Despite all the evidence undermining her assertion that the Internet can’t save technology because the audience for books consists largely of the middle-aged and elderly while “most people in their 20s and 30s… will tell you that books are so 20th-century,” Cindy Weaver came back with another round of assertions, declaring that “there is every reason to think that books will be a thing in the past in the next 10-20 years,” to be replaced by multimedia stuff that places less and less value on text—like something out of a Vernon Vinge novel, perhaps.
“What I find so frustrating is that when these concerns are brought up to publishers they will stare back at you with blank faces,” Weaver writes. “‘There is nothing that we can do,’ they will say, and that is when they become victims of their own thinking. A thinking that is grounded in the past that does not look forward. We will see continued growth in e books in the next few years and many publishing heads are putting a lot of apples in this cart. They will be sorely disappointed. Why? Because a mass market will never materialize.”
Of course, one could argue that there’s never really been much of a “mass market” for books anyway, compared to other entertainment products, but that’s too depressing to contemplate this early in the week, so let’s stay focused on the topic at hand: Does that publishing industry sound familiar to you? Or, at places like the technology panels at BookExpo America, and all of O’Reilly‘s Tools of Change conference, is there nary a blank face to be seen? Some might say publishers appear to be actively engaged in the effort to keep their industry relevant… and while there’s a recognition that multimedia products will be a part of the future, nobody appears to be backing off their commitment to the written word.
Or do they? What have you seen happening out there?
(By the way, Weaver added another nail to her argument’s coffin by passing along a PW article from March indicating that online retailers are poised to take the biggest market segment as early as next year.)