The Digital Future Is Closer Than You Think

Microsoft recently released a jaw-dropping video based on some of the their current research projects. These technologies will dramatically change your world and mine. The video is less than two minutes long and will give you a clear vision for what awaits us within the next ten years.

As Jonathan Crossfield explains, “These ideas are not science fiction but are just around the corner. It shows how far things will change in just a few short years and the ramifications for consumer behaviour are massive.”

I think the implications for publishing and content-delivery are especially exciting—and a little scary. These technologies will also dramatically affect our business models. Get ready for change! The good news is that they will make it possible to deliver our content in more interesting ways and with even less investment.

You might also want to read yesterday’s article in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “How the E-Book Will Change the Way We Read and Write.” I was especially intrigued by the e-book’s potential to: increase impulse purchases, deliver content in micro formats, enhance scholarship, and build community.

Question: What impact do you think these technologies will have on publishing? How do you feel about them?
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  • Daniel Decker

    Wow. The future is so exciting. Paper is no longer paper… it's laced with micro processors. :) I all the sudden feel like my 3.5 x 2 business card is pretty boring, even though it has special nifty spot UV. Maybe my next biz card will have a hologram of me standing on it.

  • colleencoble

    Um, Mike, this is MICROSOFT. Those things are not gong to be ready for market in 10 yrs if past performance is any indication. :-)

    Very impressive though! One thing they're not taking into consideration is that this kind of technology won't be embraced by everyone. Many of the older folks who distrust gadgetry won't even try anything this new and radical. Those of us who love gadgets are sure to try them. But radical change is going to take a while. Exciting stuff! I love this kind of thing. It will be interesting to see it all come about. That newspaper thing was cool!

    • Michael Hyatt

      I know, I know. My son-in-law couldn't believe it was even possible for me to say anything nice about Microsoft. But I was WOW'ed.

      You might be right about Microsoft's ability to deliver anytime soon. I'd love to get a peek inside the Apple labs. It might even be MORE mind-blowing! :p

      • JeffHolton

        So…will you while you're here?

  • Michael Covington

    A very timely post Mike. I am at the London Book Fair and digital is the topic du jour, with the biggest questions arising around pricing strategy and delivery mechanisms. As publishers, it's hard not to be risk-averse, but we are going to have to take some chances. Recent consumer data suggests that e-book sales have gone up to 2.5% for Q1 from less than 1% of total publisher sales for 2008. Even physical book sales through online retailers has now surpassed all other channels as the leading purveyor of books. Interestingly, the Kindle is being bought primarily by consumers over 45 and the iPhone is the most popular device (outside of the personal computer, which still far outweighs all other platforms for e-reading) for the 13-29 age range. It's all very interesting for sure, it seems the exponential uptick for the digital content wave is upon us, the real question is will we as publishers be able to ride it, or will we be overtaken by it?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, that is the question. I think we have had he advantage of watching the music industry and its struggles. Hopefully, we have learned from that.

  • Daniel Decker

    I think there are definitely early adopters to technology and certainly the younger population is more apt to actually utilize it and drive it forward, however, the game is changing rapidly. My grandma doesn’t know how to work a DVD player nor does she have a computer but that doesn’t mean those things haven’t created radical change. The Kindle alone is creating radical change. Not just because of the technology but because of the distribution channel Amazon has inherently built into it via their massive platform.

    It all boils down to choice. 20 years ago the main TV choices were the big networks. Not anymore. With cable, satellite TV, internet TV, TiVo, DVR, etc. the landscape has changed and I believe the same thing is coming for publishing. It’s more about how to serve the individual niches of how people want to consume or engage their content. Smart companies are looking for solutions to that. Some will be found in the way of new and innovative digital solutions, some in old style books, some in audio, etc. Burger King’s tag line sums it up best… “have it your way, right away, now.”

    • Michael Hyatt

      I think that is exactly right. As publishers, we must be focused on the content and not the "wrapper." We should be agnostic with respect to the the format. Let people decide how they want to access the content.

  • Stacy S. Jensen

    I still love cracking open a book, but I won't say that "I won't go digital" at some point. If you had told me 15 years ago that I would be getting most of news from my computer and through a variety of blogs, tweets, etc, I would have laughed. But, today, I am doing that. I love newspapers, but the model needs to change. People are looking for innovation and creativity.

