posting online ain’t the same as being in print

Es­ti­mated reading time is 3 min­utes.

RE­GARDING POSTING ON­LINE, in re­sponse to having the of­fi­cial Elvis Presley web­site at Grace­land picking up one of my articles—which I trum­peted loudly to family and friends via Face­book and email—my friend Stephanie Locke posted a nice com­ment on my A Touch Of Gold site: “Good to see Umphred back in print.”

In­stead of simply ac­cepting the com­ment, I re­sponded with, “Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t con­sider being pub­lished on­line as being in print. In fact, I don’t even think the word pub­lish should be used for on­line ar­ti­cles. I think I’ll write a short piece on the topic and post it on my other site!”

And so here I am writing a brief piece on why on­line ain’t in print and why we on­line writers/bloggers need to coin a new term and leave pub­lish to the print trade.


Posting online: a drawing of Gutenberg's printing press.

Since the time of Guten­berg and his orig­inal hand-made and hand-operated printing press, we have as­so­ci­ated an au­thor with being “in print” with an au­thor having a book avail­able for pur­chase in stores. 

The definitions

Merriam-Webster de­fines pub­lish first as a tran­si­tive verb (a verb that can take a di­rect ob­ject. In other words, it is done to someone or something):

1. “to make gen­er­ally known,” or “to make public an­nounce­ment of”
2. “to dis­sem­i­nate to the public,” or “to pro­duce or re­lease for dis­tri­b­u­tion, specif­i­cally print,” or “to issue the work of an author

MW also de­fines pub­lish as an in­tran­si­tive verb (a verb that does not take a di­rect ob­ject; in other words, it is not done to someone or something):

1. “to put out an edition”
2. “to have one’s work ac­cepted for publication”

Then ac­cording to Merriam-Webster, the use of pub­lish with re­gards to the In­ternet is correct.


For most of us—especially writers—the term ‘pub­lishing’ is ef­fec­tively syn­ony­mous with the making of a book.


Wikipedia gives the word pub­lish a more thor­ough review:

Pub­lishing is the dis­sem­i­na­tion of lit­er­a­ture, music, or in­for­ma­tion; that is, the ac­tivity of making in­for­ma­tion avail­able to the gen­eral public. Tra­di­tion­ally, the term refers to the dis­tri­b­u­tion of printed works such as books and newspapers.

With the ad­vent of dig­ital in­for­ma­tion sys­tems and the In­ternet, the scope of pub­lishing has ex­panded to in­clude elec­tronic re­sources such as the elec­tronic ver­sions of books and pe­ri­od­i­cals, as well as mi­crop­ub­lishing, web­sites, blogs, etc.”

Then ac­cording to Wikipedia, to use pub­lish with re­gards to the In­ternet is cor­rect usage. So, I am tech­ni­cally incorrect.


Posting online: a photo of a shelf of books from Taschen Books.

Among the many im­ages of books that I could have chosen as an il­lus­tra­tion here, I se­lected this one from Taschen Books. Why? Be­cause it dis­plays a book on the Rolling Stones and an­other on Elvis, it al­lows me to shame­lessly plug my two other sites, Rather Rare Records and A Touch Of Gold.

A posting online suggestion

Still, I wish that the In­ternet would coin a new term, in­stead of ap­pro­pri­ating a word with a rather de­fined and well-understood usage.

For ex­ample, even with the dom­i­nance of the In­ternet in all forms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, when one says “the pub­lishing in­dustry,” I as­sume that most of us au­to­mat­i­cally hears “the book trade.”

That is, re­flex­ively, for most of us the term pub­lishing is es­sen­tially and ef­fec­tively syn­ony­mous with the making of a book, or a magazine.

I have no new term at hand that I clev­erly coined during a mo­ment of in­spi­ra­tion while lying down for sleep. I know it’s too late, but I can dream . . .


FEA­TURED IMAGE: The image at the top of this page was cropped from the photo above, which I found on a web­site that may be called Ty­pog­raphy Rules! The en­tire page is one photo and a few hun­dred words on ty­pog­raphy from what ap­pears to be an aban­doned project by someone named Steph Guiney.


2 thoughts on “posting online ain’t the same as being in print”

    • J

      I do not own the copy­right to that sketch.

      I do not re­member the spe­cific place where I found it but it and vari­a­tions on it were all over the in­ternet when I did find it.

      Hope that helps.



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