Friday, July 10, 2009

The Revenge Of Print by Eric Obenauf
Posted Friday 10 Jul 2009

In 2008, the most prestigious award in literature, the Nobel Prize, was awarded to J.M.G. Le Clezio, (pic right), a French writer not well known in the United States. Up until that point, his novels were released here by independent publishers Curbstone Press, David R. Godine, and the University of Nebraska Press. In his Nobel acceptance speech, Le Clezio said: “Literature is not some archaic relic that ought, logically, to be replaced . . . Literature is a complex, difficult path, but I hold it to be even more vital today than in the time of Byron or Victor Hugo.”
Today, anyone involved in the business—from newspapers to magazines, from book publishers to advertisers—seems certain about the fate of the printed word. There is a widespread belief that is now accepted as nearly absolute: Print is being replaced by screens and in a generation or two will be obsolete.
There is evidence to the contrary. Jacek Utko is a former architect who became art director for several newspapers in former Soviet Bloc nations. Utko transformed archaic and staid papers into essential reads and increased readership by 29% in Russia, 35% in Poland, and 100% in Bulgaria. In a speech available online at, Utko says that the inspiration for his work came from seeing a Cirque du Soleil performance in London: “These guys were doing some creepy, run-down entertainment and put it to the highest possible level of performance art.”

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