I thought I would start this blog by sharing some information about the technology that was available when Pebbles, Bam-Bam and I went to school:

  • My first computer in high school was a Commodore Pet 2000 with the spaceman screen and Mickey Mouse keyboard (at least that’s what we called them). It had 8 Kbytes of memory, expandable to 16 Kbytes (yes, those are “Kbytes” – it’s not a typo). It used a cassette tape to load programs and came with a word processor – which was pretty useless because it had no printer.
  • My first “word processor” was a Sears electric typewriter that could do bold and italics and stored up to 5 pages of text in memory. Given that most of the papers I had to write in college were 5 pages and under, I was in heaven – so long as I didn’t need to work on two papers at the same time. I still have that typewriter, but if my life ever depended on getting a ribbon for it I would probably be toast.
  • The computations for my PhD thesis were run on a Cray supercomputer, and the software and results are currently stored on reel-to-reel tapes. It would take less time to rewrite all of the software from scratch and rerun all of the computations than it would to find a reel-to-reel tape reader, and my current laptop computer probably has more computing power than the supercomputer did.
  • My first mobile phone was the size of a small purse and could do nothing but make phone calls.

Of all the information I will share today, probably the most interesting fact is that I am under the age of 50. That’s right – in just over 30 years, or about one generation, we went from talking about personal computers with Kbytes of memory that could perform simple tasks to machines with gigabytes of memory that can run very complex computations. We went from mobile devices that could make phone calls to smart phones and tablets with touch screens that can surf the internet, providing instant access to information.

So what does this have to do with publishing?

A recent study suggested that over 70 percent of people under the age of 25 receive a majority of their information on mobile devices. As technology improves this trend is not likely to be reversed. Barnes and Noble recently announced they would be closing two hundred stores over the next ten years, and I suspect this reduction in stores will be accompanied by a significant increase in their web presence and the development of new mobile applications. Publishers who accept the trend by making their books available in electronic formats readable on mobile devices and by providing information about their books in an easy to find manner on the web will likely reap the rewards of these technological advances. Publishers who cling to old paradigms about how publishing works may find themselves looking for ribbons for their typewriters…


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