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History Repeating with Book Publishing's Mobile Efforts

A Computerworld blog post from Mike Elgan looks at recent mobile announcements from book publishers. From the perspective of technology, watching book publishers slowly grapple with the tentative migration of books to mobile platforms is painful. Interestingly, the comments attached to the piece are almost all more conservative.

The music industry was holding on to physical CD sales so tightly that they let Apple run away with control over digital distribution and the future of their industry.

It looks like the book publishing industry is about to do the same thing.

Publishing industry: The book isn’t the paper. It’s the content! Why don’t you understand your own product?

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  • bowerbird

    finally somebody speaks the truth!

    people think i’m cranky because i rag on these efforts –
    which means they don’t understand my sense of humor,
    since i find all of this corporate bungling to be hilarious
    — but surely someone else notices this incompetence…

    thanks for pointing to this peter…

    -bowerbird

  • http://www.carolynjewel.com Carolyn Jewel

    It’s really not as hopeless as you make it out. Not that there isn’t room for lots and lots of concern. But, then, Penguin UK is doing a day of bookish experimentation. Worth checking out I’d say.

  • http://www.cabi.org David

    I think there is a very big difference between the music industry and the book industry. Music didn’t start in physical form… You played it/sang it/hummed it. People listened. Then came the notation and way to encode the tunes in stable format for others to reproduce. Then came the ability to record the vibrations of air molecules, and to accurately reproduce those vibrations so instances of music could be captured. And that came really late in the development of our culture. Books ARE different. They have been around since we worked out how to put pigment on cave walls…

    How did you learn to read? When you were very little your Mum/Dad stuck a brightly coloured textured thing into your hands. It was chewable. It had all sorts of interesting things on it; images, textures and strange squiggly lines. You loved it. Before you could speak, before you could understand the symbols, you were handling a book. And you probably went through a great many of them before you ever consciously sat down to read.

    The point is that your mental and physical development, your understanding of the world is at some level intimately bound up with your first experience of abstract objects that you came across in those first books. The content is a very important thing, but the experience is equally important. You are not going to give an ebook to a baby. Not because of the fact that said baby will probably deconstruct the reader in a rapid manner, but because that’s not the experience you are wanting to give out.

    The future of the book is exciting and interesting and above all, COMPLEX. Elgan doesn’t understand books as a product either when he tries to boil the argument down to “it’s all about the content”. 16,000 year old cave drawings tell me it’s a bit more involved than that. The transmission of data/knowledge/understanding, via a physical medium is in a very real way, hard-wired into our development as a species.