A Time for Reflection and Hope
As 2008 draws to a close and, to most publishers, the world's future seems somewhat dark or at the very least uncertain, we are all looking for shafts of hope and light in the current financial storm. That hope and that brightness are still here if we look in the right places. I actually think there is room for more optimism than may at first seem apparent to many other prognosticators.
Our industry may be a bit battered, but it is not defeated. It cannot be vanquished, because the distribution of information is the cornerstone of a free and democratic society. Writers will write and publishers will distribute that writing to a willing public. Our future is just as vibrant as it always was and I expect, as necessary changes occur, it will manifest itself in positive ways we can't yet imagine.
So, as we drift into 2009, it is a perfect and natural time for us to take a moment or two for reflection and review and for a reassessment. It is a perfect time for evaluating the current and future possibilities of our professional and our personal lives.
I first suggest that we look back with pride on what we and our fellow publishers have accomplished in the past before we look forward into an unknown future. We as a group and as a business are indispensable. As information providers we are the glue that holds society together. We provide the mortar known as knowledge, and we make it available to all.
Technology has given us expanded markets of information distribution unheard of a decade ago. Though the outreach and growth is exponential, our profits haven't been able to keep up with the new technologies. We clearly need new business models. Fear not -- we will invent them.
There are currently four billion mobile phone users and around one billion personal computer users around the world. That means that there are at least four billion potential readers for publishers to learn how to tap into and profit from. This technologic growth and apparently inexhaustible need to read is proof of our value and assurance of our continued existence. The publishing nation has grown and will continue to grow, but most likely in directions that are unexpected. Our former sphere of influence is changing, and our business models must grow with the times and the ages before us. We will go through a complex series of transformations before we are who we are going to become -- new age information distributors. This is not a "might be," but rather a "will be" state of affairs.
I feel it very safe to say that as we go into the sixth year of ongoing war, with continued industrywide lay-offs still on the rise, and the general uncertainties of an industry and a country in transition, we have all had a moderate amount of reassessment forced upon us. It is probable that many of us are challenging our own personal paths and calculations of who we are, where we are going and when we will get there. Let me suggest that I believe our industry can and will not only survive but thrive and prosper as never before.
A look at history proves that wars come and then they go; that economic downturns have happened before and will happen again. They appear when least expected and retreat with the same regularity. We know that the winter is cold only to be followed by the joy and beauty of a warm summer's day. But the most enduring cycle throughout history is the love of family and friends. I send warm greetings to all with a big hug and the hope that you are surrounded by the love of your family and friends.
I found the following message from Fra Giovanni almost 12 years ago. It was first sent from one friend to another in 1513 A.D. It has become part of my traditional year-end expression of hope and reflection. In it I find a certain central peace and great depth. Every time I read it, I come away with a little more understanding.
Like the author, I hope that your paths are clear of shadows and that you have the time and sensibilities to take a few moments to really stop and look around you. Most of us work too hard and forget the reasons for our energetic professional pursuits. I learned years ago that I was "working to live, not living to work." I think sometimes we have a habit of forgetting that. Work is a means to keep a safe roof over our heads, food on the table, and to help facilitate the comfort and joy of our family and friends.
In the end, the truth is that it is our ability to love and share that love that has any real or long-lasting meaning.
I SALUTE YOU!
There is nothing I can give you which you have not;
but there is much that, while I cannot give, you can take.
No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today.
No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present instant.
The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
And so, at this holiday time, I greet you, with the prayer that for you, now and forever,
the day breaks and the shadows flee away.