I don’t know about you (how could I, I don’t even know who you are!) but I spend a fair amount of time wondering where books are headed. I am a musician first and often think that the publishing industry is heading down a similar path to the recording industry. I hope so. What I like about the path that the recording industry has been forced down is that people are more in charge of determining what is quality in art rather than executives. Personal taste and an ear for simply good music trumps the need to make money. What is also happening, with major advances in technology, is that anyone can be a musician. Not everyone can be a good musician, but anyone with the inclination to fire up GarageBand or a digital recording device can make music at some level. This takes us back 150 year to the day when every home had a piano and if you wanted to listen to music you, or a friend, had to play it. This gives the world a growing population of informed listeners. To be involved in making music, gives you an appreciation of what you are listening to at a much deeper level.
How does this work with the publishing industry? It has always been easy to write. We all write, every day. Shopping lists, class notes, email messages. But we don’t write creatively with the intent to share our writing. With blogging, wikis, collaborative ebook writing and emerging self-publishing services, anyone can write to share. The more you write, the more you appreciate what you read. Again, we have a growing population of informed readers deciding what is good quality writing.
We are also aided by technology in terms of how we read and write. We are in closer touch with a vast number of writers via the internet. We can collaborate with other writers and readers through any number of wikis and services like LibraryThing and GoodReads. And it is all getting infinitely more portable with the proliferation of ebook readers, netbooks and the iPad.
Another bunch of people who think a lot about the future of books hang out at The Institute for the Future of the Book. Check their website out to find out where they think this is all going. In particular, check out this post about the iPad being more of a book than a computer. Makes a lot of sense to me!