July 23rd, 2008
There have been many cultural changes so far in 2008. Some of these changes are in response to the rapid increase in the price of oil and other commodities. Some of these changes have been due to technological innovations. In both cases new behavior patterns are being established that will, to some degree become permanent and will create new dynamics in certain industries. Today we take a look at some of the predictions made here last January.
The predicted shopping trends predicted were written with a long term view. What is interesting is that the high price of gasoline has accelerated the speed of implementation of some of the forecasts. On shopping, this column forecast:
“Shopping behavior will noticeably change……purchases will go down per capita. This will due to belt tightening but also due to the effect of the explosive growth that on-line sales will now have on off-line sales.”
This forecast was based both upon the long term up trend of on-line shopping but also upon the short term pessimism felt about the economy. When people feel uncertain about their economic future they cut back on major expenses. This explains the significant decline in auto sales this year and the bankruptcies of several retail chains. What has been interesting is the reality that much of the growth in on-line sales at the expense of off-line sales is due to $4. a gallon gasoline. When one can order on-line and have the merchandise delivered with low cost or free shipping, it is cheaper …
May 12th, 2008
One of the technological innovations I have written about here and here in this column has been the reduction in size and cost of computer storage. It is one of the more significant developments in computing over the past two decades. It is part of the foundation that has allowed the explosion in mobile computing to occur. It is an integral part of the massive media files we can all now assemble and of course in the ability for all of us to become ever more productive as individuals.
Seagate, the largest producer of hard drives recently announced that it had just shipped its’ one billionth hard drive. In 1979 the company was an early trailblazer in the manufacturing of hard drives small enough for the early PC’s that were just being produced. Their first product was the ST506 which held just 5MB of storage, was 5.5 inches wide and weighed 5 pounds. This was revolutionary compared to the 14 inch and 8 inch drives that were standard at the time. This first innovation of size reduction has, of course continued to this day. A similar sized external hard drive today would hold not 5MB of storage, but 500 Gigabytes of storage, an increase of 100,000% in terms of capacity to weight and size.
What is even more revolutionary is the reduction in cost of hard drive storage. The ST506 was priced at $1,500 for a cost of $300 per megabyte. The most recent Seagate hard …
November 30th, 2007
Amazonâ€™s introduction of the Kindle electronic book reader feels momentous. It is the first time that the long anticipated, much debated future of the â€˜ebookâ€™ feels ready to begin in a meaningful way.
During the past ten years there has been great debate about the ebook. Generally speaking there have been three points of view on the subject. The first one comes from the true believers that the ebook is inevitable and that it would ultimately gain a noticeable and then sizable market share of publishing. The second viewpoint is that while there would be a market for the ebook it would never really capture more than a marginal market share. The third viewpoint was that the physical experience of reading an actual book is such an integral part of the reading experience that the ebook would never really catch on. I am one of those that hold the first point of view.
In a column here last summer I wrote:
â€œe-books will ultimately gain significant market share. This will occur when there is an â€˜iPod momentâ€™; when a device comes out that is low priced, wonderful to use and perceived to be cool or hip. Once this occurs there will be a rapid increase in the percentage of books sold digitally, probably leveling off around 40 â€” 50% by 2025. Impulsive buys, such as at airport book stores will become â€œpurchase, plug-in and downloadâ€™. While those of us who have grown up with the wonderful tactile experience of â€˜curling up with …
June 6th, 2007
What is the future of the book and the book publishing industry? That was the question that was in my mind while attending the Book Expo America convention this past week end. In a business that is mature, flat to down in unit sales, and seems to dearly hold on to past business practices, what might be the road map for success over the next twenty years?
First, letâ€™s take a look at other content businesses, what has happened to them in this digital age, and what that might indicate for the book business.
Music is relevant in that the music business was disintermediated by the Internet. It is not relevant in that the listener still uses speakers, earphones and ear plugs and, except for convenience and portability doesnâ€™t really care whether the music comes from vinyl, tape, CD or audio file [except of course for dedicated audiophiles]. The physical listening experience is the same. Reading a book is a physical experience that would be fundamentally changed by moving to a screen.
Television/video has also been changed by the Internet. Viewing is now on a variety of screens, and is essentially becoming on demand. Even though the variety of screens has increased, viewing is still on a screen, as it has always been. Where video can give a glimpse into the future of books is that, at least on the Internet, the power of gatekeepers has lessened. â€œViewer generated contentâ€ might be analogous to self publishing via the …
June 5th, 2007
As mentioned in the last column I have had the opportunity to attend several conventions this year. In January I attended the Consumer Electronic Show and the NATPE television conference, both in Las Vegas and in February the Chicago Auto Show. This past weekend I was in New York attending the BEA book publishing convention. I have attended a number of NATPE conventions, having been in the television business, but the other three were new to me to attend as both a futurist and as a member of the press. Inevitably I spent a bit of time thinking comparatively on all four conventions.
The CES show is a reflection not only of what is going on in the world, but was also what will be going on. Given the speed and high level of innovation that technology and particularly the technology that people use for communication, entertainment and work, this convention has become a directional sign post on the future of the world. The media covers this convention excessively, telling its readers and viewers what they will be seeing, buying and using in the months and years ahead. [The comparison of the press rooms of these four conventions was startling. At any one time there were 50-75 people furiously typing on keyboards in the press rooms of the CES, NATPE and Auto Shows. I never saw more than 4 or 5 people doing so in the small press room at the BEA].
The NATPE convention is widely …