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Hallo again to all.

As much as we dearly love computers and all the manner of magic they can do, we love print and paper with an equal, if not greater, passion. Perhaps it grows white hotter as that first love fades away, which surely all agree it is doing*. Newspapers are the most pressing example of an information technology whose end may have come. News there will always be, and people to report it — even if that's only a matter of gossiping at the water cooler, tweeting, or tossing a status update on Facebook. But investigative reporting and the hard slogging through data to get to the point? TweetIt's hard to tell the fate of that critically important activity. Perhaps some economic model will be found that can support first-rate journalism online. Or there will be the magic solution to making print pay, but we doubt that will serve for what we think of as 'news'; it's more likely to be found for essays, in-depth articles, long investigative stories, and the like.

All this has been preoccupying us as we've thought about the massive volume of reporting that will be given over to the US Episcopal Church's General Convention, to be held this July in California. We easily recall the 1997 convention, which still relied almost exclusively on paper and press releases. In succeeding three-year periods — that church holds its general synod triennially — there would be some movement towards what the church considered leading-edge technologies, but which were usually trailing-edge by the time they were adopted. No doubt all 15 days of this General Convention will be reported in a far more granular way than could have been imagined a decade ago, via an onslaught of YouTube videos, official blogs and tweets, with images, audio, and live webcasting right behind. It's all good, we suppose, in the sense that it brings interested people closer to the primary sources, to information that is less redacted than when packaged in a press release.Parish Magazine of the now defunct St John's Church, Bognor Regis

The official compendium of documents to be studied before General Convention was traditionally mailed to deputies and bishops some months previous to it. Called the 'Blue Book' for the traditional colour of its cover, the ponderous soft cover tome was prone to bad binding and barely adequate indexing. It likely lay, forbidding and lumpen, on many a desk for weeks, holding as much allure as textbook of inorganic chemistry. The 2009 'Blue Book' now is available to all as a downloadable PDF, capable of being searched and annotated without ever leaving one's computer. This is a far better way to deliver dry reports and data, no matter how meaningful the substance might be, to the members of a synod. It would be hard to justify presenting the materials on India paper in morocco binding, even if budgets allowed it.

The forward movement of electrons seems irresistable — and the advantages can be compelling and clear. EpiscorificBut still there is that matter of paper and ink. Books offer portability; a paperback can be tucked in a pocket. Books still work when the lights go out. Their scent, elusive and evocative, isn't replicable yet on any monitor we know. They do 'furnish a room'. They can be a record of the lives of others, through ownership and annotation, and touch our own. (Is there anything more intriguing than someone else's comments in the margin of a book?) There is typography and engraving, illustration and adverts, all packed between covers. Books are delicious, and they are endangered. And we're not foolish enough to think that in our time their decline will cease.

But we do celebrate a quixotic print venture when we find it. Stumbling across Episcorific (not a name we find beguiling, but let that go) is surely reason for celebration. Described as 'a 'zine for and by the young adults of the Episcopal Church', this quarterly print magazine is available online as a free PDF. It began a year ago with an ambitious 24 pages more narrowly focussed on 'young adults in Texas', but it's now grown beyond those borders. Happily, since that first issue, it continues to be well designed and sassy looking in black-and-white. We're delighted at this new print communication and wish it well. Perhaps print, like old vinyl record albums, will hold an allure for those who didn't grow up with it. That might prove a very interesting development in the Church.

No doubt, though, most national church quarterlies and parish magazines† will morph into web sites and then into blogs and tweets. How all that will work, we'll need to wait and see. We've no doubt that Anglicans will keep communicating, even if not on India paper.

See you next week.


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*There's no particular point in our rehearsing here the grim chatter about the likely death of print. There are plenty of leaders and editorials available online if you'd like to review the arguments.

WJE Bennett (1804-1896) was a prominent ritualist whose services provoked riots at St Barnabas, Pimlico in 1850. He is acknowledged as the originator of the first parish magazine, The Old Church Porch, published from 1854. That wasn't so very long ago in the scheme of things.

Last updated: 14 June 2009

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