Wednesday, July 20, 2011

COMMON SENSE: The Borders are Open

UPDATED: Great post that illustrates my point from a different perspective.

This will be the first post in a series of posts designed to look at things in a different way. I often find myself reading things that I have to step back and go, "wait, what?"

There is one fundamental truth to the world that has been a fundamental truth since the dawn of time and throughout the evolution of our humble planet. Things change. It seems to me that too many people forget that fundamental truth. Far too often we want things to stay the same. But how can we grow and learn if things always stay the same? If we stuck to the mantra that all things should stay the same because it's comfortable we would never have crawled out of the Dark Ages. Humanity is driven by change, it needs change, it would stagnate and evaporate like a pool of water without change, and yet we still push to keep things the same.

I've read article after article about the recent announcement that Borders was closing its doors and the common theme of most of them goes something like this:

OH MY GOD IT'S THE END OF THE BOOK INDUSTRY AS WE KNOW IT!!!!


I wish I were exaggerating when I say this, but it's all over the place. I suspect it's mostly from agents, editors, and publishers whose jobs depend on the current book business model who fear (yup, you guessed it) they fear change. Understandably so, mind you, I can imagine I would be worried if that were my job, but being an educator and having worked in education for a number of years, I have been faced with change after change after change; some of which have had major impacts on my job, and I have to pick myself up and move on. Not all changes were for the better, but in the end I learn to adapt, grow, and become a better teacher and person for it. I talked about this very issue in another post concerning Spotify.

The book industry is changing. (I say this as if it's a big surprise, but it isn't.) It has been changing for quite some time. We knew this the day ebooks were invented 20 years ago. People think that just because the internet was invented that ebooks are all of a sudden a big thing. They've been around forever. People have exchanged electronic formats of books since I was in High School. We saw it happen with the music industry, then the movie industry, and now publishing. The difference is, both of those industries have refused to change and complain that they are losing sales because of piracy, but the truth of the matter is that piracy isn't the big problem. Now before your head starts shaking and you stop reading, hear me out.

Piracy exists because of one reason and one reason only. It's cool. It was the big thing when information sharing became mainstream in the 80's and 90's. It was cool to be able to download a song or a movie. It was a novelty. The industry had a chance then to capitalize on its "coolness." Instead, they decided to thrust their heads into the sand and resist change. The problem is, people need change, they desire change, we thrive on change.

Don't believe me? Dig that iPhone out of your pocket and tell me that you'd still be using a rotary dial phone right now if it were available. Why do you have an iPhone (or other type of modern communication device)? Because it's cool! Because it's useful. Because it has changed from the old types of communication into something better. Why do we embrace such wonderful advances in technology when it benefits us personally, but rebuke it when it doesn't? Digital media is the future and there's no stopping it. Let's not make the same mistakes as the music and movie industry. Embrace the change and realize that there is a market for electronic media if people are willing to adapt and be creative.

Think of the advantages, books available in months or weeks, instead of years. Impulse sales like crazy! When I purchase a book on Kindle, I rarely think twice about it. It's right there on my screen, I don't even have to pick it up! And the best part? I don't have to hand over a card, money, or any other form of payment. It all happens magically and I never have to think about it (until I get the bill). The point is there are so many advantages to change, so why do we fight it?

Ask yourself this the next time you get into your car. Would you want to drive around a vehicle that you had to crank every time you wanted to drive it? Cars were supposed to be the END OF THE LOCOMOTIVE industry!!! As it was claimed back then. I can attest from the fact that every time I try to cross a set of train tracks that the locomotive industry is very much alive. Different. But alive.

Do I go to bookstores to look for books and then buy them on Amazon? Absolutely. Do I regret it? Absolutely not. Does it matter where I get the book from as long as I'm buying it? Probably to the people I'm not buying it from, but that's because I like ebooks. I like the fact that when I travel I don't have to have a separate suitcase form my books just like I like the fact that I don't have to lug around a gigantic CD case and risk swerving off the road to load another CD. It's all on my phone.
Look to the future with hope and opportunity, because anything else would just be a step in the wrong direction.
I say all this to make a point. It's all about Common Sense. We know the world changes, we know that it changes for the better (most of the time). We just have to be brave enough to embrace the change and innovate to make the change work for us instead of against us. Look to the future with hope and opportunity, because anything else would just be a step in the wrong direction. Borders may be closing, but the borders on the future are wide open.

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