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Vagabond Journey

The Future of Media is Digital

The future of media is digital. Everybody knows this, but we still cling to our print media conventions — trying to convince ourselves that they are somehow better, and hold on with the dire grip of preemptive nostalgia. come sit down, we’re lamenting about yesterdays sad ending, bout the water in me whiskey, the brass [...]

The future of media is digital. Everybody knows this, but we still cling to our print media conventions — trying to convince ourselves that they are somehow better, and hold on with the dire grip of preemptive nostalgia.

come sit down, we’re lamenting about yesterdays sad ending, bout the water in me whiskey, the brass passed off as gold
another round we’re descending into old time memory of a day when wood was wooden, silver – silver, gold was gold, sweet home was home

so you say you got a wood stove and your second home runs on gas but looks like oak, hell it even gives off smoke and glowing embers, there’s a quilbum on the wall reads home sweet home the loathsome wise words from the road and they call me throwback when i cry remember -Erik Peterson, Old Tyme Mem’ry

Soon there will not be print publications, books, or newspapers — or at least they will be as popular as vinyl records, which is to say, relics of another age. The choice will soon no longer exist to read digitally or on paper, as publishers will eventually take it for granted that you have a digital reading device and no longer offer print editions (and cut production and shipping costs drastically). The books on your shelves are destined to be testaments to another era — like the typewriter, the electric fan, and land line telephones.  Records were exchanged for cassette tapes, cassette tapes tossed for CDs, CDs for digital sound files. The progression of media quickly gets lighter, faster, more portable, better as time goes on. Next up on the chopping block is the paper book, the magazine, and, especially, the newspaper.

The endless wheel of progress spins on. Peace.

Digital media is the future

Digital reading devices have improved by leaps and bounds in recent years, and this trend will continue into the future. It is now just as easy (if not easier) to read on a kindle or a tablet as it is a paper book. You can search for words, phrases, and index terms with digital devices, insert bookmarks wherever you choose — if you turn these things off and then back on again they automatically jump to the page you left off on. Once digital readers are tried their advantages over print becomes obvious. It is just as comfortable to lay down with a tablet, Ipad, or kindle as it is a print book or magazine, and they are far less cumbersome.


Before taking a flight to Colombia I stayed over for a night in Portland, Maine with a couple of friends and long term supporters of Vagabond Journey, Deb and Rick. I looked around their house — the walls were lined with books from floor to ceiling. It was to my great surprise when Deb told me that she had not purchased a print book in years. She had already made the transition to digital reading — using a Kindle and a netbook — and she said she loved the advantages. She then told me a story of trying to go back to reading a print book after years of digital reading and found it awkward and onerous.

“What, so this thing doesn’t even remember what page I’m on?” she joked.

Deb is around 50 or 60 years old, but she firmly lives in the present.


Many people have written to me as a result of a couple recent travelogue entries about digital media (What is Vagabond Explorer magazine? and June 2011 progress report) showing big support for print media, but it occurred to me that they are simply ignorant of digital media — they don’t have the proper devices to read it, they are using lap tops. Many said they do not like reading on a computer screen, but digital media is best read with a Kindle, tablet, or another reading device.  They have not tried this, and do not know the advantages. But they will soon have to. I predict that in 10 years most major magazines, newspapers, and even book publishers will severely limit their print editions, and eventually let them go to their rightful place: the dustbins of history.

Digital media allows for better space usage

Digital devices also have the ability to hold your entire book collection, all your magazines, movies, and even music in a singular device you can hold in your hand and easily take just about anywhere. Look around your house right now, look at your books taking up shelf and wall space, your music, movies, the newspapers laying askance and messy on your dining room table, the magazines in your trash cans, and imagine if they all were not there. How much cleaner would your house be? How much tidier would your life be? How could you better utilize all the space that your physical media now takes up? Perhaps you would no longer need such a big house or apartment or room?

The homes of the future will be free from such clutter, all of this media will be loaded onto a few select digital devices that you can take with you anywhere and pull up whatever media file you want with the touch of a few buttons. This is powerful. Imagine having your entire media collection with you wherever you go.

