It seems that finally the furore about the ‘death of print’ is dying down. Mainly because print did no such thing. The phrase ‘death of print’ is reminiscent of swashbuckling period movies in which a rabble of sooty-looking peasants or beruffled aristocrats yell “the king is dead”. All well and good. A simple sentence with a definite meaning. Almost immediately they’d drop “long live the king” as well. Instantly everything has changed. There’s a king, so the idea of ‘king’ is still there (a constant if you will) but the body that constitutes king is entirely different. This is exactly what is going on with print. Print publishing as a concept is very much here. The reality that constitutes print publishing is becoming a whole new world.
It isn’t the traditional publishers who are scrabbling to find a new model that make up the backbone of this cultural shift. The publishers on the forefront are the smaller presses that have been diligently plying their innovative trade without so much as an “I told you so”, though they would be perfectly in their rights to do so. Over the last couple of years we have seen an explosion of literary nights and performances from writers, bringing the spoken word night prominently into the mainstream. This isn’t a separate strand of creativity. It is intimately tied up with the small press publishing world as the direct link to audiences forms the foundation of any print business. What this shows is that the need for printed matter, especially fiction, has changed. Readers want an experience from their books. Airport fiction and the like are essentially disposable, and thus are relegated to digital formats. Books that deserve that prized second reading are a different matter. So many readers want that tangible quality. To misquote so many champions of printed media, it isn’t just the words on the page that make a book, and it’s been exciting watching publishers take that statement and run with it. A couple of names to note are Penned in the Margins – who work tirelessly to creative not just unique and original books, but also to pair each on with a carefully considered event – and Inc Magazine who have swept the poetry scene by storm with their poetry parties. Each night is chock-full of the best poets and performers, and is accompanied by the twinned issue of the magazine. After those that link the live and the printed, there are a few that have astounded us with their reinvention of printed material. The Alarmist strives to release only work that excites. They collect pioneering writing of all forms and release it in a beautifully formed biannual edition. Taking the periodical even further is Fuselit. Combining writing, sound and art, the team behind Fuselit create a boxed collection, each one themed, and release it in all its multisensory glory.
That is just the tip of the iceberg that is the quiet revolution of the printed medium. As we find more creative wonders we will no doubt share them with you. For now however, consider how you want to read next year. You can take in words or you can be enlivened.