6 Trends For the Publishing Industry

Kevin Kelly

Kevin Kelly

Kevin Kelly, former Editor and now Senior Maverick at Wired magazine, presented an impressive look at 6 trends that are currently affecting the publishing industry.  He made the telling comment that all of his future works will be in digital form, and said that his latest book, What Technology Wants, is the last printed book that he will write.

Here are his six trends.

  1. Screening.  Screens are everywhere.  We are moving from being people of the book to people of the screen.

    Who would have thought 20 years ago that people would read a book on the phone?  Every flat surface will eventually have a screen on it.  We have not yet begun to see the extent to which screens will permeate the culture.  You cannot tell in advance what is going to be shown on a sctreen–a web page, movie, book….  We are moving from an oral culture to a visual one.
  2. Interacting.  We now interact not only with our fingertips, but with gestures (for example on smartphones), and even with our whole body.  Reading will expand to a bodily conversation.   We also interact with our voices.  You can have a Kindle read to you.  Audiobook sales are rising 5% per year.  Who would have imagined that this would become a major way to read?  In 2011, 2 billion camera phones are in the hands of users.  Eyetracking is becoming a viable way to interact.  Soon we will have adaptive text, in which books look back at us.  Although interactive media failed in a previous era, technology has allowed it to return and be successful.  Now we have nonlinear narratives–alternate endings–to books.  There is far more reading going on than we realize.


  3. Sharing.  Everything is looking in the cloud for information, and the cloud is looking back at us, which is the basis for all sorts of social engagement.   Reading is becoming much more social.  Wikipedia is a single book with 27 million pages.  (Each page can be thought of a little book.)  Eventually all text will be in blue, i.e. hyperlinked, and all books will be linked into one large text–a library.  We read socially, and we must write socially.  We are only at the beginning of sharing.  Everything increases in value by being shared.Accessing
  4. Accessing.  We gain much more value by accessing information rather than owning it.  Why own something if you have instant all time access?  This is huge shift and a fundamental difference in this economy.  For $20,000 you can store every book on the planet.  We will soon see everything available–why will anybody own it?Flowing
  5. Flowing.  Files flow into pages, which flow into streams.  Some well known flows are Twitter, RSS, and Facebook streams.  Books will operate in the same environment.  Flows go through in streams, which are constantly updated and amended.  Our own lives will be a stream of chronological data.  Streams go everywhere and are never finished; they are constantly in flux.
  6. Generating (not copying).  Today we have more selection, more quality, and more access–a complete renaissance for reading.  There is no better time for readers than now.  Everybody is benefiting except the producers, and everything is moving towards free.  Publishers are not ready for the idea that books will sell for 99 cents.  The Internet is the world’s largest copying machine.  Everything will be copied.  The only value will be in generatives, which must be generated in context and cannot be copied, for example:
  • Immediacy.  You can get anything for free if you wait long enough.
  • Personalization.
  • Authentication.
  • Findability.  Amazon is selling the findability of a book.
  • Embodiment.  Music is free but its physical embodiment (such as in a performance) is not.
  • Interpretation.  Software is free, but a manual often is not. (O’Reilly’s Missing Manual series has been very successful.)
  • Accessibility.
  • Attention/patronage.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

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