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Reflections on the Advancing Technologies

Posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 at 1:40 PM

Education may show us the way to the future.

By Mary Shafer

C'mon, admit it: You're thinking it. You didn't get into this field to become a techno-geek. You may have to stare at a screen all day at work. But when work's done, you wanna curl up with a good old-fashioned, fresh-ink-on-crisp-paper magazine or book. And you believe that most folks out there buying your titles feel the same way.

Well, relax. You're partly right. There are still a lot of readers who wouldn't even consider reading on a screen, not no way, not no how. But, in the next generation, people who've grown up with both models will switch easily between the two, and won't be hung up about it. And finally, the following generation, which is growing up with their hands on mice and their eyes on screens at home and school, may primarily leave print behind.

It'll be a lot easier on us if we at least try to have an open mind and face this revolution with some enthusiasm.

I'm choosing to see this evolution of our primary product from a historical perspective. Making history means things are changing, and change is never easy and seldom fun. But it's full of mystery and promise and potential, and that's exciting. I know there are those who are perfectly happy with the previous un-exciting times, but we don't get to choose when history will happen. It chooses us, picking us up in the swift current of time. We either choose to go with the flow and learn how to swim, or get dragged beneath the surface and drown.

Instead of clinging to outmoded technology, I suggest we all remember what our mission as publishers really is: it's about the dissemination of ideas in an interesting, creative way. It's not just about the packaging. Every industry that focuses on giving its customers what they ask for doesn't just survive, it thrives. Which will you choose?

Now it's time to decide whether you're going to sink or swim. If your backstroke's a little rusty, that's okay. Look to your left and right, and you'll see your fellow swimmers right beside you. We'll hold you up till you get your groove back.

Meanwhile, the Publishing Business Conference & Expo is being held in New York City, March 8-10. 32 breakout sessions will be covering everything from navigating the e-publishing terrain to new e-business models, from rethinking author contracts and copyright to a social media strategy guide. (Note: Editors Only readers can get a $100 registration discount. Use Discount Code "EDITORSONLY100" to save $100 off the Full Conference Pass. Register at www.PublishingBusiness.com when registering for the full program.) I'll be there and paying special attention to ways that this inevitable future can be our friend. Then I'll be back here to share what I've found. I also invite your comments if you'll be attending, too.

Mary Shafer is publisher of Word Forge Books. She can be reached via email at publisher [at] worldforgebooks [dot] com.

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