I have experienced the advantages of digital media to an extreme level while traveling. When I first began traveling, I would carry 5 to 10 books, a collection of music tapes, a walkman, reels and reels of 35mm film, pictures that I got developed, a few magazines, and a bulky camera. This media load constituted a huge portion of my baggage. Today, this load (and about 1,000 times more) is all wrapped up neatly in a couple of lightweight digital devices. I have a laptop, a digital camera, and a kindle. I hope to someday soon reduce this load to a tablet and an all purpose data phone that takes high quality photos and video (it’s coming).

I’ve seen how digital devices have reduced my baggage and clutter while enabling me to access more information, content, movies, and music than I ever dream being possible when I first began traveling 12 years ago. If someone told me in 1999 that I would be able to travel with hundreds of movies, thousands of songs, almost every photo and video I’ve ever taken, and all of my writings, documents, website backups — everything — in a single device that weight only a couple pounds I would have laughed in their face.

But in 2011 it has happened. I can travel around the world, fully run a professional website, publish a digital magazine, and have all of my photos, music, movies, sound recordings, videos, and naked pictures of my wife readily at my disposal on a device that would fit nicely into a pocket of one of those Scottevest travel jackets.

I must stand back here and really look at the road we’ve traveled — I am completely amazed.

Droid tablets make digital reading comfortable and easy

Print media is a waste of resources

My grandchildren (or even my daughter) will probably never purchase or read a print book, they will never order a print magazine, and they will laugh when I tell them that newspapers use to print up hundred of thousands of copies a day, have them distributed by truck and delivered by hand, just to have them thrown out the next day and the cycle repeated over and over again.


Print media is an idiotic use of natural and human resources. Print books, magazines, and newspapers are incredibly inefficient and wasteful methods of publishing, as they are absolutely unnecessary. Look at the stacks of newspapers in bins on the street, watch the mailman delivering magazines, think of all the natural resources — the trees, the fuel, the energy — used to publish print newspapers and magazines. Now realize that all that you see will soon be destroyed, thrown away or recycled, and add into this impression of all the additional resources that are going to be expended for this. Now think of all the print media being made, destroyed, and reconstituted all around the world each and every day.

The production and disposal of print media is a resource usage abomination. 

I am surprised the carbon footprint people are not all over this yet.

Digital media and Vagabond Explorer magazine

In this landscape, the question of whether to publish Vagabond Explorer magazine in print or digitally was hardly even a question. We are preparing for the future, we are not going to use archaic methods of publishing. We are not going to pay 100 X the amount of money and increase our workload 10 fold just to harness an endangered medium of publication. Print media is dying. It is about time.

Vagabond Explorer is made to be as simple as possible. We do not wish to waste thousands of dollars and tens of thousands of sheets of paper and other resources to comply with Neanderthalic conventions. Vagabond Explorer weighs nothing, it doesn’t take up any space, and it can ride with you anywhere on your choice of digital device. It is a travel magazine, made for travelers and proponents of simplified, low cost, living, and, likewise, we use the simplest, easiest to possess, lowest cost, and lowest resource usage methods of publication possible. If it pains you to drop $5 on something you cannot feel or touch, keep in mind that you will never need to clean it up, throw it away, have it get in the way, or even get lost. As it is a digital publication, it will sit in a little invisible place on your hard drive, memory stick, or SD card, always ready and available to read, browse, or reference.

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Digital media is the future conclusion

These words are being spoken about five years too soon, but, mark my words, within your lifetime you very well may have the experience of trying to show a youngster a book and having them laugh in your face — calling you old and then pulling out their digital reading device and pulling up the same title in a matter of moments. Stone tools gave way to steel, swords for guns — when cultures are faced with a better technology, they take it. Borders, the huge American book selling chain, has just gone bankrupt, the writing is on the wall:

Physical/ print media is dead, lets bury the romance and get on with living our time.

Filed under: Technology

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3367 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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