This article is a re-post from Q. David Bowers’s “Bowers on Collecting” weekly column on Coin Update.
The following comes from an article that I wrote for Coin World a few years ago:
“The pen is mightier than the sword,” it has been said. Today, the pen, or its equivalent in the printed word, has a lot of competition, especially from television and the Internet. But has the printed word been replaced? Are books, newspapers, and magazines still useful? This column is about numismatics, but first, some relevant (I think) digression.
I believe the answer is that each has its place, and some media are useful for one thing and not another. If I want to learn about a rocket launching or a volcanic eruption or how the Red Sox are making out in a confrontation with the Yankees, television is the obvious choice. I don’t want to wait even 24 hours to read about these things in a newspaper, and I certainly don’t want to bide my time until books on these subjects pop up on the shelves of Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, or Borders.
The Internet is of limited use in such timely events. During the memorable Red Sox–Yankees encounter, I watched most of the games play-by-play on the Fox TV channel, but occasionally made a trip to my computer to see what was happening in the world of e-mail. The CNN website on the Internet still posted information about how the baseball games were to begin, innings after each started.
On the other hand, if I want to check on the price of my pet bank stock, the Community Bank & Trust Company, a New Hampshire regional institution, all I have to do is punch CBNH into an Internet site, and I get the latest trading news. If I want to find out a lot about Amos Kendall, once a prominent figure in American history, the Google site on the Internet eclipses anything I can locate in a book or on television. Few newscasters have probably ever heard of him.
As to books, they can open a world of fantasy as my mind can add to the printed text to create a vivid scene. I read the book, Gone With the Wind, before I saw the film. When I did see the screen version in a theatre, I was disappointed, as my mind-trip had been more exciting, never mind that the film was superb. When I was a teenager, I was deeply moved by A. Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, the first of the Sherlock Holmes stories. I doubt if a television enactment would have had the same effect.
In numismatics, I have been active in all of these media. I’ve been on network television more times than I can remember, and certain features I have been a part of, especially involving the S.S. Central America treasure and, separately, gold and gold coins, are regularly re-run on the History and Discovery channels. I’ve done radio interviews and features, including National Public Radio. I have a continuing presence on the “Dave’s Notes” page on the American Numismatic Rarities website. I’ve written quite a few books. Also, I am a newspaper columnist, as here—in the longest-running column by any single author in numismatic history (it’s been over 40 years here in Coin World).
What I say in print has always garnered far more attention and has resulted in more feedback than my comments in broadcast or electronic media.
It is my belief that the most useful and longest-lasting impressions are still through the printed word. Recently Sam Pennington, the editor of Maine Antique Digest, printed an article, “Exit Polling,” analyzing those who attended a large annual antiques show. On the first and heaviest day of attendance, 45% said they learned of the event from an ad in an antiques publication, 28% from printed cards mailed out by dealers, and 27% from local print advertising. The poll continued for several days. On the last day, when the attendance was more of a local or casual nature, the results changed, but printed advertisements and articles still overwhelmed other media, although the Internet polled 11%. “Radio and TV advertising, a big expense, did not get a single response.”
From all I can tell, the printed word is, indeed, here to stay, securely nestled among other media, new and old, creating many opportunities to get information.