Computerworld: The Coming Ebook Revolution

Last week I linked to a phenomenal piece over on ArsTechnica on the future of digital books (and in the process neglected to thank Peter Brantley for the link). Today Mike Shatzkin (a co-author on the StartWithXML Report) passed along a pointer to another great article, this one from Computerworld’s Mike Elgan listing six reasons that ebooks are about to explode . His reason #5 mirrors the theme of this year’s TOC Conference, which starts on Monday:

5. A rise in books written for electronic reading. The shift from print to electronic will change the nature of the book itself. Many books will be shorter. They’ll be more timely and culturally relevant. They’ll be more colorfully and engagingly written. And they’ll go after young readers like nothing before.

Elgan left off what I believe is the most important aspect of writing for electronic reading, which is hyperlinking, but the thrust here is that all publishing is becoming digital publishing, and existing publishers ignore or delay dealing with this at their peril. Or as Elgan puts it:

Like the move from silent pictures to “talkies,” the transition to electronic publishing will prove fatal to laggards. Those aggressively pursuing and developing e-books will rise to take control of the publishing industry.

I agree completely, and am reminded of a line from Michael Porter’s seminal article, Industry Transformation:

Because early experiments can be highly influential, companies that hope to be eventual industry leaders must think carefully about the precedents they set during this period.

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