There's a perpetual tension between the technical openness of the
web as designed by Tim Berners-Lee, and the desire of publishers to somehow "go
back" to the control over formatting and distribution they enjoyed with print. Nick Carr commented on the matter again
recently, and it's important to remember that some people think the openness of the web is still be up for grabs.
This morning Andrew Chapman over at Thoughtplay sent me a link to the latest in a long line of experiments by the publishing industry to pretend that the web is made of paper - iMag. Part of an already-overlong tradition from the Columbian Missourian's EMprint to Microsoft's brave efforts to return the New York Times online to the limitations of the print edition, iMag is a way of presenting a magazine online so that it looks and behaves as much as possible like the paper version. In case it doesn't by now go without saying...this is not a good idea. Yes, publishers used to make an awful lot of money selling packages of content when the limitations of printing-press technology happened to favour that approach. Trying to transplant that model to the web at this stage is absurd.
Worst of all, I rather fear we're going to see more, not less, of this approach as publishers wake up to the fact that by merely combining Firefox and Greasemonkey users can do whatever they like with HTML pages.