Editors beat robots: Post-industrial publishing and its contents

  • March 6, 2014
We have long taken for granted that the engine of the writing-reading economy was the book. It is, after all, the apotheosis of technology, perfected over five hundred years of human interaction so familiar it becomes invisible as technology, like the wheel or the chair. However, while it remains perfect as a technology, the business that drove and was driven by it is failing. It is not failing for cultural reasons, nor because of attention spans, nor because of Amazon. It is failing because it became a manufacturing business, and employment in manufacturing has declined from 70% to less than 10% in the US, and less than 15% in Canada. However, in a recent study of how disruption in employment would play out over the coming decades, the role of editor was viewed as one of the least likely to decline, shortly behind dentist and personal trainer and well ahead of commercial airline pilot. How are we to understand these two seemingly disparate trajectories? In this talk Nash explains how the publishing business is shifting from manufacturing to service, a change vastly more disruptive but also offering vastly greater opportunity than the shift from print to digital. Publishing is dying into new life, a life consisting of stories, classes, dinners, parties, digital reading platforms and, yes, some books.

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Editors Beat Robots: Post-Industrial Publishing and its Contents

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