In a wonderful turn of events, we now hear that bookstores in Seattle are doing well again. It turns out, in the shadows of the world’s largest online bookseller, Amazon employees are choosing to browse the shelves at their local bookseller rather than buy online, and buying.
Efficiency is not everything. Shopping can also be an experience.
I’ve written a few times about the future of publishing. Once to highlight concepts by Bonnier, another time to highlight a talk given by Steven Berlin-Johnson. I now work at a publisher, GigaOM produces reporting on the tech industry and GigaOM Pro produces long-form research reports. The long-form research reports are an interesting challenge. Because they are research, they do not lend themselves to all the digital portability that comes with a blog post coming out of a modern CMS. While it’s pretty easy to get a good discussion around a timely blog post, either on the site or across the social web, it’s harder to do so around a longer piece such as a research report.
Which is what makes the video below of a GigaOM reporter Colleen Taylor getting a demo of Inkling’s new 2.0 version of their digital textbook product.
Not only are the interactive features interesting, the social hooks are also impressive. This really is the book re-invented.
Seth Godin’s is a prolific writer and a champion for the book business. That’s why he wants to save it, but not in a format you would recognize. The Domino Project is a joint venture with Amazon to rethink the way books are, “built, sold and spread.” In a piece written earlier this week, Seth proposes a future evolution for the library (“no longer a warehouse for dead books.”) and librarian (“producer, concierge, connector, teacher and impresario”). It’s a refreshing vision and, I would agree with Seth here, “the chance of a lifetime.”
The next library is a house for the librarian with the guts to invite kids in to teach them how to get better grades while doing less grunt work. And to teach them how to use a soldering iron or take apart something with no user serviceable parts inside. And even to challenge them to teach classes on their passions, merely because it’s fun. This librarian takes responsibility/blame for any kid who manages to graduate from school without being a first-rate data shark.
The next library is filled with so many web terminals there’s always at least one empty. And the people who run this library don’t view the combination of access to data and connections to peers as a sidelight–it’s the entire point.
Wouldn’t you want to live and work and pay taxes in a town that had a library like that? The vibe of the best Brooklyn coffee shop combined with a passionate raconteur of information? There are one thousand things that could be done in a place like this, all built around one mission: take the world of data, combine it with the people in this community and create value.
We need librarians more than we ever did. What we don’t need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime.
Adam Gopnik has a survey in this week’s New Yorker running down a few of the recent books about the internet and divides them into three schools of thought:
The Never-Betters believe that we’re on the brink of a new utopia, where information will be free and democratic, news will be made from the bottom up, love will reign, and cookies will bake themselves.
The Better-Nevers think that we would have been better off if the whole thing had never happened, that the world that is coming to an end is superior to the one that is taking its place, and that, at a minimum, books and magazines create private space for minds in ways that twenty-second bursts of information don’t.
The Ever-Wasers insist that at any moment in modernity something like this is going on, and that a new way of organizing data and connecting users is always thrilling to some and chilling to others—that something like this is going on is exactly what makes it a modern moment.
Seeing the title of this blog is everwas, I think you know where I come in. The arrival of the internet and hopes and fears that we collectively foist upon this new technology is something we’ve seen before.
The printing press, the telephone, the radio, the television, the internet, and now the cell phone. Each successive wave of communications technology push and pulls our society to new behaviors. I read somewhere when the telephone was first introduced, no one knew how to start a conversation with the person on the other end of the line. For a few years, “Ahoy!” was the commonly adopted opener, choosing to go with nautical terminology maybe to acknowledge the fact that we were all sailing into new waters together.
Eventually we adopt and assimilate the new technology into our daily life much like the body develops an immunity to a new virus. We grow stronger and learn to control our tools rather than let them control us. What was once shiny and new becomes less so. Gopnik continues to draw the arc of history,
Yet everything that is said about the Internet’s destruction of “interiority” was said for decades about television, and just as loudly. Jerry Mander’s “Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television,” in the nineteen-seventies, turned on television’s addictive nature and its destruction of viewers’ inner lives; a little later, George Trow proposed that television produced the absence of context, the disintegration of the frame—the very things, in short, that the Internet is doing now. And Bill McKibben ended his book on television by comparing watching TV to watching ducks on a pond (advantage: ducks), in the same spirit in which Nicholas Carr leaves his computer screen to read “Walden.”
Now television is the harmless little fireplace over in the corner, where the family gathers to watch “Entourage.” TV isn’t just docile; it’s positively benevolent. This makes you think that what made television so evil back when it was evil was not its essence but its omnipresence. Once it is not everything, it can be merely something. The real demon in the machine is the tirelessness of the user. A meatless Monday has advantages over enforced vegetarianism, because it helps release the pressure on the food system without making undue demands on the eaters. In the same way, an unplugged Sunday is a better idea than turning off the Internet completely, since it demonstrates that we can get along just fine without the screens, if only for a day.
Further Reading (I’ve added a few books of my own, feel free to suggest more in the comments):
Skeuonym – an expression left over from an older technology, no longer used. Examples include, “rewinding the tape,” “dialing the phone, “filming a movie,” or “cranking the engine.”
Anti-civilization Collapsitarian – folks like the Unabomber who view technology with suspicion and fear that mass adoption is the beginning of the end and seek to hasten the collapse of society built up around the worship of technology.
The book was thought-provoking and I’m sure I’ll be referring it to again and again. My full review here on Good Reads.
Much to the chagrin of my wife, I took over the remote on our internet-enabled TV (old macbook hooked up via HD cable to the back of our flatscreen) to catch highlights from the Web 2 Summit taking place this week in San Francisco.
Steven Berlin-Johnson’s “high order bit” on the early history of book “technology” and lessons it provides for opportunities for e-book publishers today was most compelling. The Kindle represents the most advanced form of electronic packaging of ideas today. Kindle books ship with a full index, mp3 sound files of the book being read, instant download and connections to related data via the web.
What’s missing? Deep links to ideas within the book so that it can be used as a reference. The internet didn’t really take off until (1) The World Wide Web made it easy to link to other sites and pages and, (2) Google figured out by ranking the number of links to a page and the keywords used, they could calculate PageRank.
I wrote about two concept videos which suggested one possible Future of Print. If someone isn’t working on this now, they should.