  • Matt Branaugh

    I thought this quote from the WSJ article raises a powerful point:

    "In other words, an infinite bookstore at your fingertips is great news for book sales, and may be great news for the dissemination of knowledge, but not necessarily so great for that most finite of 21st-century resources: attention."

    The continued challenge for people like you and me will be the ways in which we can create and deliver meaningful, relevant content that users not only will find–but also will want to spend the time to read. Just because these gadgets give us more ways to access and buy doesn't automatically translate to increased sales. One bad experience still leads to the loss of a customer–the same as it was five years ago or fifty. It would seem the technologies here favor the niche players who know their subjects and do them well. As a result, I'd expect to see greater successes from vertical publishers compared to horizontal ones.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I think there will be increased pressure to deliver WOW content. What we are really competing for is people's attention.

  • Marshall Huwe

    The e-book format has already changed the way I read. All of the fiction I read I now read on my iPhone using eReader, Stanza, and now iKindle. That has been the case for a year now. The surprising change for me was the addition of iKindle. Amazon has done with books what Apple did with music – in my opinion – made the process so easy and flawless. Since adding iKindle to my available readers on the iPhone I have purchased several brand new releases. What happens is I end up hearing about a book I might be interested in and, instead of making a note to myself, I just go to Amazon's Kindle store and download the free excerpt. Then when I am ready for my next read I just look through my Kindle library, pick one of the Samples and start reading. When I get to the end of the sample I can continue reading within 60 seconds if I liked the book. If not I just move on to the next one. The ease of this process has caused me to purchase several books that I probably would not have purchased so soon after release. A good example is "Joker One" by Donovan Campbell. I heard about it on a blog or newsfeed, downloaded the sample and about 20 minutes later bought the book. Normally, this would have ended up on a list and I may or may not have ever purchased the book.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I find myself doing the exact same thing with the Kindle. It is addictive!

  • Sharon Ball

    It's amazing how fast technology grows. I remember watching a video on Rachelle Gardner's blog that showed statistics of our rapidly changing world. They were so staggering that I almost couldn't accept them as being accurate. But change is coming, and reading your blog helps me to stay on par with the shifting landscape.

  • LynnRush

    Wow. Really, that's all I can say.
    Ok, it's not all I can say…but it's the first thing that came to mind. I can see some of this happening, but yeah, we'll see how quickly.

    I think publishing will be more digital, that's for sure, but I still love crackin' open a book, so we'll see if I migrate into the technology if/when it becomes available.

    Great post.

  • Peter_P

    You say this technology will increase impulse purchases and build community.

    Personally I don't believe that impulse purchases are a good thing. They speak of jealousy, lust and materialism. Apart from anything else, impulse purchases are a part of what has driven us to this current world-wide recession.

    I also don't believe that they will build real community. We went through a phase where 'community' almost disappeared due to the rise in technology and it is now being rebuilt as online community – facebook, twitter and secondlife being amongst the leaders in providing this. Online community is not real community though.

    Yes, meeting friends online is aiding 'real world' meetings in some instances but an increase of online community and of portable technology will only detract from this. Humans need physical, personal interaction. Technology has not shown that it can truly facilitate that.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I agree with your first comment. Impulse buying is not necessarily a good thing. But I think that is something for the individual to decide. I think more efficiency and less "friction" in the transaction is good. How people use this freedom is their issue.

      I definitely disagree with your second statement. Technology doesn't necessarily build community, but I can think of several examples where it does. I have several people in my life now that I would have never met had it not been for Twitter. My online relationship morphed into a real, face-to-face one. In addition, Twitter has enabled me to stay more connected to people I love and care about. I can more easily keep up with them and it has taken those relationships to a much deeper level.

      Your mileage may vary. ;-)

  • Steve

    I have just recently become interested in the "world of publishing" beyond being a mere reader (and in Canada, we do not have the Kindle as yet). I haven't read much yet about how the transition from a print publisher to a digital publisher tracks, but would be very interested in that information. How is the current printed book price laid out (ie, $1 – author, $1 editor/editorial staff, $5 – print company, $2 – in house advertising people, $1 – out sourced advertising, etc)? How will this change for a digital book (ie, is the actual savings only the print part?)? You still need advertising and editors. You still need money for authors who will put a year or two into writing great literature. I expect this discussion is what will make or break publishers.

