If much of what we covered today was familiar to you, then you are well on your way already. Hopefully we helped you firm up your views on the way forward, or provided some ideas for refining the systems you’re already putting in place.
And if this material was mostly new to you, remind yourself to be excited about it, and not exhausted or terrified. Because if you haven’t already done so, the most important thing is to make a decision very soon, even a small one. Any forward-moving decision towards working digitally will start a process of learning and experimentation, and begin to future-proof your work.
Right now everyone’s talking about ebooks, but in several years or more, the distinction between ebooks and the web will fall away (see Kevin Kelly’s big vision for the web at TED talks, or Michael Bhaskar arguing that “Digital Books Are Already Here“). As the web continues to expand beyond the computer screen to our cellphones, appliances, cars, advertising and traffic signs, fridges, clothes, classrooms and more, the notion of distinct media will be blurred across myriad ways to deliver content. And still, content acquisition, editing, design and the continuous, creative improvement of systems will remain as important and competitive as ever.
What exactly will publishers be doing then? They’ll still be finding new authors, editing their work for new tastes, and, keeping a great many new media in mind, designing its presentation structurally and aesthetically for new fashions. The key word here is “new”. Only humans can innovate for humans. Innovation cannot be automated. Successful publishers will be companies that gather good, creative innovators. When I think of my favourite publishing companies today, that’s exactly what they do right now. For them, they should just keep doing what they’re doing already.