I recently found my notes from a presentation I gave 13 years ago, unfortunately I no longer have the presentation (not that I would have software that could open it now even if I could find it). You need to remember that at the time a 56k modem was considered warpdrive access to that little known thingy-me-jig called the internet. Upon seeing the presentation, everyone I knew thought I was nuts, as the basis of the presentation was simple “All music will be available online.” Now that was bad enough, but I also went on to say, “it will be free, or so cheap that it might as well be” as the distributors and artist will make their money in other ways, concerts, t-shirts sales, merchandise etc (ie giving the audience what they want… mmmmmm sounds like tribe building to me, but that’s another discussion!)
OK, look at the music industry in the past 10 years then think about what I said back then, just how crazy was I? although I did say All music not just some of it (that’s still to come, and it will), but prices are hitting rock bottom, the labels tried DRM, it didn’t work (DRM free did), they tried to keep prices high, that didn’t work either, they were too slow to move with the tide. You only have to look at the likes of Jamendo to see my 13 year old predictions coming to fruition, entirely free, good quality, legal music downloads, if you like the music enough you can pay money directly to the artist through the site, but it’s your choice entirely.
The movie industry is doing the same, they think they’re safe due to movie file sizes, but they’re not, data speeds are going up, compression improving, portable players increasing… DVD’s have a 2-3 year life expectancy, HD-DVD & Blu-Ray was undoubtedly the last physical format war, everything will be online & instantly available very very soon!
As they say, “Shift Happens”, at the turn of the century the petroleum motor car replaced the standard mode of transport at the time, the horse & cart, did this end with the demise of the horse, far from it, it gave rise to horses having an improved quality of life, being used for sport & leisure activities only, rather than be flogged everyday to pull a cart. In fact the motor car gave everyone a better quality of life, if the motor car hadn’t been introduced to London it would have ground to a halt, as it was knee deep in horse manure and the stench unbearable. Now it’s the turn of the petrol based motor car, to be replaced by electric or more likely hydrogen based cars completely within the next decade, will this be the demise of the petrol car, not entirely, as enthusiasts will be able to use their treasured “classic” petrol based cars purely for leisure guilt free, in the knowledge that they’ll be using their hydrogen based car for the weekly commute to work.
The newspaper & journal industry is on it’s last legs, they appear to have forgotten what they’re really about, which is delivering “News” not paper, paper is merely the delivery mechanism, but it’s days are numbered, newspapers & books are a dying breed, being referred to as the “souvenir dead tree format”, there will be those that cling on to the printed page, just like those that still listen to vinyl (but they’re a tiny number, even iTunes alone, downloads more songs now than CD sales worldwide!). I know people argue that they like the tactile feel of real books & have a bond with them that they could never have with an electronic version, and I have to agree with them to a degree, but you have to face up to the tide of change. Plus this is only true when it comes to story books or novels, when it comes to manuals, reference books, cooks books, self help etc who has this same bond? Let’s face it, no one… are you really telling me you’re going to get attached to “Dreamweaver For Dummies”, no you’re not, plus you’d probably prefer an electronic version anyway, one that you can bookmark & search through instantly, plus contains electronic versions of code & examples.
So there’s a mindset shift that needs to happen with those that like to read paper now, but the next generation won’t have the same limitations, they’ll simply want whatever is most convenient and most up to date, no paper is the future. Another limiting factor currently is the hardware, reading on a computer screen or an iPhone isn’t great, eReaders that use e-Ink like the Kindle are so like reading paper, you hardly notice you’re not, plus they have numerous advantages. Some argue that because paper books are real tangible objects, they’re more permanent than their electronic counterparts, but actually the reverse is true, paper rots, it gets dirty, you can tear it etc. Corrupt an electronic file? simply re-load a new file and it’s as good as new, in fact it’s probably been updated with new content. I’m not dead set against paper, it has it’s place, but it’s time for the publishing houses worldwide to wake up, accept the sea of change, and prepare for it, otherwise they better be ready to move over when the flood happens & the new ePublishing houses appear on the scene giving the audience what they want (now where have I heard that before?)
So will eBooks, replace paper books? absolutely… but at the end of the day, does it really matter which prevails, as long as more people are reading & writing, who cares how it’s delivered, we’ll all be winners!