Publishing students talk industry changes at Word Vancouver

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Hundreds of books, magazines and comics covered tables in Library Square Sunday in support of literacy in Canada.

The 18th annual Word on the Street Vancouver festival attracted large crowds to the downtown library, including Langara College students in the publishing and journalism programs.

Students volunteered their time to run booths promoting their programs and also gained some insight into the literary industry.

Industry going digital

Although the festival focused on print literature, volunteers made it clear that online writing is an unavoidable market in today’s world.

“Print in certain segments lasts long-term but the web is huge,” said Darren Bernaerdt, coordinator for the school’s publishing program.

With changes in the industry geared towards web audiences, Bernaerdt says the publishing program has had to adjust the program to meet industry demands.

The program has developed courses for publishing students focused on web development and content.

“I really think the two can coexist,” said Langara publishing student Trisha Baldwin, though she adds that some magazines now have a harder time satisfying the print side of the industry.

“Print can’t keep up with the pace of the internet.”

Baldwin, who worked in the publishing industry in China for five years before applying to Langara, originally applied for the publishing program to learn about the digital and online component of magazines.

Industry players agree

Cara Colcleugh, a former writer and now promoter for Common Ground magazine, stresses the importance of an online presence.

Common Ground only posts archives online from their print edition of the magazine she says, but it’s still important for younger generations to be able to access past articles.

Sylvia Skene, project coordinator for the Magazine Association of BC, works with publishing students in the province on a regular basis.

She is currently organizing seminars catered to teaching people about working with the online component of the industry, including uploading video to the web.

However despite most magazines having an online presence, she says, “some don’t think it’s worth the money or fits their demographic.”

Challenged by having to produce two formats, it isn’t always economical for publishers to create a website or use multiple social media platforms to promote their work.

Although Baldwin is keen to learn about working with online publishing components, she doesn’t deny that the web has its downsides.

One downside she finds in the digital side of the industry is the demand to produce it at a quick pace, “which doesn’t leave a lot of time to fact check or to triangulate sources.”

“Any Joe Schmo can be a reporter if he’s got a camera and posts to Twitter,” she said, adding that the use of social media also makes it easier for news feeds to republish doctored multi-media.

Literature anything but dead

But despite the changes in the industry, Word on the Street still proved to benefit all who attended.

“Word on the Street is creating awareness for writing words,” said Bernaerdt. “It’s [also] the chance to come out and meet publishers and authors.”

Brendan Glyn-Jones, another publishing student at Langara, found it encouraging to see the number of publications who exhibited at the festival, proving that the industry isn’t dead yet.

The festival also allowed students to get an idea of the publishing industry in Vancouver, Baldwin’s intentions of attending the event.

“It’s a small market,” she said, who aspires to eventually be able to work in the industry in Toronto or New York, if not Vancouver.

To long-time Langara teacher Bernaerdt, publishing is “everything.”

“It’s an opportunity to explore stories in more depth than what you would find more in the news realm,” he said.

Reported by Kayla Isomura

Below hundreds of people enjoy Word Vancouver 2013 at Library Square.

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