A Reminder: We're Still in the Word Business
I was interviewed this week by Maria Schneider, who runs a very popular blog called Editor Unleashed. It was great to be interviewed by a wordsmith. So much attention is given to technology these days, that the buzz in publishing circles sometimes forgets that we are still in the word business—not the electron shipping and moving business.
When we were still in the second half of the last century and we belonged to a previous generation, we never discussed the substrate and the wonderful delivery mechanisms of paper. The long story was about the product. In our case, the product was reading materials. We would send sales guys around the planet declaring that our reading material was better than the competition’s reading material, essentially saying that our words and thoughts are better and more interesting than their words and thoughts. We would say that our readers are more engaged in our product because our editors are better and more knowledgeable than the other guys’.
Do we do that anymore? I think we have somehow drifted away from our original mission of educating, entertaining and aiding readers to do whatever it is that they want to do, be it work or play.
I am a professional futurist and I love the evolution of our technologies for the potential power that they represent. But I am a publisher and writer first and a gadgetman second. Without the words, damn good words, we have nothing but plastic, silicon and moving electrons signifying nothing, doing nothing, meaning nothing. At the very end of the day, it is still our ability to communicate our thoughts and shared learning that has any merit. The rest is smoke and mirrors. If we as an industry are to survive in a format that we will recognize and understand, then we have to rediscover our original purpose. People will pay for words, education, and entertainment that is important to them.