Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Power To The People

I have watched the tumultuous upheaval of the publishing industry with a bit of distance and a lot of interest. Interest because I hope to be among the published masses someday, and distance because I don't think it's going to be any time soon. (At least if my struggles with my WIP continue unabated.) It'll be a year or two or ten before I will be able to call myself published. But by then, what will the industry look like? More knowledgeable people than me talk about this endlessly, and I'm not here really to add what little I know to the conversation.

What I do want to bring, however, is a little perspective. I tend to think in analogies, so here's one for you.

Once phones looked like this:
 And it was amazing! People couldn't conceive of such a remarkable thing. Some people even called it the Devil box, they were so sure it was evil inspired. You could pick it up and have to tell the operator who you wanted to call, and wait for them to direct your call to the appropriate place.

After a few years the phone grew to this:

You could dial the place you wanted to call yourself. And for 70 years or so, this was the standard, with slight variations.

Then along came mobile phones, phones you could actually walk around with, instead of being tied with a cord to a base and telephone line.

Once cell phones looked like this:
And we poor peons who couldn't afford to even think about such a luxury oohed and ahhed over it.

Fast forward to today:

This generation 4 iPhone can do more than several 1980s computers put together could. And that's besides being a mobile phone.

My point is when the technology began, we looked at it in wonder. How could it possibly get better than this, we said. And yet it did. Again and again and again. And it will continue to evolve as consumers demand different things from the phone industry.

This is happening in the publishing industry. We had a standard, a framework that everyone recognized as the only possibility. And yet times change. People's demands change. All sorts of factors go into this force for evolution.

 In my mind we are at the equivalent of the 1980s cell phone revolution in terms of publishing. There are things going on now that we never thought would happen. But they are. Do we know where they'll end up? We can guess and conjecture, but like watching an old episode of the Jetsons, we won't know if our ideas are too tied to our present experience, or if they're truly revolutionary. (Watch an episode, and see if you don't see things that we already to better or differently than they thought when they made the show. Cash money vs. a card? Or just scanning something in your phone?)

That doesn't mean don't write or publish or submit or self-publish e-books. Life still has to be lived. And without that demand for the industry, it would die out. I just think it'll be fascinating to see in 10, 20, 50 years where the publishing/writing industry has gone. I hope you'll all be along on the ride with me.

Any comments on this post will count toward our mini contest!


  1. Being a software developer by trade before DD was born, I have to say that this article struck a chord for me. There is so much amazing technology out there!

  2. My sister an I were just talking about how some elderly people over a certain age really have trouble navigating the internet and we thought it might be because they didn't have it when they were young. Then our eyes got wide as we wondered what new technologies there will be when we are over __ (fill in unthinkable age here) -that will be hard for us to get the hang of. "Granny just can't get the hang of the hovercraft!"



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