Tag Archives: technology

Books have destroyed our civilization multiple times if we believe the wise men of the past


There is nothing better than laughing at mistakes other people have made. BBC put together an infographic with famous predictions gone wrong. Here are the highlights from the compilation that relate to books and communication technologies.
clip art cartoon: old man with papyrus and young man with mobile phone and computer
Circa 370 B.C.
Socrates predicted that the written word will destroy our memories. Men will cease to exercise memory because they rely on what is written.
Yet, the world can remember what he said because Plato wrote it down.

Monk Johannes Trithemius wasn’t happy about the new innovation: printing press. He worried about the future of his profession because Gutenberg had invented a machine that could print books. Monks who earned a living as scribes had to find something else to do.

Swiss scholar Conrad Gesner worried that too many books in the world is perilous. Confusing and harmful abundance of books seriously bothered him.

More than hundreds year later, after many books had surely been printed with new machines, French scholar Adrien Baillet wrote that he had a reason to fear that a multitude of books would drive humankind into barbarous state.

A new invention, telephone, had arrived in England where the Head of the Post Office regarded the new device useless. Relaying messages with the help of messenger boys was the proper way to communicate for him.

Just like books used to be a threat to powerful people in ancient times, because ordinary people could actually learn something, public education was seen as a threat at the end of the 19th century. New York Medical Journal warned that public education would exhaust the children’s brains and nervous systems.

Telephone continued its inevitable conquest across the world, and was seen as a threat to the society. San Francisco Catholic Adult Education Committee worried: does the telephone break up home life and the old practice of visiting friends?

Another relatively new invention, radio, was too much for the music magazine Gramophone. Children have developed the habit of dividing attention between the humdrum preparation of their school assignments and the compelling excitement of the loudspeaker, the magazine concluded.

Although there were not many computers in the entire world at the time, mathematician I.J.Good believed in artificial intelligence (AI). He thought all work could be handed over to machines in 10-30 years.

Arthur C. Clarke, one of the most successful science-fiction authors, predicted the rise of remote work and digital nomads accurately. He even got the popular nomad destination, Bali, right. Clarke thought that in 50 years, we can work remotely.

The buzzword Paperless Office appeared on an article in BusinessWeek. Well, it is kind of happening now. The magazine article predicted that all office information would be digital by 1990. The consumption of paper, however, started to decrease in US offices in 2001.

Robert Metcalfe, one of the pioneers of the Internet estimated that the network will catastrophically collapse in 1996. He had to eat his words in 1997 in front of an audience where he mixed his column into water and drank it.

The list of false predictions is endless. It is only the predictions by famous people that went horribly wrong which will live long after the world has moved on. It is also easy to find parallels between ancient and recent studies and research papers that conclude how evil a new invention is.

How many times have I seen the story that reading a book from a screen rots our brains. How many children have been doomed to damnation because they use social media. How many times has it been proved that only the “smell of book” and “holding a book” improves learning when studying something – instead of reading an ebook. How many studies indicate that the Internet is destroying our memories.

All right, I will make one prediction. Now that audiobooks and voice control are growing strongly, the backlash will be in 2019: no one can learn by listening to a book, you have to read it.

The Evolution of Publishing Is both Technology and Business Development


Technology that enables publishing in a large scale, to mass markets, was innovated by Johannes Gutenberg more than 500 years ago. His greatest innovation was to create a whole system from existing technologies developed by other people. From there on, the evolution of publishing has been as much business development as it has been technology development.

For instance:
– Newspapers developed in late 18th century and 19th century as literacy improved and people moved to cities.
– Before newspapers, primarily books and religious material was printed.
– Steam powered printing press was invented in 1843. Printing of books and newspapers became faster and more economical, making them available to wider audiences.
– The first steps towards digital technology in publishing industry were taken in 1980s and 1990s when Apple introduced the Macintosh computer and desktop publishing. This combination made it both affordable and reasonably easy to design and layout the printed paper or book on a computer screen before actually printing it.
– The Internet boom in late 1990s and early 2000s introduced the first ebooks to audiences, but digital books weren’t ready for mass markets yet.
– It was Amazon that understood (like Gutenberg) that there must be a whole end-to-end system in place before the product is ready for wide adoption. Amazon introduced the Kindle and Whispersync in 2007.

View more details on the evolution of publishing in the following infographics created by Searchnewsmedia.co.uk.

publishing evolution from Gutenberg to digital

Millennials Value Books both in Print and in Digital Format


Deloitte, a global consultancy, has published their annual Technology, Media & Telecommunications Predictions report for 2015. More than billion new smartphones will find an owner this year, having a profound impact, among many other things, on ebook and ereader markets. The report estimates that ebooks already have about 20% share of the global book sales.

If we set the launch of the Amazon Kindle ebook system as the starting point for the global ebook market development, ebooks have gained their relatively large market share only in seven years. Hundreds of years old print book culture gave way to ebooks amazingly fast. There are, however, big differences between large English-language book markets and small markets, like many small countries in Europe concerning ebook adoption. For instance, in the US, ebooks have up to 30% market share, but in many Scandinavian countries ebook market share is around 1%.

The dynamics of the markets are also very different. In the US, where the growth was very rapid during the last few years, the annual ebook sales growth rate is under 10%, but in markets that are in their early stages, the annual growth rate can be 100%.

deloitte: millennials media spend, TMT Predictions 2015
Source: Deloitte Technology, Media & Technology Predictions 2015.

Back to the Deloitte’s Technology, Media & Technology Predictions 2015 report. There are some interesting estimates about the near future in the report. Deloitte predicts that 18-34-year-old (millennials) U.S. residents and Canadians will spend more on media products than is the total value of Internet advertising in the US and Canada.

Many people thought that these young adults who have grown up with the Internet and free content wouldn’t pay for media products anymore. Not so. The millennials are happy to pay for both digital and analog content if they consider it to be worth their money. Will they spend all their money on movies alone? No, books have a lot of value even for generations who have grown up with the Internet and mobile phones.

In the figure above, Deloitte predicts the amount of money 18-34-year-old North-Americans are going to spend on media products in 2015. Pay-TV takes the largest share, while (print) newspapers are practically doomed.

Two somewhat surprising items in the millennial media spend prediction are streaming video (SVOD) and music. The relatively high spend on music comprises live music, digital downloads and streaming services, like Spotify. Live music gets the largest share of the total, actually explaining millennials’ large budget on music.
Streaming video on demand services (SVOD), like Netflix gets more publicity than money from young adults. The report doesn’t say this, but in the future, it is easy to envision pay-TV lose money in favor of streaming video services.

Millennials are expected to spend a solid $60 on books annually. The number includes both print and digital. The average purchase price for a book is around $12.