Growing up in the shadows of the smokestacks of the mammoth Pittsburgh steel industry, it seemed like there could be no end to the dominance of Jones & Laughlin, US Steel, Babcock and Wilcox, and their ilk. But they, and their stacks, and their smoke are seen no more along the rivers of Western Pennsylvania.
78 rpm vinyl records gave way to 45’s. Then LP’s. Then 8-tracks. Then cassettes. Then CD’s. Then mp3’s and other digital downloads. Now, music no longer requires a hard media at all. What became of those who produced the high tech of their day? They adapted, withered, or vanished.
And what of Eastman Kodak, Fotomat, and even MySpace? In 2006, MySpace was bought out for $580 million dollars. Then came Facebook. In 2011, MySpace sold for an estimated $35 million.
In recent years, having ravaged dozens of stalwart companies and destroyed entire industries, the gods of change began to focus on the publishing industry with one of their favorite weapons, technology.
The response from the industry was much like the other dinosaur industries of music and photography…”this too shall pass.” But it didn’t. It isn’t. And it won’t.
And so, publishers began to reluctantly adapt to digital technologies, but in essence, their best efforts have been to produce digital photocopies of the paper and ink variety of books. And charging a handsome fee to boot. Most are still missing the landscape of the new technology. And that is...interactivity.
With its iPad, Apple redefined the publishing business. The Kindle at that point was a good reader for the digital photocopies of print books that publishers were producing. But Apple laid out a new challenge to publishers to produce eBooks that were beautiful and aesthetic throughout. eBooks where there could be a mix of text, slides, maps, video, audio, - a panorama of media. And the biggest game changer of all, a book experience that is interactive.
While 64% of publishers are creating digital books, only 21% are actively creating these “enhanced” eBooks. And maybe the greatest change of perspective needed to avoid extinction will be for the book industry to realize they are no longer in the publishing business, but in the “experience” business.
The Wall Street Journal has an excellent article on this phenomenon.
The change that is upon us is far more than the digitizing of text to be read on a screen that mimics the page of a hardback book. The entire experience of “reading” is changing. Reading is becoming much more than merely decoding text.
Your children and grandchildren will be profoundly affected by these changes in the way they consume knowledge. In the way they learn and think. And we will be as well.
What happens to education when the professor can be embedded in the textbook along with discussions among students unlimited by geography, links to other knowledge resources, notes from other readers…?
Pretty exciting, eh? It’s big. Perhaps the biggest thing since Gutenberg?
This video gives a glimpse of the impact of interactive eBooks on the curriculum of the future.