The future of reading. Every reader’s favorite topic and worst nightmare. Yes? I’m sick of hearing the technophiles and the technophobes squaring off and getting nowhere. In the meantime, things are happening. Reading habits are changing and the publishing industry is wailing about the loss of ad revenue and how no one reads newspapers anymore while the tech industry flashes their gadgets and coos, we’ll save you. But the tech industry is not going to save the publishing industry, they’ll just help the ship sink faster.
Now before someone goes and gets her undies in a bunch, let me just remind everyone that I am a heavy reader who loves her books. But, I also own a Kindle and I like it in spite of its imperfections. I am also curious about the unfortunately named iPad and would love to try one out. If you haven’t seen Emily’s post on her thoughts about the device, be sure to check it out. She’s in the publishing business and knows which way the wind is blowing.
But it is not just books, it is also newspapers and magazines. I don’t know about you but I haven’t subscribed to a newspaper in over 15 years. Why would I want the papers piling up every week when I only read certain sections and can get that news online? As for magazines, well part of it is I don’t have time the other part is that I can’t stand having the issues piling up in the corner because there are several articles I want to keep and I can’t decide whether to cut the articles out and file them somewhere or just save the whole magazine. I tried the TLS on my Kindle for a month. Sadly, it is only a few cents cheaper than the actual magazine. I canceled the subscription because there was no hyperlinked table of contents; I had to click next page for what seemed like a gazillion times to get to the article I wanted to read first. It was nothing but a badly formated digital copy of the print version.
Fortune Magazine has an article on the future of reading which I think is among the better ones out there. It doesn’t toll the death knell for books or reading, it doesn’t evangelize for the gadgets, it looks at what is happening in the publishing and tech industry.
People want digital content. The problem for publishing is that they are the Titanic, huge and ungainly and damp. In spite of the water swirling around their ankles they refuse to make any radical changes. Instead they are trying to tow the foundering ship as is into the digital age. What they need to do is abandon ship and try something different; chip off a piece of the iceberg and go with the floe (sorry couldn’t resist).
Seriously though, as the article points out, the publishing industry has to come up with a new business model or they will be sunk. It won’t be the end of publishing, but the current big captains will find themselves without a ship and the independents and new start-ups will be skipping over the waves in their lighter, adaptable, more nimble boats. They won’t be looking for gadgets to save them. The gadget makers will be looking to them for ideas on how to improve the digital reading experience. And we readers will have so many choices, so many avenues down which we may go to get our reading fix, that we won’t quite know what to do with ourselves.