Will that be paper or plastic?
That question is often asked at American grocery stores today as shorthand for paper bag or plastic bag? At bookstores it could soon be short for paper or DVD?

Remember those press releases where they’d breathlessly offer that this new disk drive

. . . holds the double-spaced typed text on a stack of paper more than a mile high.

I never got that. Other than “a lot”, is it really easier to think about a mile high stack of paper than, let’s say, millions of documents? People don’t care about capacity, unless they don’t have enough.

This is a laugh
The New Yorker magazine has recently published several collections that are available in either paper, DVD or even hard disk. I’m buying their collected cartoons – all 70,363 of them – on DVD for $20. DVD plus the printed paperback book: $34.95. The New Yorker has the finest cartoons in the English language and plenty of them. From everything I know about publishing they are making more money on the DVD than they are on the book – which says more publishers will do the same.

But wait, there’s more
The New Yorker, which is 80 years old, also came out with the Complete New Yorker – “EVERY PAGE OF EVERY ISSUE From February 1925 through April 2006”. The ads, the cartoons, the theater listings, everything. You can can get the book, which at 112 pages is almost an album cover instead of a real book, along with 9 DVDs for $60. Or you can get the whole thing on a Hitachi 80 GB USB hard drive for $299. With free engraving. Just the thing for the iPod generation.

There is no way that either the cartoons alone or all the back issues could be published on paper at a profit. With cheap digital storage it is not only possible, but it becomes an impluse buy for the New Yorker’s audience.

The really cool thing: the demo of the user interface shows a lot of thought went into the UI of the electronic version. Check it out.

The StorageMojo.com take
As an internet publisher, I’m well aware of the ease and limitations of web-based publishing. There is something very satisfying about having access to huge amounts of data – without have miles of bookshelves to store it all. I’d love to have, for example, the 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica – on a DVD, or even better, and HD DVD. Yet I’d never spend the money or the shelf space to have a hard copy.

The advent of cheap electronic publishing via new storage technologies won’t replace the web, but is a welcome adjunct to it. I suspect a lot more old content will get a new audience thanks to low-cost storage.

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