Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
Substitute zombies with publishing technology and we might be in for a bloodbath.
According to the blogosphere, The New Yorker’s iPad edition is having problems with the new iPad’s retina display: “The first few text selectable articles look great and fully take advantage of the retina screen…. But the rest of the magazine looks completely low res.”
The problem? The suite of tools The New Yorker and all Conde Nast publications are using to produce iPad editions. The emergence of new technology – in this case, a device used for distribution of content – has made an investment that Conde Nast made years ago seem like a mistake now.
“Publishers wake up every morning between a rock and a hard place. If they back a technology that does not achieve widespread acceptance in the marketplace, they are in trouble. If they hold back to see which platforms will get established, they are accused of being technophobic or worse,” said Bay Area management consultant Joe Esposito regarding the issue on a digital publishing list-serve.
Publishers have always had to choose between backing various technologies, making calculations about how they would scale and how long they would continue to be effective, and then living with the results. With each passing month, a technology could become obsolete, zombified.
Earlier this week, at the Publishing Business Conference, Flipboard’s editorial director Josh Quittner argued that publishing companies should not be software companies, that they should rely on technology vendors to keep up with the latest innovations and should focus on creating and distributing content.
David Carr of the New York Times, who was interviewing Quittner on stage, disagreed, citing that the New York Times had made smart, selective investments in technology and that its survival would depend on it continuing to do so. It remains to be seen whether those investments will stand the test of time.
Book publishers are in exactly the same boat, except their choices are much more difficult. It’s not about whether to use a certain Web-development toolkit over another; it’s about which of four or five e-book formats to use, which of a dozen devices to develop for, and which of hundreds of booksellers and readers to distribute to – and how to do it all.
A big investment in technology that looks smart today could look stupid tomorrow. The good-guy scientist who is this close to a cure for the zombie disease in one scene could eat your brains in the next.
Zombie photo via Shutterstock