Creative perspectives on publishing and digital disruption

Digital technologies have certainly disrupted the businesses of book sellers and newspaper proprietors, but have they fundamentally altered supply and demand for writing? That is a question posed by economist Joshua Gans in his book Information Wants to Be Shared. It has become easier to produce (write) and consume (read), and the new ease of reading and writing have eliminated the barriers that protected the publishing industry from competition.

There are two main reasons why information “wants” to be shared:

  • The costs of its creation can more easily be covered if its use can be spread across a greater number of individuals
  • When users know that others have access to information, the demand for that information will, in general, be higher.

The book goes on to discuss the differences between “free” information and “shared” information; the history of book publishing, including the use of expensive binding as a quality signalling mechanism, and the effect of the virtual elimination of distribution costs; the plight of newspapers and the ascension of the Facebook model of news publishing; and the future of shared information and innovative business models to achieve it.

The author admits that the style of this short ebook is speculative and far from formal or comprehensive, and by the end of it I was no more certain about the best way forward for publishers or newspaper proprietors. Nevertheless, I found it to be a really interesting discussion of the issues, giving some new and creative perspectives on information, publishing, and digital disruption.

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