    What about bookstores – many traditional bookstores have no or very limited online presence? No wonder they struggle with the bottom line. There has to be a way to merge the old and the new. As always, change means more opportunities for both business as well as ministry.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I think we are in the process of figuring this out. We will all make lots of mistakes. The one thing that won't work is trying to hang on to the good old days or sticking our heads in the sand.

  • ptmccain

    What I find intriguing is the degree to which these technologies will allow us to interact with the content, across platforms, formats and the content itself. I think what these technologies mean, more than ever before, is that publishers are not publishers, per se, they are "content providers." As long as publishers can free themselves from the paradigm that content is defined primarily by what is printed on paper, we'll be ok. If not? Trouble.

    • Michelle Lovato

      You are correct. My editorial title is Content Development. I am editor of a magazine but the term magazine is morphing into something new and I don't think anyone really knows what it will become. So I am a content developer instead of writer or editor. I have a Belo-chain newspaper friend whose title is Content Developer as well.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I totally agree.

  • terri patrick

    I love new gizmos! I hate these teasers because I want it now – not the beta type costing thousands – but the perfected model after tons of upgrades and user testing. :)

    I'm not sold on the WSJ article that technology is going to change the way we read and write. The concept of ereaders is to mirror the printed book connection with less weight and cost. It's almost there… We'll still read the same, one word at a time.

    Technology has already changed the writing process since we no longer deal with correction tape in typewriters, but how writers write is still the same. We write with ideas and words, crafted into sentences, to create story. Technology is a tool for how we share ideas and story. That we can connect at a global-instant level is awesome, but we can only connect through technology to those who are holding the same type of gizmo in their hands.

    The technology revolution through the publishing world is great since the business is communication of idea and story. But the audience still has specific interests, and individual happiness goals, and can operate the on/off button.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I disagree with your statement that "how writes write is still the same." Modern computer technology has made it easier to do a "brain dump" and get the first draft out. Revision is simple and easy. You can write in a non-linear fashion and cut and paste. This has definitely changed the way that I write.

      • terri patrick

        Oh, am I showing my 'age'? I've been writing with a word processing program since 1982 (DW4) – so have done the "brain dump" first drafts and cut and paste revisions since then and don't consider it modern since, I always have… :)

        What's changed my writing in recent years was getting an AlphaSmart Neo. This is awesome for the brain dump/free writing every morning, and also for carting around for research, note taking on trips and in workshops. This is not my "current project" writing but the process to unclutter the brain.

        What's extra cool is that I often download files only once a week and I am thrilled at the stuff I wrote on an almost subconscious level – totally non-linear. It generates lots of new projects.

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  • Michael Hyatt

    There are a lot of people who feel like you do. They are passionate about the format. I have found that this does not correlate to age. My daughters, for example (one in her late teens and the others in their 20s), hate the Kindle. They weren't impressed by it at all. Yet, I have had numerous middle-aged people watch me use my Kindle on the airplane and ask me about it. In fact, I read today that most of the people buying Kindle's are in their 50s or older—unfortunately, I can't find the source!

  • Blair

    I have but one question? How much will all this stuff cost the consumer? With the state of the economy now and not knowing the future, will this change be accepted by the consumer or better yet will they be willing to pay for it – which could delay the release of it? Okay maybe two questions.

  • GordonG

    Great article, Michael. I firmly believe we're in for many dramatic changes ahead – whether MS, Mac or XYZ. The issue is how do we keep our organizations alert to these coming changes as they are still on the horizon, and how do we encourage open minds in our leaders that will allow these new things to be properly considered, and where appropriate rapidly implemented.
    And thanks for the WSJ link

  • Dax Edwards

    Delivery has always directed publishing. Throughout the age of book publishing, we have had to determine a page size and paper quality. Those provide the comfortable limitations we use to plan and produce a reading product.

