Monday, July 7, 2008

the fading yearbook

I have one for every year. Chances are good that if you went to college, you have four of them, too. They may, however, be a dying breed.

ONE fixture of college life is rapidly disappearing. Yearbooks, those beloved annual publications recording the events and people of the academic year, are suffering from plummeting print-runs, or are even being dropped altogether, in colleges across the country.

The phenomenon is due in part to the price of the hard-bound volumes, typically as high as $75. For cash-strapped students facing ever-rising tuition and living costs they are a luxury that many can’t afford. But the main cause is not the cost so much as the replacement of print with electronic media by and for the Facebook and MySpace generation. With social networks linking hundreds of friends and offering digital photographs and videos the traditional yearbook looks like a bit of a dinosaur.

After more than a hundred years of publication Purdue University, in Indiana, has published its last yearbook, as has nearby DePauw University. Even where colleges have tried to adapt to the new media by, for instance, including DVDs summing up the year along with the print version, yearbooks are attracting few students, readers or editors.

Yearbooks were figured in under the mysterious "room and board" heading, so we didn't really think about how much they cost. Sites like Facebook and MySpace are being partially blamed. Once again, new technology replacing the written page. But those social sites won't be around forever, and the books will last a long, long time.

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