I used to buy and read books. I bought books to enlighten, inform, educate, challenge and entertain me. I also bought newspapers, journals and magazines. I grew up in a literary household in which writing and the thought behind it was a daily topic of conversation. In short, I was a publisher’s dream customer.
A career as a computer programmer and systems analyst ensured that I was always aware, if not a user of technology. I watched computers evolve from large, expensive speciality machines into devices which could be put on a desk or carried in a pocket. I often wondered what we would do with the technology. We had the answer, now it was time to resolve the question. I think we have it now, and it is profound and pervasive; there is little in the world, rich or poor, which has not been permanently changed by digital devolution.
There are many every-day examples of how society has changed in the last fifteen years, but the one which has affected me most is reading. All aspects of how and what I acquire to read has changed. My purchase of books and magazines is a small fraction of what it once was. The modern publishing industry faces great challenges, and although not proud of it, I am part of the problem.
There are few things more enjoyable to me that to sit with book in my hands, but now I also read from a tablet and it too can deliver an enriching experience. There will be tough competition for revenue from publishing. Old models are failing and in some cases have become irrelevant. Of course the industry will survive, but in a very different fashion from the twentieth century. Adaptation and integration of new forms with traditional ways of publishing is key to a future which provides adequate and stable income for authors and publishers. How that will happen is yet to be determined, but one has only to look at the music industry to see how not to do things.
Blogs, tweets, video, photo-sharing and more will not replace books, but will be another way to learn and entertain. It has been exciting to have been an insider at the beginning of the digital age.