Month: April 2006

The pace of change and the approaching future

While discussing the future with a colleague yesterday I accidentally said something that had been swimming in my head for some time. It was a simple idea, that maybe the current change is not really the CHANGE but the symptom of change that happened some time ago and the following through of all the implications of that change.

That change as I see it was the ability to easily create data in digital format. Simply being able to sit at a computer and write a document and rewrite, easily cut and paste elements within the document, send it to others with complete ease (and relatively cheaply) combined with the ability to post that data to a public audience without marked technical skills is the essential basis for this explosion in blogs and e-books and digital news.

Without the ability to write thoughts, profound or banal, easily and with features that masses of people can use, the internet would be a poorer place.

It was a comment by Emily Bell in a podcast that Jeff Jarvis directed vistitors to his blog to that really struck home. She talked of an industrial revolution phase. Now that is perhaps an over statement of the case but it strikes me that this technological change is a good example of Amara’s Law that:

We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.

And it’s not just on the content supply side that the effect of the digital change is evident in publishing. Book publishers themselves have taken advantage of the change and are doing so even more. Layout and design done on computer has been with us since the 1980’s and it has been as much responsible for the revolution as easily exploitable digital content. It is now easier by far to exploit that content and to create inexpensive multiple versions of the content for use in a variety of contexts jobs previously done in a laborious way have become simple and mundane (and this has resulted in massively increased numbers of new titles per year as the cost of design and production came down).

That is why the article I read today here by Tom Coates made so much sense in terms of publishing.

It does mean that change is happening just not at the frenetic pace we assume and that the source and causes of this change are more prosaic than the currently fixated upon sources.

There are other implications too. It means that most publishing firms should have a better idea than they do of the direction that publishing is heading; and perhaps they do, they just aren’t telling us. In many ways if one had sat down a few years ago and considered the ease of creation, the ease of using layout and design programs that projects like lulu.com could have been foreseen and challenged.

So publishers should relax? Or rather prepare and watch, think and be ready to act when it becomes necessary (As the Guardian has impressively with Commentisfree! Or if you have foresight, resources and ability (and a good idea) pre-epmpt all the newcomers and act before them.

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Google Vs The World (And Book Publishers)

Businessweek has a decent article which tell us that book publishers are dead set against Google Book Search!

Google also has managed to rile up the publishing industry. Book publishers and authors have been up in arms against Google since early 2005, after the company announced its ambitious Google Print for Libraries project, now called Google Books. The project included plans to scan millions of books from five of the world’s largest libraries and make them searchable on Google’s Web site — including copyrighted texts.

It also highlights the possible partnerships against Google.

Good read

Waterstone’s & its founder

The founder of Waterstone’s is intent on repurchasing the bookseller if reports here and here are to be believed.

The UK retail book market is undergoing considerable change right now. The threats from online booksellers, and supermarket’s who sell books too, dedicated bookshops especially independents are in an increasingly difficult place.

I have always admired Waterstones as bookshops and would be eager to see ho they would evolve under the direction of their founder once again.

The future of the book

Those seriously interested in the direction of books and book publishing should check out the website of the Institute for the Future of the Book Project and their blog which is great!

It is really good to see some serious thought going into the process of figuring out where books need to go. Certainly it casts a better glance on the future than both the articles looked at already today.

Anyways check it out!

Washington Post on E-Readers

The Washington Post has an article talking up the prospects of e-readers and offering links to two of the main contenders the Sony e-reader and the iRex Technologies iliad.

According to the Post these new e-readers move:

beyond the functionality of an ordinary book, the reader can enlarge text for the visually challenged as well as provide features normally found in a laptop or tablet computer, such as wireless Internet access, memory card storage and text search.

It’s not a great piece and offers only the input of Random House on the publishers’ side of affairs. Nonetheless it’s worth taking a quick look at if only to see what mainstream media makes of e-readers.