Is Technology Killing the Printed Book?

These days, it’s challenging to find someone who doesn’t get at least a little daily screen time in one way or another, what with Kindles, smartphones, laptops, iPads and the like so readily available. The convenience of these devices is unquestionable, considering the amount of information and number of applications consumers can get. This raises the question of whether technology is killing one of my favorite things–the hard copy book.

The first fact writers and readers have to accept is that an electronic version of a book doesn’t necessarily have to connect to a print copy–that is, a publisher can opt to publish something solely in electronic form. This means that publishers won’t release some writing in hard copy format, ever, and from that standpoint, technology can limit the number of printed books out there. On the other hand, the reduced cost of e-publishing means that publishers can entertain more authors, so while the number of printed books might not reach its full potential, the number of works available in general goes up. That’s not a bad thing in an age when literacy is a hot topic in education circles.

Even though publishers can save a lot of money by putting out electronic books, they have some strong reasons to keep the more expensive print presses rolling. Lots of people like traditional hard copies of books simply because of the emotional and aesthetic aspects of holding them, flipping pages and even taking in the aroma of the paper and ink. These are things a digital copy of a book simply can’t offer. Some people also prefer hard copies because they can so easily write their own notes in the margins or highlight text. Additionally, certain types of books do not lend themselves as well to electronic formatting. A book on art, for example, might be better appreciated if the pictures in the books are not reduced in size due to screen size constraints. These types of books often hog the resources of a viewing device and have slow load times, or they might require plugins or additional applications for viewing to occur properly. Another good example is children’s books, because kids can be hard on electronics and often benefit from hands-on activities.

woman reading to child

Ebooks might not be suitable for everyone and might eliminate some aesthetic positives associated with reading.

Lower income individuals also can be at a disadvantage with strictly e-publishing, because it costs significant amounts to purchase and replace the devices that read the electronic files. Before publishers can eliminate print publishing completely, they have to address the problem of class and financial divides–failure to do so might widen educational and literacy gaps. This is particularly relevant to academic publishers. Lastly, some individuals might not be comfortable with electronic documents or devices, such as the elderly or those with a disability requiring special formatting or printing.

All these things considered, technology certainly is changing the way people read, and it’s giving people more options about what to read. But because technology is never perfect, it likely will be a long time before the hard copy book gets completely phased out.

 

The High Cost of Low Copywriting Prices

As a professional copywriter, I use a plethora of sites such as oDesk.com to find work, fill my schedule and maintain a workable budget. Each of these sites has its own advantages and disadvantages based on its functions and features, but one thing that I’ve noticed across the board is low posters and bidders.

A poster is someone who submits a project on which someone can bid. For example, the poster might be New Company A who needs someone to write the copy for the business website. A bidder is anyone who makes an offer to work on a poster’s project. When acting in this capacity, it’s pretty standard to submit sample work and, on some sites, a cover letter. Posters decide who gets the job after evaluating all the bids they receive.

The first problem I’ve noticed is that posters overwhelmingly undervalue the projects they propose. I see projects such as $1 for a 500 word article on a daily basis. For me, a well-researched article of that length requires no less than an hour, so I figure that, at the very least, I should get an hour’s worth of the current minimum wage. Now, I don’t know many people who can work for roughly a mere 1/8 of minimum wage. I know I can’t. Yet, this is what posters often are willing to pay.

blog job posting

Would you be able to work for $1 an hour?

Several problems I see perpetuate pervasive low project pay. First, many, many writers are just getting started in the business. These writers need a few projects that will provide good references, so they’re willing to work on the cheap in order to beef up their resumes and seem more professional. Secondly, other writers are out of work or don’t have enough projects to fill a full-time schedule, so they bid low to compete with the newbies and take the projects they can manage to get. Lastly, copywriting has the capacity for global applicants. Bidders from outside the United States can afford to bid low because $1 goes a ton further in other countries than it does in America. Subsequently, posters outsource their projects, putting in a pay rate that doesn’t support American writers because they know writers elsewhere will work for less. In fact, some posters specifically ask for applicants from particular countries, typically the Philippines or India. It’s all about the bottom line of reducing operation and production costs.

Let me emphasize that trying to embark on a new career or support oneself is always admirable. I’m also not suggesting that companies should accept defeat and fold instead of looking for the cheapest option that lets the business survive. Still, when writers accept jobs that pay far less than the content and time is worth in their current region, they end up devaluing not only their own work, but also the skill and profession of writing itself. They end up perpetuating the clearly rampant view posters have that writing services, although needed, aren’t something to choke up hard cold cash for. This has to stop, or writers always will find themselves under-respected and underpaid.

Does standing firm on a higher bid mean you might not get as much work? Yes. You WILL be underbid. A lot. But without a willingness to stand firm, others won’t get the idea that you and your art really matter. Efforts to reform education and put writing and reading funding at the forefront will fail, and nothing in society will change.

Do not give up. Value your words. Value yourself.

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Welcome to the official blog for Takingdictation.com!

As a professional copywriter, I created this blog with a few goals in mind. I wanted to:

  • Alert readers about interesting facts or news related to writing and English
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  • Share my insights, opinions and experiences on writing
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By checking out this blog, you are making these goals become reality for me. I look forward to your continued readership and hope to grow personally and professionally from this endeavor!