Local Commentary

Editorial: All Hail the ‘Bookbook’!

Going viral on the Internet this week has been Ikea’s brief ad promoting its catalog that tons of its customers just got in the mail. A brilliant spoof of over-the-top Apple ads promoting the features of its electronic tools, Ikea promotes the “bookbook,” touting the features of a real book, of something printed with real ink on real paper and distributed to real people through real mail boxes. The “bookbook” offers “navigation based on tactile touch technology that you can actually feel,” it claims.

It’s hilarious and refreshing, and true. For folks like us, who love the smell of printer’s ink and newsprint (paper) and the sound of a rattling printing press with its bells and high speeds, any indicator that the Internet is not going to gobble up and swallow every other form of communication besides its own is music to our ears.

Indeed, the enormous popularity of the Ikea ad signals that maybe it’s not only us print journalism junkies who are looking for signs of some better balance in the trending projections between tactile print and electronic forms of disseminating information.

In fact, we could go so far as to mark this Ikea ad as a turning point that other cutting edge creative types among advertisers and media buyers, should pay attention to.
There is a market for old fashioned print newspapers, like the News-Press, in the broader sweep of things. Newspapers have been around since the invention of Gutenberg’s moveable type printing press in the mid-1400s, and when the teletype came along, and then the radio and then television, there were always those who said these new technologies would bury newspapers, as they’re now saying about the Internet.

In every case up to now, the new technologies ate into the market for traditional newspapers, but newspapers always retained a certain relevance because of the unique way in which their tactile form mirrors and augments the experience of being a living, breathing and moving human being.

When Warren Buffett, the nation’s foremost investor, decided to pour $344 million into the purchase of scores of small daily and weekly newspapers a couple years ago, analysts were left scratching their heads. “Has Buffett lost his touch?” they asked, because everyone “in the know,” like lemmings, were stampeding away from print.
But as usual, the plain-taking Buffett has demonstrated he was fully aware of what he was doing. “Unlike big city papers, small town newspapers don’t have a lot of competition or good substitutes,” he said. “In Grand Island, Nebraska, everyone is interested in how the football team does.. They’re interested in who got married. They’re maybe even more interested in who got divorced.”

We’ve always known this. Moreover, good local papers serve as a form of shared community binding agent, strengthening the ties of local businesses and well-meaning citizens to one another to contribute to the betterment of their community.