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Print vs. Web

Before the Web, if you wanted to spread information to a lot of people you could either self-publish or submit your manuscript to publishing companies and hope that one of them wanted to turn your work into a book.

Self-publishing is expensive and usually doesn't result in massive sales, so most books and magazines we encounter have been published by large companies. Publishing companies have a reputation to maintain. If a company produced novels with lots of typos, recipes with the wrong measurements, or books with incorrect information, customers would stop buying materials from that company. In the interest of staying in business, publishing companies are very selective about what information they publish. They also hire editors and proofreaders to make sure everything is accurate. By the time a book, magazine, or newspaper appears on the shelf of a bookstore, it has passed through many hand to make a refined, quality product. Books that appear in libraries have been selected with additional care.
While self-publishing a printed book is expensive, it can cost zero dollars to self-publish online. Every time you post a tweet, update your Facebook status, or leave a comment on someone's blog, you've just published some information! People also publish in the form of blogs and forums or even create entire websites or ebooks. With only a few exceptions, almost anyone can publish whatever they want online. There are no editors. Technology advances have made it even easier to design fake news sites to resemble legitimate sources of information.

Big publishing companies worry about sales, so they often pass by manuscripts that would only a appeal to a few people. Since self-publishing online is so inexpensive, it has opened the door to a wider variety of perspectives and opinions than the print world. On the other hand, since anybody can publish online, there is no guarantee that the information you encounter is accurate. The information might be full of errors. It might be based on opinions rather than fact. It could be completely fictional and meant only to entertain. It's easy to forget that to educate and inform is not the sole purpose of the Web. More frequently, websites are hosted by companies that want to increase sales.

Another quality of websites that they are dynamic, ever-changing. Printed books are static and unchanging. What is printed in a book or magazine will never change unless a separate new, revised edition is made available. Websites have the potential for constant change. That quality can be wonderful when you are searching for the latest, most up-to-date information. Even printed newspapers report the news a day after it happened, and it can take years for a book to be printed. Unfortunately, the flip side of being so dynamic is that a Web site that had great information three years ago might be completely out-date and full of broken links today. Or, you might return to a site where you found a really interesting article only to find the article has been removed or edited. Being dynamic is both an advantage and a disadvantage of Web materials.
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Grier School

2522 Grier School Rd. | P.O. Box 308; Birmingham, PA 16686-0308
Phone: 814-684-3000 | Fax: 814-684-2177