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Bob Sacks

As a Futurist, I Was Wrong

Bob Sacks emedia and Technology - 02/15/2008-16:34 PM

As some FOLIO: readers may know, I am a principal partner in mediaIDEAS, a consulting firm that investigates and provides original research reports with actionable advice and analysis for the publishing/media industry. I have asked for and received permission from mediaIDEAS to reveal a small portion of a recent research paper whose conclusion after a detailed analysis was that full color flexible e-paper display will be available to the market by 2011.

The report goes on to say that "publishing magazines and books incorporating high quality color artwork such as those involved in the fashion/design/art sectors, and looking to develop digital editions, need to carefully monitor developments in electrowetting display technology ... Planning for this event is critical to the future profitability, and even the existence, of such publishing companies."

The reason I asked for permission from my business partners to release this portion of our Call to Action is that I believe it is critical for our industry to fully comprehend the technologic reality on our door step. We are on the threshold of a new digital age. As publishers we can adapt and prosper or wither on the vine of antiquated protectionism and dysfunction.

In 2005 I debated Samir Husni at Primex hosted by IDEAlliance in an event entitled "Fork in the Road: Which Direction for the Publishing Industry?" After the debate I was asked an excellent question from the audience: How long until publishers have to start really paying attention and worrying about e-paper? My answer was that five years from that time epaper will be real, functional and a necessary item on any publishers business plan and watch list.

As a futurist with an impressive track record of prescient predictions under my belt for the last 35 years, I am sad to report to you that I was wrong. Yes, wrong. It didn't take five years but rather three years for e-paper to be available to the general public. And the technology is growing at an exponential rate. Look around you and read the writing on your Kindle, which is currently sold out and backlogged. E-paper is here and it is not going to go away. The report from mediaIdeas and my own research is correct. Publishers must be ... planning for this event as it is critical to the future profitability, and even the existence, of such publishing companies.

This is not and should not be a fearful transition. Everything stays the same except the actual reading platform. The paginated (metered), well designed, and edited magazine experience is the same. The same writers, editors, artists, and mostly the same publishing staff will be required to "manufacture" magazines of the future. I would also add that it is not an either/or scenario. There will no doubt be both a printed version of magazines and an e-paper version available to the general public. The question will come down to one of cost and reader preference.

I recently completed a review of the Amazon Kindle. As an experienced e-paper reader, the future is clear and the current arguments about the future of e-paper are as relevant as the old discussion of whether or not film-based printing will ever be replaced by CTP (Computer-to-Plate). I'm sure we all agree that was indeed a very juvenile argument. As much as this sounds like bravado, I was right then and I'm right now. I will go further to say that someday, perhaps less than 10 years from now, the e-reading experience will be more preferred by the majority of the reading public than the inefficient, costly, environmentally unfriendly, and extremely dated current magazine methodology. Are we there yet? NO! But you can bet your bottom dollar that we will get there. And if you don't believe and prepare for it, it will be your bottom dollar.

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Bob Sacks

No Reason to Panic About Quebecor

Bob Sacks Design and Production - 01/21/2008-14:36 PM

As upsetting as this news may at first appear, it is not a reason to panic. The presses are running, the paper is rolling and ink is being placed within tolerances of 1/1000th of an inch, as per usual with a rhythm and a predictable schedule.

They have received $1 billion dollars to create and sustain moderate stability. And all they need for now is the stability to forecast the next few quarters of business cycles. After that I don't know what will happen and neither do you, but I suggest that for today and tomorrow it is business as usual. If your titles were to ship this week, I would expect them to do so. If your titles were scheduled to ship next week, the same holds true. It is a time of transition and change, but not of wholesale upheaval. It's my experience that, under conditions like this, all titles will get out and all publishers will continue to publish. The details of this and the plains of action, lay with the accountants of the world.

As I heard New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick say last night, "Be smart, stay alert and do your job, and we will get through this just fine."

Dear Quebecor World Customer,

Quebecor World has applied today for court protection in Canada and the United States to conduct restructuring for the long-term interests of the company, its customers, suppliers and employees. As part of this process, Quebecor World has secured US $1 billion of new financing to continue to provide you and all our customers with reliable, quality services on a business-as-usual basis. Our operations in Europe and Latin American are not included in these filings.

The approval of $1 billion in new financing through Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley was included in the court applications under Canada's Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act and Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. In addition, Quebecor World is seeking the appointment of Ernst & Young Inc. to monitor the company activities in the Canadian proceedings.

Despite the difficult economic conditions in general and in the credit market in particular, Quebecor World continues to have a positive cash flow, expert teams of experienced employees, valuable, performing assets and an impressive roster of customers such as you. In the months ahead we will be reviewing the company's performance and developing ways to make further improvements in all our operations.

The prudent action we have undertaken today and the vote of confidence represented by the $1 billion of new financing means that we will continue to operate on a normal basis as we restructure for the future.

We look forward to maintaining our business relationship with you.

Quebecor World's commitment is to keep customers, suppliers and employees and other stakeholders informed of all significant developments, either directly or through our webpages on the Internet. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you require further information. We will make every effort to respond in a timely fashion.

Thank you in advance for your patience and support as we work to achieve an outcome that serves the best interests of our customers, employees, suppliers and other stakeholders.

Sincerely,
Jacques Mallette

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Bob Sacks

Stop Worrying About the Future

Bob Sacks emedia and Technology - 12/03/2007-11:46 AM

This has been building up in me for a long time. All of this BS about publishers fearing the future, worried insanely about going out of business. They can't figure out what is happening and where their place in the future of information distribution is going to be. Damn it all, guys grow up. The future will take care of itself. It always has.

Ask the old parchment makers. Do you know that it took over three hundred sheepskins (parchment) to make one fair sized bible in the 1600s? You do the math. Publishers found a better way to distribute their information. It was called paper. They did it and they did well. Did the public love parchment? Most likely, but paper was better and cheaper. So, here we are and last week a major paper supplier stated that "the price of paper must double."

Does anyone else find it funny that in the very same week, Amazon launched Kindle, a WiFi connected e-paper device? It holds 200 books and weighs less than 10 ounces. How much will the publishers save by not using a printing, press, not using paper, not shipping those books anywhere but to the ether zone, ready for instant deployment anywhere on the planet?

This is just the beginning of a series of drastic and necessary changes in the publishing industry. The actual cost of paper, printing and distribution can and will only go up, the converse of a digital distribution where the costs can only go down. There will come a time soon when this is self-evident event to the most diehard of the tree hugging publishers. Ease of use and cost of manufacturing will determine the substrate of choice for the populous and the publisher.

Just for point of reference, what substrate are you reading this missive on?

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