I love the same section Scott highlighted in which Shirky responds to the question of how publishing is changing.
Publishing is not evolving. Publishing is going away. Because the word “publishing” means a cadre of professionals who are taking on the incredible difficulty and complexity and expense of making something public. That’s not a job anymore. That’s a button. There’s a button that says “publish,” and when you press it, it’s done.
In ye olden times of 1997, it was difficult and expensive to make things public, and it was easy and cheap to keep things private. Privacy was the default setting. We had a class of people called publishers because it took special professional skill to make words and images visible to the public. Now it doesn’t take professional skills. It doesn’t take any skills. It takes a WordPress install. [emphasis mine]
However, Shirky also has something to say about the business of digital publishing that directly reflects the textbook industry to which we in public education are so wedded.
The original promise of the e-book was not a promise to the reader, it was a promise to the publisher: “We will design something that appears on a screen, but it will be as inconvenient as if it were a physical object.” This is the promise of the portable document format, where data goes to die, as well.
Institutions will try to preserve the problem for which they are the solution. Now publishers are in the business not of overcoming scarcity but of manufacturing demand. And that means that almost all innovation in creation, consumption, distribution and use of text is coming from outside the traditional publishing industry.
So far, the digital textbooks I’ve seen from the major publishers – and certainly those our overly-large school district has adopted – fit that description of inconvenience, scarcity, and lacking innovation.
Anyway, Shirky’s larger message about “social reading” is much more interesting. Go read the whole thing.