Editor’s Note: A Year Without Porn (OK, that’s it, we’re done with this topic!)

Editor’s Note: My expectations for this blog and whatever sort of  following I generate are pretty low at the moment.  For now, this is a writing and learning exercise for me. So you can imagine my surprise when I received a few comments and emails regarding two of my earlier posts: A Year Without Porn: Parts 1 and 2.

I decided not to let the comments through moderation. This is a blog about publishing and not a political blog. Now that was completely unexpected.

One email was from a fellow single copy sales alumni. The memories I talked about in Part 1: Working in my Dad’s warehouse,  reminded him of some similar memories he had and he shared them with me. He also talked about his thoughts about the current state of the magazine wholesaling and distribution business.

Not surprisingly, my correspondent was not hopeful for the future. It’s been said before: It often seems like the publishing industry is committing suicide.

The other email threw me a  for a loop. This correspondent may have missed the point of my post . What I had written was a discussion about whether or not adult magazines have a future in the digital world. I started the thread with the comment that after so many years of having at least one adult magazine publisher as a client, I had just passed the one year mark without an adult magazine publisher as a client. That feels significant when considering all of the recent developments in the digital publishing industry,  plus the remarkable jackpot that the porn industry finds itself in because lately it has given so much of it’s content up for free.

“…it’s OK with me if the porn industry dries up and goes away. How can you be sad that you aren’t getting any money anymore from those people? Why would you take money from people who don’t respect women and hate women? Don’t you pass yourself off as a father? Do you have daughters?  Do you want your daughters to work in porn?”

So let’s deal with the easier questions first. Yes, I am a father and yes I have daughters. No, I do not want them to work in an unregulated industry where the principal participants take off their clothes and have unprotected sex for the enjoyment of others.

So was I lamenting the decline of the porn industry?

Uh, no.

Now let’s deal with the first part of the question, because that will explain what I was feeling and what I was trying to say.

Personally, I find the possibility of porn (or erotica) more interesting than the actual end product. To me, much of it is dull and repetitive and not very attractive. I’ve never really had much time or interest in it. Some of what I have seen is far rougher than I find appealing. The rougher stuff seems to reflect the active dislike of women that the male actors or directors harbor inside them. What they show on screen is their way of getting that out to the world. That is unappealing, retrograde and sad to me.

I don’t think it should be outlawed, but I don’t think it should be pushed into the shadows either. If you want to take something that is socially marginal and twist it and make it worse than it could be, try to outlaw it and push it into the margins. If you want porn to go away, work for a more enlightened society.

So enough about that already.

For me, the appeal of the single copy industry has always been the people that I work with. This is true even of most of the people who have worked in “adult magazines.” Our industry attracts characters. Both male and female. I like characters. When I traveled more, I felt like I collected characters. They make the world interesting.

Some of my most interesting clients over the years were the publishers and single copy guys (and gals) who worked with, for, or owned adult magazines. They were singular, unique, blunt, opinionated and unapologetic about what they did for a living and who they did it with.

And interestingly enough, dear correspondent, they were also remarkably respectful of the women (and men) who appeared in their magazines.

I miss them.

Husni Vs. Sacks: Who’s right? Who wins? Does it matter?

Dr. Samir Husni aka Mr. Magazine,  ( mrmagazine.wordpress.com ) has developed a well deserved reputation as a defender of the printed magazine. He loves them, collects them, teaches about them to college students. And in the era of digitized content, declares very eloquently that they are not obsolete. As somebody who is acutely aware of the fact that more than 80% of his income still comes from ink on paper magazines, I applaud Dr. Husni.

On the reverse side of the same coin, Robert Sacks (aka BoSacks.com), a leading publishing industry consultant refers to himself (and apparently Dr. Husni concurs) as Samir’s “very good friend”, but debates him just the same about the future of the printed magazine. Like all good consultants, Sacks opines that the future of the printed magazine is essentially one where it will be niche and pull in significantly less revenue for publishers as the world goes digital. In fact, Sacks is such a forward thinker, that he and his staff came up with a definition of a magazine that does not include paper or ink (or staples, for that matter). I realize that in ten years or so more than 80% of my income might come from this new definition of a magazine, so I applaud BoSacks too (although may be more of a polite golf clap).

Of course, there are industry gurus who seem to feel that the printed word is dead, gone and anyone who works with print is a dead man walking. If nothing else, they certainly get to write an awful lot of articles. The notably ironic and sarcastic “Reaper” of magazinedeathpool.com comes to mind. I keep my Twitter up throughout much of the day and have designated time in the late afternoon to follow some of the links that come through from the people on my list. Just as the iPad was coming out, the conventional wisdom seemed that print publishers were the walking dead and the iPad would ride in and rescue us all if we let it. If we continued to fight it, we would stay dead.

I should point out, that as far as I am concerned, I have rightly placed both Dr. Husni and BoSacks in my “Future Media” list on Twitter.

In his most recent blog post  (http://bit.ly/c26rbv), Husni writes: “Magazines, each and every one and each and every issue of every one, are a total experience that engages the customers five senses. “

And that is true, but you could argue the same about a digital edition. Even on an iPad or a Kindle or a desk top, there is tactile, maybe even some smell. But I’ve been around mags long enough to know what Samir is saying.

Sacks’ definition of a magazine goes like this: “a magazine must be paginated, edited, designed, date stamped, permanent, and periodic. But it does not have to use either ink or paper to be an ‘official’ magazine. Ink and paper are an unnecessary restriction in the 21st century.”

And technically, he’s right too. As Husni pointed out in his blog entry, you could call a “digital magazine” a magazine, but it’s not really a magazine like an ink on paper magazine is. He objects the comparisons that have been made between publishing and the music business. As he points out, “I listened to my favorite songs over and over. I used earphones, loud speakers, any and all the things created to help me listen to the music. The goal was always to listen to my favorite song over and over again. I did not care how the song was broadcasted or delivered.”

Couldn’t the same be said, then for magazines and even books? Could it be that three, five or even ten years from now, people won’t care how they get Outside Magazine, or the latest Nelson Demille novel, they’ll just want it? Don’t definitions of objects, over time, change?

After all, I can listen to an entire album on an LP, a cassette tape, on my computer, on a CD, on my iPod. In all cases, it’s an album.

What I like about Dr. Husni’s arguments is that he fights against the industry wags and arch ironists and says in effect (at least as I interpret it), “Pay attention. You have a viable, profitable business here and you’re about to run off and play with an untested shiny object that could bankrupt you if you’re not smart about it.”

Likewise, Bob Sacks points out (again, as I interpret it), “And don’t forget to pay attention to this shiny new object too. If you’re not careful, all you’ll be left with is a cute, niche business that will make less money than before and you’ll be considered a throw back to the old horse and buggy days if you don’t modernize.”

So I tend to think that these two great friends are arguing the same side of the coin. And, actually, I’m very grateful for that. Because they certainly got this publisher consultants attention.