Friday, October 15, 2010

Thinking about the future of publishing

In my opinion, to quote Stewart Brand at the first Hackers' Conference in 1984, "On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other."

What we are going to be seeing with EPUB as an open format, the Internet as a distribution method and iPads and other devices as consumption devices is a huge push toward the free side of the equation in the book industry. Making and distributing a book is going to be dirt cheap compared to traditional paper based publishing.

The question is establishing value. This is the challenge to journalists already, and will be to book publishers and librarians. In a sea of free information and the potential for that wave, that has already hit newspapers, to start washing over the book publishing industry the whole idea of monetization has to change. To make money you will have to be really, really useful. If you are not you will be routed around. You will have to find another monetization strategy, a way to embrace free.

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