Text and the death of print

I found Lupton’s chapter on text to be fascinating. This is at least partially because I use most of the techniques she talks about every day in my job as a newspaper editor. I’ve heard my colleagues talk about the days when leading was literally leading. But, I did learn some new techniques as well. I particularly enjoyed Lupton’s discussion of kerning. The relationships of letters to each other changes depending on the typeface and font. Kerning allows for a manual override – ironically, it’s a way to manually make things look more natural. It’s an extremely valuable tool.

I was particularly interested in Lupton’s observations regarding the differences between print and Internet readers (p. 74 especially). It makes perfect sense that, although the same person may be a user of both, expectations are different when using the Internet. Immediate gratification is the norm for Internet users, and any delay in processing information becomes extremely frustrating.

In fact, I would posit the Internet has changed the mentality of consumers as a whole. We regularly get calls at the newspaper from people who take their news on the Internet, and they often complain that the news doesn’t go up fast enough or that they can’t access everything on the Web site that’s in the print product. I politely explain that to get all the news, they have to buy a newspaper instead of just visiting the Web site, and generally the point is well taken. Sometimes, though, the person’s sense of entitlement (“Isn’t the news you report in the public interest?” They ask, and they have a good point.) is such that I have to make comparisons to other professions (Would you expect a surgeon to operate on you for free, even if you’d die if she didn’t?). My point here is that the Internet has not only changed the audience and forum for text, it also has changed the value of text. Information is now available for free, and that is how people think it should be. Newspapers – probably the greatest users of text in the world – are in deep trouble because of this phenomenon.

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