Google has recently introduced a new experimental product in Google Labs called Fast Flip. It's a news reading service that allows users to scan pages from the sites of Google's print partners. The idea is to replicate the experience of physically flipping through magazine or newspaper.
Fast Flip's mission is interesting to me in our so-called Web 2.0 world where the hyperlink reigns primary and the static experience of print is re-imagined as a secondary form of information consumption. Could it be, perhaps, that wehuman beings are still attached to the tactile pleasure of holding a printed artifact?
My personal opinion has always been that the printed artifact will never go away. It will simply become a secondary way to read.
We'll see where Fast Flip ends up; after all, not everything in Google Labs gains traction to make it onto the primary features list on Google.com. If I were a betting (wo)man, I'd wager that Fast Flip won't make it. It's just another version of all the rest of the quickie publishing tools out there that convert print pdf's into flippable digital pages. That it's Google providing the additional service of aggregating the information is a mere nicety that doesn't fundamentally alter the fact that it's an existing technology that creates a silly digital version of a printed piece. Magazines and newspapers that are no more than digital copies of their printed pieces deliver poor online experiences that take advantage of little that the digital medium has to offer. I'm not sure what value Fast Flip has as a news aggregator that RSS feeds do not provide and in a more relevant way.
Google's ostensible motive for Fast Flip is to find a middle ground with print publishers who complain that Google makes money off their content without compensating them. I wonder if somewhere in Googleland, someone is taking a stance on the future of print.