A recent article in “The Walrus,” Jon Evan’s Jon Evan’s Apocalypse Soon, draws the conclusion that “the oncoming digital meteor will hit today’s publishing industry hard, and its dinosaurs are going to die.”
Strangely, Evans points out that one solution to impending annihilation would be to scale back quantity and “only publish good books” which seems counter-intuitive for digital culture long tail theorists. To mangle an old saw, one person’s good book is another’s trash. I’m skeptical that publishers, let alone individuals, would agree on what an objective measurement of good looks like and I’m apprehensive about whether uniform consensus would suit all my quirky reading whims.
Evans suggests that “[t]he enormous and lasting success of ink on paper is almost entirely due to one thing: contrast”. Trying out a new Sony eReader (with eInk-based interface) propels Evans to conclude that the end for the paper book is near without even touching on the fact that at this point, content for this perfectly contrasting display is somewhat…more limited than content available in traditional forms.
Also worthy of notice: most publishers are already working on their own digital strategy—but that doesn’t necessarily involve authors putting books online for free (a beef which is the basis for much of Evans’ feeling that publishers, particularly his, are behaving like oblivious brontosauruses). Some publishers (e.g. Baen Books) like free content models, some don’t. As in any other area of culture (particularly—ahem—digital), different approaches ensure long-term industry survival and only time will tell which strategy was the best.
Because, you know, I probably would have put money on this guy to survive a while…