Why Print?

As a publisher, STM Press is earnestly concerned about the medium of presentation by which truths, ideas, and conversations occur. New technologies, as Ivan Illich remarks in Tools of Conviviality, predictably present a degree of development in which assets are outweighed by associated costs. The advent of the digitized text and its accompanying screen present many advantages, advantages that, as readers of this blog, you are now enjoying. However, in surveying the strengths and weaknesses of presenting our publications in a digital form, we have reached the firm conviction that the printed text holds inestimable merit over all digital mediums. We believe that the publications that we undertake are worthy of the countless hours we commit to their editing, proofreading, typography, layout and design and deserve the unparalleled superiority that the printed, bound book present. 

Pano  Kanelos recently wrote in The Hedgehog Review (Spring, 2020):

What is so compelling about a book? I think, at heart, that it makes a promise. A great conversation has been carried on over centuries engaging the most fundamental human questions. This conversation has been conducted primarily through these objects. And the promise is that you too will always be welcome to join this conversation—entry is as easy as opening a cover and turning a page.

Kanelos continues by observing that the very inconvenience itself of books leads to the formation of a different relationship than one has with digital forms media, which are "conjured forth, then disappear. We consume them." Books, by contrast, "are embodied. They live in history. They have their own biographies." They demand commitment, space, and respect. We approach a book with a certain sense of awe and humility, mindful of the many lives this particular volume, this specific paper and ink, this impression by real type upon this page, has shaped and will continue to shape, long after our death.

A permanence transcending generations, a rootedness and immobility, and a refusal to reconfigure are each elements that not only shape the experience of reading a book but shape the reader himself. The medium by which we interact with ideas will influence the formation of the ideas themselves. Marc Barnes, in his article, "The Screen and the Book" (First Things, May, 2015), remarks on the worldview constructed by the transient, shape-shifting reality of the e-book:

The screened text is held out for viewing, available to us at any moment only because it is supported, as our occasional and sometimes desperate calls to “tech support” remind us . . . we possess an e-book or an online article only by virtue of the cooperation of the publisher, web-hosting service, electricity company, Internet provider, manufacturer, and some[one] writing the code to effect the data migrations that allow us to continue to view it on some yet-to-be-invented device that will undoubtedly (and soon) supersede what we now use.

I recently had cause to heartily agree with Barnes when I set out to re-print one of our publications. The title was first printed less than twenty years ago. However, when I sought the digital file from which to typeset and issue as a PDF to our printer I learned that the technology on which the document was stored was obsolete: a floppy disk from the Paleolithic era—two decades ago! The issue was resolved only by consulting the printed text, a technology that I am confident will still be "compatible" four centuries from now, long after our USBs and Clouds have been thrown in the dust bin of history.

It is for these reasons that STM Press is committed to promulgating the value of carefully printed and quality bound texts. We are convinced that our efforts to promote the worth of physical books contains a potential to re-shape and transform the way we think and act, that books are in themselves a spiritual tool for the renewing of our minds in an age that has forgotten how to read.