Canadian Magazine Industry News
2 July 2010,     TORONTO
E-readers better than books says NYT columnist
Several hundred culture and industry producers were told in Toronto Wednesday to stop fretting about the demise of traditional media and embrace digital media because, well, it’s better.
 
New York Times Magazine columnist Virginia Heffernan
 New York Times Magazine columnist Virginia Heffernan
Admittedly focusing more on books and reading than other forms of media, New York Times Magazine columnist Virginia Heffernan suggested the Internet has saved rather than ruined reading.

  Speaking at the Digital Dialogue conference organized by the Ontario Media Development Corporation, Heffernan argued that books published in the pre-Internet late 1980s were less about reading and more about a high-design experience or a quick route to movie rights. “We loved books more than we loved reading” during this era, she said, speaking from notes on her iPad. “Maybe e-readers work better than books… Text works so beautifully in electronic form.”
  
If the print experience is about musty libraries, prestigious looking business cards and scent-strips in magazines, then “we’re losing that,” she said. But if reading is about a fundamental break from the day-to-day, about an intellectual experience, then the news about digital media is good, she posited. Referring to the Kindle book app on her iPad, the Harvard Ph.D. grad said she is “finally really reading again.”

“The apocalyse is not coming. People are reading all the time,” she said. “People are measurably engaged and relaxed when they are on the Internet.”

And it’s getting better with the rapid development of apps for mobile devices. She entertained the audience with her description of three aesthetics:

“Rural”: For those who want to eschew the high-tech world, there is a growing “retro” movement typified by the success of vinyl records and hand-crafted books: this is the “going rural” approach.

“City”: For those who love the craziness of the teeming web, with its wide range of design from junky sites like Craigslist to more refined sites, this is like living in the city.

“Suburban”: For those who prefer the “better decorated” suburbs, they will love, and pay for well-designed apps.

She gave the audience of publishers and producers two assignments: use an e-reader for two weeks (she recommended the iPad Kindle app), and “make an intervention on the web” by commenting on a web site or blog “that you hate the most.”

“Both these experiments will show in two weeks that cultural literacy is alive and well,” she argued.

Playing to the local audience, she also said she loves her Blackberry, and that Canadian digital strategy should focus largely on that device. But she cautioned that Blackberry isn’t doing enough to return the love and that it is losing its cache; it’s harder for people with Blackberries to get dates than those with iPhones, she claimed playfully.

The day-long OMDC conference included panels on digital strategy and success stories. Niel Hiscox, VP media for b-to-b publisher CLB Media and one of the day’s panelists, said magazine publishers face a critical challenge in attracting new talent. Magazines are pegged as “old media” yet need new media skills to successfully transition to the digital future.

Ian Danzig, president of Exclaim! Media, described his company’s three platforms for reaching its audience of music lovers: Exclaim! magazine, events, and multi-media online offerings.

Magazines Canada Mark Jamison took the conference audience on a tour of the association’s Digital Newsstand project, funded by OMDC. The digital newsstand allows consumers from around the world to download digital editions of 153 different Canadian titles.

The Digital Dialogue conference was video taped and will be available on the OMDC web site here.

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