Digital Publishing
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Bo Sacks: The fear of inevitable change and getting paid for our words

BoSacks Speaks Out: I found the following article somewhere buried deep in my files while looking for something else. It is undated but I believe it was written in 2008-2009 in previous times of publishing stress. Since I have a constant influx of new readers it seems to me to be relevant for today’s marketplace. 

Today I want to discuss with you two concepts that have been with us as far back as humans can remember, perhaps even before we can remember. 

This discussion is intended to help us understand the publishing industry today, and the preconceived notions of coming change. 

Of course, it includes the fear that comes along with change from what was once known and comfortable to what isn’t known at all. Those fears are sometimes rational and well thought out, or so it seems at the time, and sometimes they are just an irrational reaction to an unpredictable and unforeseeable personal future. 

After all when you get to the bottom of the fear it is all about how we will survive to feed and take care of our families. A career is all about survival of the fittest and only the jungle has been swapped for a desk and a paycheck.

James Burke, a science historian is well known his documentary television series Connections (1978), focusing on the history of science and technology interjected with a fair amount of humor.

He said that understanding change is a detective story and that no one can fully know any outcome from today’s perspectives, and that we can only guess at where we are going and act on those guesses. 

I agree and it has never been different. Burke goes on say that at each moment of change no one could have anticipated the full results of that change. No one who invented anything truly understood the full effects of his or her invention at the time.

We are living through Burke’s observation today like no other time in history, because change happens faster now than ever before.   We are living through the white heat of technological change that his happening faster than anyone can predict or understand.

And since we can’t understand it we fear it. I find that odd because we have been changing and adapting for a millennium. At each moment of the change the pundits of the day, try to resist the inevitable. 

Did you know what Erasmus the famous Dutch humanist once said about the newly invented printing press, where he complained about the terrible increased output of the new technology:

“To what corner of the world do they not fly, these swarms of new books?… the very multitude of them is hurting scholarship, because it creates a glut, and even in good things satiety is most harmful.” The many interests of our fellow humans is “flighty and curious of anything new” the reader is being lured “away from the study of old authors.”

So it seems that in the 1500s the fears of the pundits are an echo of what we hear repeated today. The unwashed masses of bloggers are ruining the quality of journalism as we have come to know it.

Today we can communicate and share information, news, ideas, personal information and current events as in no other time in the history of mankind. We do this without fully understanding where it will all lead to. But in actuality we don’t really need to understand we just need to accept it for what it is, change.

Change is now a visible effect. When in the history of time did we go from the daily use of an object to it’s being an antique collectable in space of a just few years. 

Is there anything that you use every day that is not technologic? And if it is technologic, do we think that it will stay unchanged and useful for any extended period of time?

We are now in a whirlpool of unlimited possibilities the results of which no one can predict except to forecast that publishing and information distribution is part of that dynamic human cycle. I continue to believe that what hasn’t changed is our use of words regardless of the method of distribution. That is what I hold on to for the future of our industry the fair exchange of revenue for reasonably well written words.

Bo Sacks, President, Precision Media Group

This commentary originally appeared on Bo Sacks daily newsletter and is re-published with kind permission. You can subscribe to Bo’s e-newsletter here

Photo by Fabien Bazanegue on Unsplash