The Incredible Shrinking Blue Book

incredible shrinking blue book

The venerated Wisconsin Blue Book is the latest victim of downsizing print products, be they newspapers, magazines or reference books.

Iconic Wisconsin Blue Book sheds 300 pages, blue cover

“Compared with its predecessors, the tome is much slimmer – 677 pages compared with 973 pages in the 2015-16 version – has noticeably larger type and poorly cropped photos of legislators.”

So, significantly less content – partially disguised with larger type so that the reduction seems to be a mere 300 pages when the word count cut is much deeper – and less attention to detail. Where have we seen that before?

The article says the shrinkage was not a matter of budget cuts but to make the book more readable, removing stuff that can be found elsewhere, especially on the internet.

Everything of paper is thinner than it used to be. We’re all on the internet now anyway, the story goes.

Last week the local paper printed a solitary photo of a volleyball coverage and promised more coverage to be found on the paper’s website. Its corporate overlords have been preaching digital-first print-is-dead rhetoric for years. But is print dying or has it been neglected and then abandoned?

I am reminded of when the record industry assassinated vinyl. Consumers were given the choice of buying an album in LP or CD format, but the CD had more songs on it – “bonus tracks.” When people naturally chose the format with more quantity, that format was declared the champion and vinyl was dead – until it wasn’t.

And so the comprehensive compendium of Wisconsin government is not as comprehensive anymore. It’s not alone. Have you seen Time magazine or Rolling Stone or Parade, that ghost of a Sunday magazine supplement, lately?

I don’t know if everyone really prefers the internet or if that’s just where the greater quantity of stuff can be found. All I really know for certain is that when the electronics become obsolete, and the information can’t be read because the e-reader is outdated, you’ll still be able to pull a book off the shelf and find the information – if it was ever printed.

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