Rapid change is hard to see when you are in the middle of living it

Even rapid change is hard to see when you are in the middle of living it. Book publishing and book stores are an example; most retailers are going the way of Tower Records – only the used market will be left, aside from niche “pretty books”. Actually, this started with the porn industry – electronic media killed the market for pocket book porn, leaving only magazines. Right now the word publishing industry is shedding the infrastructure and costs of moving atoms; the only atoms involved are the tablets and cell phones – backed by stores that are servers, vast analysis of individual buying habits, and recommendation systems.

The single most brilliant innovation was Amazon’s enabling individuals to “scribble on the bookshelf” – making browsing their storefront a structurally more powerful and richer experience than perusing the physical shelves of a bookstore. No helpful clerk can approach the emergent collective in guidance.

In the next several posts I will explore some structural elements of the history of publishing, starting with the three elements of Gutenberg’s press – moveable type, oil based heavy metal inks, and large high quality display surface – the new technology of paper. A small N of innovations put together produced a new medium, which, in McLuhanistic terms proceeded to be a new medium by consuming the content of a small N of previous media – the letter, the story, and the broadside image.

A similar event is happening now, with this new thing we don’t quite have a good word for (it’s not just the internet); I’ll delve into this.

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