Outrun Change

We need to learn quickly to keep up with the massive change around us so we don't get run over. We need to outrun change.

The printed book industry looks like the dying honeysuckles in the park. And I’m okay with that. Not the plants dying, but the industry.

Daily I walk past a large group of honeysuckle plants that used to be about 30 feet long and about 12 feet wide. The aroma is wonderful while they are in bloom.

Over the last couple of months, something has happened to the plant bed. There are three big areas where there is now only dirt. The number of honeysuckle plants is about half what it used to be.

The ones left are pretty, growing, and fragrant.

However, that bed of plants is dying.

What is happening to those fragrant plants is happening to the book industry.

That’s the point Seth Godin makes in his post, An End of Books.

This huge ecosystem of agents, editors, traditional publishers, vanity publishers, printing companies, wholesalers, big-box bookstores, neighborhood bookstores, and libraries that we’ve built over the last century or two is failing fast.

Every part of that ecosystem is collapsing.

Perhaps ‘dying’ is an overstatement. Perhaps not.

Traditional publishing sure looks like those plants I walk past everyday.

The good news is

Ideas aren’t going away soon, and neither are words.

The bad news is bookstores are ultimately doomed as an industry:

The death of the bookstore is being caused by the migration to ebooks (it won’t take all books to become ‘e’, just enough to tip the scale) as well as the superior alternative of purchase and selection of books online.

Our educational system gets a large part of the blame:

READING FOR PLEASURE was largely extinguished by four generations of not-very-good teaching philosophies. By treating a book as homework and a punishment, we’ve raised people to not look forward to reading.

I missed out on the book-as-punishment syndrome.

I fondly remember the frequent trips to the library during the summer breaks in elementary school when I could pick out a book to read. I remember getting in trouble during third grade while reading a book on submarine battles when I ought to have been listening to the teacher.

So I’m in the category of people who love books.

E-books are even better. There are a thousand times more of them readily available, at lower cost, with instantaneous access. I can lug hundreds of them around with me and my bookshelf fits in the pocket of my slacks.

That the publishing industry today has no relation to the industry that existed just a few years ago is the ongoing point from Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Her latest post, The Biggest News of The Summer makes this point yet again.

Publishing is in a new era. The biggest news of the summer merely confirmed it. It’s time for everyone in the industry to admit this isn’t your grandparents’ industry any more. It isn’t even your older siblings’ industry. It’s a brave new world, and we all need to accept it.

The present ecosystem is dying. Not that my opinion counts for anything, but that’s okay with me. We all need to adjust.

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