Welcome to the revolution … finally

December 22, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

Blogger Mark Bertils and the Association of Canadian Publisher’s Nic Boshart both have year-end posts up at the BookNet Canada blog. Bertils and Boshart agree that 2009 was the year the publishing industry finally cottoned on to the digital revolution, allowing eBooks to become an overnight sensation after only 20 years.

Boshart points out that there was no technological revolution in 2009; the revolution was in the way the publishing industry changed its attitude toward digital products:

So what did happen in 2009 to digital publishing? Well, the dead-beat older sibling of all other digital media kind-of got his act together. After a couple years of bumming around, working at the 7-11 and playing Zork in Mom and Dad’s basement, digital reading took some night courses and finally graduated high school. It was a good year for digital publishing, but I wouldn’t call it great. The biggest change this year, and why people are freaking out, is that reality is sinking in.

The reality, Boshart says, is that “[o]ur lives are digital now. Books didn’t help to make it that way, like news did, but books are expected to move along and adapt to the way people live their lives.” Here Boshart beaches himself on the rocks of a paradox. He admits that the digital environment is useful for newsgathering, since its nature is to provide fast access to constantly updated information. But this is not, he goes on, how we consume books:

The difference with publishing is that quick, easy access doesn’t matter that much for a book. A book is long-form, it’s meant to be taken in slowly. We can read snippets of it here and there, but we still are stuck with the whole thing for as long as it takes to finish it. Readers don’t want to click around for more information from a different source, they want to finish the book for the whole story. Convenience is not the issue for the book, like it is for news or music.

Because we now live digital lives, Boshart argues, books must find a way to exist in the digital sphere, regardless of whether that is an appropriate arena for them.

Bertils, meanwhile, argues that the publishing industry’s latter-day acceptance of digital technology did not make 2009 a watershed year so much as it set the stage for large strides forward in 2010:

2010 is going to be a massive year for digital publishing. … The little guys like ECW and Dundurn have been shooting the lights out with their digital activities. The big guys are working through the Kubler-Ross model but they get it now – it is life or death. The technology companies are jockeying for opportunities. The start-ups are hungry to get traction.

Crash-Boom-Pow! What’s it going to be?

What’s it going to be, indeed? One can only hope that Bertils’ “Crash-Boom-Pow” will manifest itself as a kind of generative big bang, rather than the sound of complete collapse.


2 Responses to “Welcome to the revolution … finally”
  1. Finn Harvor says:

    Using your link to the BookNet site and then pressing my Readability button (a doohickey that makes the type on my screen large and legible but sometimes scrolls down several posts), I came across the following:

    “The only problem is that you’ll need to use a file with its XML declaration information set up for a schema validation rather than using the normal ONIX declaration.”

    Ahh, yes.

    I think one reason book lovers are in fact book lovers is not so much antagonism toward new technology, but fear that its sensibility will take over, dominate, and discard what was constructed in the past…. Hopefully, the changes 2010 will bring will be of a balanced sort, and traditional and digital media will happily co-exist. And hopefully, too, new media will bring new opportunities, both for publishers and writers.

    Apart from that, best wishes for the holidays, SWB. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and a happy New Year.

  2. Nic Boshart says:

    That’s weird, I have a tattoo that says beached on the rocks of paradox. How did you know?
    Happy holidays! Looking forward to another year of rags.