Publishing Steps in the Digital Direction, and I Place Bets on Analog

Seth Godin has recently partnered with Amazon to create a brand new book publishing model where ‘book’ is no longer defined by printed pages and hard covers. It’s called the Domino Project. You can also read about it on Seth’s blog.

We’re already used to consuming news, blogs and entertainment online, and e-readers like the Kindle have been quickly adopted over the past three years to deliver entire long-form books digitally. It is now Seth’s ambition to revive the long-form book as culture’s primary idea contagion, hoping to reinvent the still stodgy, convoluted delivery cycle between author and reader that is the publishing process.

I love love LOVE to hear about advances in this direction, for multiple reasons — primary among which I hope everyone else has overlooked.

First, the obvious: the entire world is being swept up in a whirlwind of digital media for its benefits of instant access and the practically nonexistent incremental cost of delivering digital bits. Download and listen to the audiobook version of Free: the Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson (for free, by the way) for an in-depth exposition on that topic.

Second, as Seth and Amazon intend to further explore, the creation, distribution and consumption of digital media can take place in damn-near real time — an exercise largely neglected by long-form book publication. It also drastically reduces the role of retail middlemen who add gobs of cost to the whole equation, managing very limited resources like shelf space and in-store promotion.

Finally — and most importantly for me — while the whole world devours a new era of digital book distribution, there will emerge a newly neglected breed of reader, hungry for the weight and substance and prestige of what book reading used to be.

These people will soon look up from their kindles to discover sparse and poorly dressed shelves around their wood-paneled home libraries. They’ll wonder what sort of legacy they’re leaving behind for their children and grandchildren to remember them by, to know their passions and the authors whose works and ideas helped shape their world. At best they’ll see torn dust jackets and worn cloth hardcovers. Like music purists and connoisseurs who grew to demand vinyl records again, they’ll see a digital list of titles on the screen of a handheld toy and think to themselves, there must be something better than this.

If only someone would offer custom leather binding for their most cherished titles — heirloom quality preservation for the works that have adorned their lives and homes — they would have something ultimately honorable to pass on to future generations, to grace their library shelves, to hold in their hands and immerse their senses.

These books won’t be cheap, but they’ll be wonderfully valuable.

I plan to deliver them.

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