Notes from TOC on the future of print

As you might expect at a conference on the future of publishing, a common discussion running through many of the keynotes and conversations here has been the future of print in a digital world. What I hadn’t expected is the richness and texture of that discussion.

Yesterday morning Wired Editor Chris Anderson described the “emotional connection” he feels to print. During the afternoon keynotes, Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen declared that print might well be dead in 15 years. This morning Maker Media GM Dale Dougherty talked about how he sees the old and the new coexisting, which is of course the most likely scenario, as new technologies rarely completely obviate the old ones (Dale’s vivid example was the fact that more horses were used during WWII than in any previous war).

And we couldn’t have planned it any better to follow Dale’s keynote (punctuated with a passionate letter from a Make subscriber about the addictive nature of Make) with the keynote from Manolis Kelaidis showing us a glimpse at a future where print and digital come together in a way that left the audience here quite literally breathless (you may well be able to hear the gasps in the video we’ll be posting soon on the TOC site).

These debates (print is doomed! from my cold dead hand!) are so often reduced to a binary decision, when in reality they’re a fluid, flexible conversation that can sustain many perspectives — and we risk stifling the voices of innovators like Manolis if we forget to make allowances for our own ignorance of the future.