Saturday, February 14, 2009

Signs of the times

I read today on the Craftzine blog that Craft magazine will no longer produce its print publication. I am saddened, as it was a quality publication with great production values and even better articles, projects, and ideas. It will be missed by many in the crafting community.

I am an avid reader of the sister on-line publication, the Craftzine blog, and have forwarded many of its quirky articles and projects to friends over the past few years (think yarnbombing, button wreaths, apartment walls handpainted to look like art deco wall paper, basement rec rooms decorated by Sharpie drawings, and many other mad, wonderful, beautiful expressions of artistry, whimsy, and creativity).

The loss of Craft is an example of something larger though. What disturbs me even more than the impact on the crafting world of the loss of a beloved and respected source of information, is the contraction in the publishing industry that the loss of Craft exemplifies. It's this: fewer and fewer people are buying and reading books, magazines, and newspapers. With a shrinking audience, the print publishing industry is dying and supposedly being replaced by the Internet. Now I love the Internet (Etsy, Wikipedia, Alternet, Ebay, Amazon, Huffington Post), but...

OK, so I recently lost a job in the publishing industry and so I may be reacting to my personal situation, but I think there are some larger issues to grapple with. What does this crisis in the marketplace of ideas say about the ways that individuals take in and transmit information? What does it say about the quality of information that is out there? What does it say about the future of our democracy? What does it say about where we are going as a civilization and culture? In 200 years will someone have saved books, magazines, and newspapers, like the Moors did with the learning of the ancient Greeks and Romans, or will all this knowledge be lost? (OK, so maybe People magazine or a drugstore bodice ripper isn't worth saving, but some of what is printed is indeed valuable as a literature, as a contribution to knowledge, as a historic document. And reading and gaining knowledge is a worthwhile endeavor.)

Not the valentine I wanted to send to my friends and colleagues. But here's something you can all do. Show your love for the printed word. Buy and read something today. Buy a newspaper, a magazine, a novel. Try something you've never read before. Open yourself to a new idea or experience that comes from a source printed on paper. Who knows: you might be inspired to yarnbomb a city bus or decorate your rec room with Sharpie drawings.

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