    The future of this industry will be controlled by the same limitations but in a technological environment and not in the hands of publishers like it has been. The boundaries of the new digital world are so flexible and undefined, that, as publishers, we fear loosing past boundaries and fight in our heads to find value in what we have loved. But this new formed digital content (i.e. text, images, audio, video) has a beauty in which the rising generation will also fall in love and romantically appreciate as we have the printed page today. Both digital and print bring power and an affect that grow the individual and empower nations. Thus, even though we are uncomfortable with the undefined, technology is not a threat, but an evolution of what is already beautiful.

    We, as publishers, are moving into the digital age. We’ve all see the complexities of this age as the technology battles have occurred around us since the 70s, if not before. We’re now moving into that conflict and will have to adapt with it. This requires us to conceptualize books, prepare the digital files for them, and store our content in a nimble fashion so that the technology providers can have the delivery control that’s necessary.

    The type of content we create will continue to evolve as delivery units do. We don’t have a choice. We must adapt—continually. That’s frustrating for us publishers because we’ve controlled the change in the industry and now someone else is controlling it. Even the changes we may make now may not be important for long. But they are steps we must take so we can take the steps after that.

  • DerekDRobertson

    wow, I am a big Mac fan but thyat is the coolest thinh Windows has ever done.

  • DerekDRobertson

    and I obviously did not use spell check

  • Tea with Tiffany

    No words.

  • kimmi

    I couldn't open it to see, Michael, but yes, we are going to experience big techny changes. Some for the good, I hope. I love my paper, will not give it up so easily though. And yeah, I'm still old fashioned that I insist on my children and myself sending out thank yous, invites etc. on paper.

    :clutches an old book from 1823 tighter::

  • Mac_Lake

    Blows my mind! I'm just learning twitter…dont know how i will keep up…but it will be fun trying!

  • Joel

    Authors gear up. The digital revolution will require you to know and interact with your audience more and different than you've ever done before. The old tried & true methods Christian authors use to create a platform and propel book sales (radio and TV appearances, mega churches, stadiums, speaking tours, live events) must go digital too with blogs, webinars, facebook, twitter, and dynamic web pages – just to start. The attention and relevance the author generates in this digital age will either make or break their platform. As Steven Johnson states in his article, "Imagine every page of every book individually competing with every page of every other book that has ever been written, each of them commented on and indexed and ranked." That’s some serious competition.

    The pressure will be on established vintage book authors to be out there, creating a digital vibe. An author’s “citation and interactivity” are the key metrics that will increase his/her relevance factor with readers and measure their book’s potential to drive online sales.

    As a consumer and marketer, I say bring it on!

  • Walt Shiel

    Once again, the engineers (and I am an electrical engineer) have come up with gadgets that, for the most part, are solutions in search of problems.

    Too little time is spent trying to decide what people want or need or what has any practical value.

    How much of this crap will improve our lives in any meaningful way?

    I am heavily involved in Kindle-izing books and own and use a Kindle. Yet, with each passing day, I find my enthusiasm for the medium waning further.

    It is no wonder our political system has degenerated into 90% style and 10% substance…with policy made on the basis of 10-second sound bites.

    As much as I love high-tech stuff, I feel much of it is elevating the worst of our society to the status of must-have and must-do.

  • Dayle

    This may excite the masses, but I'm a die-hard book lover and will never get excited about reading a book that I cannot hold in my hands. There's just something about coming across a moving passage in a book, then clasping the book to your chest for a few minutes while you recover. Sorry, but I don't see me doing that with a piece of electronic equipment. If that leaves me in the dark ages, so be it.

  • Pam Hogeweide

    I've prayed for a revolution for over a decade. I just didn't expect it to show up as a Digital Revolution.


    The potential for interaction amongst authors and readers is staggering and exciting. Imagine instant interaction to a passage in a book with other readers or directly with the author. Imagine accessing citations instantaneously Wikipedia style. Imagine readers helping authors shape the work as it is being written and delivered.

    Crazy. And exciting. I love being a part of this time in history!

  • Rob Bruce

    Michael, Looks like the link to the movie is dead now. Bound to happen, sorry i missed it.
    PS. Is this it?

    • Michael Hyatt

      You're right. The link was dead. I tried yours but couldn't get it to work either. However, I found one that does work. It has been fixed above now. Thanks!

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