Tuesday, December 18, 2007

2007: The year we embraced Technology

When book publishing historians look back at 2007, there will be much for them to remark on. But, in my view, the overwhelming theme of this year in the book industry is that 2007 is the year that technology (in general) went from being feared to being embraced.

And, as I think through this, it didn't just happen in one place. It happened at all levels of the 'value chain'. It happened at the publisher level, at the author level, at the retail level, and at the consumer level.

Let's consider some of the following:
  1. At the beginning of 2007, how many of you knew what a social network was? (I didn't really)
  2. At the beginning of 2007, how many of you either wrote or read (or even considered) blogs as a main source of information? (not me)
  3. I'd love to know how many self publishing service companies there were at the beginning of 2007 compared to what seem like 'hundreds' now.
  4. How many of you had your entire concept of personal technology design turned on it's ear by the iPhone, even though you knew it was coming?
  5. How many publishers are actively converting titles, and changing their workflows for digital distribution now, as compared to last year?
  6. How many would anticipate at the beginning of 2007, that an e-reading device would DOMINATE the industry dialogue? (I would have laughed if someone suggested this)
  7. How many of us thought that the One Laptop Per Child or $100 Laptop (OLPC) was just wishful thinking, and couldn't possibly expect that hundreds of thousands of them would be shipped into EMERGING MARKETS?
  8. How many thought that there would be realistic - as opposed to theoretical - conversations about new publishing business models?

I have to admit that I didn't see most of this coming, but now that it has, it's not too hard to see where it might lead us.

So, what caused all this? Well, I would argue that it was just a handful of vanguard companies that started down their individual roads with their ideas a couple of years ago. And this year, they came together to show (the rest of us) that this is no longer science fiction - it is real stuff.

Some of the credit needs to go to all those publishing conferences this year. In an earlier post, I complained about there being too many of them, but looking back, it was really what we all needed. Starting with the Google Unbound conference at the NY Public Library, and progressing on through the O'Reilly, 'Tools of Change' conference, and even to the ECPA's Publishing University in November, the dialogue dramatically changed from denial, to grudging acceptance, to foregone conclusion. Book Publishing is at a cross roads, and, our very survival as a relevant industry is hanging in the balance.

All in all, it was really a year that book publishing historians will look back on as one of the more important in the industry's evolution.


Joe Wikert said...

Hi Fran. Interesting post. For me it's one of those "forest for the trees" things. I get so caught up in trying to take care of the day-to-day responsibilities that I don't realize all the change that's happening around me. When you see it in list format like you presented it, well, you start to realize the pace is indeed picking up!

Fran Toolan said...

Hi Joe,

I think we all get caught up in the day-to-day, which is why I'm 'trying' to take a step back. I think next year is going to get very interesting!

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree that it's been the year of technology. I can't wait to see what the future has in store for publishing!