In the first of a series of articles Michael Bhaskar discusses the state of digital commentary. It’s a really good read and makes a lot of sense. It’s about time somebody took on the commentators who are speaking from a platform of ignorance.
… While there is a lot of good commentary, much of it – my own included – too often fails to acknowledge the self-evident truth of digital that, to quote William Goldman, nobody knows anything. Whenever one reads about the impact of digital on publishing, one reads hearsay, rampant speculation and after-the-fact rationalisation. Guessing at the strategy of company X doesn’t mean you know what they are doing. Data is shrouded in veils of corporate secrecy or simply doesn’t exist. Technologies, trends and tastes evolve and die and at a pace that makes predicting tomorrow impossible. At digital conferences the standard speech will claim that: a) consumers expect new things; b) we are in a new world; c) everything is changing; and d) you need to experiment. The actual substance of this: nobody knows anything.
It seems that for publishers digital is defined as much by what we don’t know as by what we do. In the manner of Donald Rumsfeld then, we need to categorize our “known unknowns”, as it will be these that ultimately shape the future of the industry.
We do know something though – most publishers are alienating the e-book readers with their greed, poor editorial formatting, and locked down DRM. E-books have been available for 15 years now. Ignorance is not an excuse.