By happenstance, I came across an interesting collection of articles and ideas about the future of publishing.
The first article I read, in my paper based but soon to be electronic Alumni Gazette, was titled Does the Print Industry Have a Future? Noting the emergence of e-readers such as the Kindle, author Jenni Dunning raises the issue of newspapers and other paper-based printing companies struggling in the economy, struggling to latch onto a secure vision of the future and in fact, struggling to know how best to survive. Other factors include moves to various electronic forums and our collective efforts to be ‘green’. In my mind, the key point she made was to stop focusing on the newspaper of the past and look at how journalism can be delivered in the most effective way. Read Does the Print Industry Have a Future?
Later in the day, I found a Twitter post that caught my eye called Textbook Deathwatch. The article looks at the use and cost of textbooks in the K-12 education arena. Noting the challenges of slow change in large systems, resistance to change, high cost, competing costs in school boards, shipping costs of print materials and the rapid rate at which books become outdated, the author puts key questions right on the table?
1. Are textbooks the best use of instructional funds?
2. Are their more effective ways to utilize available funding?
3. What would a system look like that was much more ‘e-based’?
4. If ‘e-based’ is the solution (in whole or in part), then how do we change more aggressively?
Read Textbook Deathwatch
Looking at this from the end user point of view (consumer, learner or worker), there are many possible solutions to moving to e-based content. We have been talking about this in my Board too, in particular about the use of iPods in this regard. Admittedly, this prompted me gather some updates on the current status of the various e-readers. The links below will provide fairly current information.
Wired’s eBook Reader Roundup
A Kindle and Sony comparison
Sony now offers 1,000,000 eBooks from Google books
Getting back to the original point, the future of publishing, I don’t have any doubts about the future of publishing. I think it is a case of what it likes like. We will always need excellent journalism, reporting, resources, instructional materials and ways to effectively prepare, deliver, read and use them.
To my way of thinking, if the e-readers are going to go anywhere, at least in the education systems, we have to avoid hardware, software and electronic rights management issues that really only serve to build islands of incompatibility. In turn, this would limit the possibilities for students and potentially make the move to e-readers (and e-content) more expensive than it needs to be. If this happens, then we would end up with the e-reader system that continues to challenge the funding questions identified earlier.
Ultimately, this falls into the same jungle of issues as content filtering and students & teachers using personal equipment on Board owned networks (network access control) etc. Lets hope that sanity and smart thinking lead us to useful and cost effective solutions within the education realm that allow for e-based reader solutions, more electronic content delivered in a way the is easily utilized by Board or personally owned devices all in support of better learning and teaching.
As I am writing, I recalled seeing an interesting podcast outlining a very innovative approach to publishing. I was able to locate the presentation by Richard Baraniuk from Rice University. In this presentation, he introduces Connexions, an open-access publishing system. This presentation is well worth the watch and provides an excellent example of the future of publishing. View Richard Baraniuk’s presentation (18 min.)