The future of books… scratch that. The future of reading

16 04 2010

Winnie the Pooh on the Ipad

While most of us focused on the implications of initiatives like Google Books, we may have overlooked the elephant in the room. The story is not about the future of books but rather how people will consume written content – if at all! Whether you read your book on your Kindle, Ipad or whatever, you are still consuming knowledge the same way your ancestor did: reading one line at the time with 90%+ of your brain activity dedicated to this activity.

Audiobooks were the first real challenge to this very principle. You can consume knowledge while driving your car, moping your floor, etc. While quite prevalent in the American culture, audiobooks did not change the book industry – rather it created a new revenue stream. The matter of the fact is that knowledge consumption remained untouched: still a one-way street.

This is why Paul Carr’s recent review of the IPad in TechCrunch got my attention. Paul makes the interesting argument that the Ipad will not only kill the Kindle but it will also kill “the experience of reading for pleasure.” Why?

“The iPad is emphatically not a serious readers’ device: the only people who would genuinely consider it a Kindle killer are those for whom the idea of reading for pleasure died years ago; if it was ever alive. The people who will spout bullshit like “I read on screen all day” when what they really mean is “I read the first three paragraphs of the New York Times article I saw linked on Twitter before retweeting it; and then I repeat that process for the next eight hours while pretending to work.” That’s reading in the way that rubbing against women on the subway is sex.”

His point is that our experience of reading has changed with our attention span. Reading is no longer as entertaining as it used to be; especially on a platform on with awesome games just one click away. The immediate consequence is that you will see more and more video and interactive content integrated in your reading experience. Reading will then become more and more like surfing the Web – a two-way street knowledge consumption. Read the rest of this entry »


Corporate diplomacy – Forget geopolitics, think ecopolitics

12 02 2010


In 2009, Exxon Mobil and Wal Mart revenues surpassed Sweden’s GDP – the 22nd wealthiest country in terms of GDP. Companies like Google publicly challenged China in a human rights debate more powerfully than any developed country had ever dared to. With the economic clout of a develop country and a time horizon set on quarterly earnings, large corporations turned century-old diplomatic protocols upside down like a bull in a china shop. As I see it, large corporations’ government affairs will soon start to look like a Foreign Affairs Ministry with a clear diplomatic agenda to uphold.

When you start to think about it, it is already the case. Corporations in America leverage lobbying to shape the political environment the same way a diplomatic mission would do in a foreign country. Building on the analogy, the World Economic Forum at Davos is the equivalent of the UN where traditional diplomats come to negotiate with their corporate counterparts. If this is already happening, quid novi sub sole? Well, I expect corporations to become bolder in setting and communicating their diplomatic agenda. By doing so, they will redefine the power map – shifting international relations from geopolitics to ecopolitics.

One may then argue that economics are already driving foreign relations. Diplomacy and companies’ interests tend to go hand in hand. Watch a presidential plane from a Western country land in China and we will see a clique of CEOs mixing with the usual diplomatic aides. The line gets blurred between old-fashioned diplomats and global business leaders. Though now, there is still an implicit deference to the old system with the business world trying to piggy-back on the old diplomatic channels to support their interest. This is where I see a branching point: will corporations still defer to diplomatic channels to make them case or will they develop their own, running the risk of clashing with the traditional diplomatic world? Read the rest of this entry »