

Fiona Crawford is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, proofreader, and voracious reader. She regularly appears as a book reviewer in Australian BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER magazine. Fiona is also (unfairly) known as the Book Burglar due to her penchant for buying family members—then permanently borrowing—books she wants to read herself.