NYT reporter Nick Bilton shared an insightful article on the recent post of book publisher, designer and writer Craig Mod (on the left with monks) titled "Former Book Designer says Good Riddance to Print". It caught my attention because there are a few things Craig shares that not only apply to the book industry and they apply to ALL industries relating to content. Here are Craig's two most important points.
1. Content can be broadly grouped into two types: content where the form is important, such as poetry or text with graphics, and content where form is divorced from layout, which he says applies to most novels and non-fiction. This same categorization applies to other content formats.
2. Instead of arguing about pixels versus paper, as many book lovers tend to do, or any form of content comparison including vinyl vs. digital iPod for that matter, it is more useful to focus on whether the technology is a good match for the content. In other words, does the format make the content more appropriately consumable ? This is where new technologies will not just be replacing how things were done but creating new ways that heretofore where impossible.
When evaluating the issue of content and its deployment Craig's approach clarifies some questions. For example, I work in the fitness industry and witness the distribution of program content in the form of hard copy DVD and CD's. In the arena of fitness education, which is what this hard copy content is used for, the content is very difficult to consume, a direct function of the manner in which the content is deployed. When evaluating the replacement of this hard copy content, there is no doubt that new interactive forms will be of great benefit. As Nick points out in the article:
"Mr. Mod also discusses the need to push the boundaries of how we interact with content on these devices. Apples’s iBookstore, for example, takes the book metaphors too literally in a digital setting and doesn’t innovate enough given the tools at hand. “The metaphor of flipping pages already feels boring and forced on the iPhone. I suspect it will feel even more so on the iPad. The flow of content no longer has to be chunked into ‘page’ sized bites.” For hundreds of years, we’ve been consuming information on static pages, and for the most part, this content has been presented with a beginning, middle and end. Nonlinear, digital platforms will prompt a new range of thinking about stories and how to tell them."
For all the objections every industry will have to change and the upheavals it creates, the bottom line is that these technologies will have a great benefit in making people more productive. I'll leave you with this final quote which should be enough of a reason for folks to stop objecting so much to the idea that old copy books will be largely eliminated. There is much good when you really think about it:
"Once we dump this weight, we can prune our increasingly obsolete network of distribution. As physicality disappears, so, too, does the need to fly dead trees around the world.”