As I continue on my self publishing experiment what’s alarming is how quickly its changing. It’s moving so fast that there seems to be some new device or technology introduced every day. But it’s not just the book trade, I’ve been thinking of late how everything seems to be changing fast.
Just because an industry once existed there is no reason why it needs to keep on existing. Take the music industry for example. There wasn’t a music industry 100 years ago. Most music was played by minstrels on the road, like lots of Bob Dylans roaming the country crooning about stones rolling. Then the gramophone was invented, musical portability, and suddenly you didn’t have to have Bob Dylan in your front room with you to hear him and it created, hey presto, a music industry. And for a few decades some people made a simply staggering amount of money. I have purchased Brothers in Arms on every music format, including a mini tape which lasted about 20 minutes at some point in the 90’s. Mark Knopfler made a fortune out of me. HMV in the UK is fading before our eyes, yet it was a pioneer of the music industry, opening as a gramaphone shop in 1920 (it was opened by Edward Elgar). Of course they want to keep making bundles of cash but its gone now. Their time has past. Music has gone beyond being portable to being utterly ubiquitous. Like having free flowing Bob Dylan coming out your tap. Why would anyone pay for something if you can get it free?
Newspapers and Magazines are the same. There is just too much news, specialist information and opinion floating around that doesn’t cost anything with ever increasing ways of getting hold of it. Newspaper sales have been falling in the US steadily since 2004 – and this infographic shows advertising revenues taking a dive too. Every sector in the magazine industry is in decline. It won’t be as abrupt as the music industry, perhaps even shuffling along to serve one last generation, but the writing is on the wall. There wont be any new magazine billionaires.
But these are the obvious high profile populist casualties we read about every day. The changes are happening everywhere.
I had lunch with an old friend last week. He’s an IT man. Or rather he was an IT man. He’s packed it up. He couldn’t stay on top. It was changing all the time, he said.
“I found it impossible to be at the forefront of the industry because everything moved so fast, it was exhausting.”
So he pursued his dream of becoming a full time acupuncturist which is the diametric opposite to IT because it’s been done the same way for thousands of years. And the more you practice doing the same thing the better you get. He’s much happier by the way.
There is a seismic shift happening all around us. The 3 million people on the dole can’t be simply down to the fact that we don’t make stuff anymore. It’s because whole sectors are changing so rapidly that nobody knows how to keep up. They just stay at home. Baffled. Scared.This was how the great depression started in the USA, millions of people who worked on the land being replaced by tractors and fertilizer with nothing else to do.
I work in an online industry which means I’m forced to stay connected and, if anything, this self publishing experiment is continuing to make me step out of my comfort zone and learn new things. But it’s interesting to ponder that my welsh ancestors, coal miners, probably did the same thing day in day out, generation after generation for hundreds of years without much changing at all yet I do a job that 10 years hardly didn’t even exist and in another 10 years I have no idea what I’ll be doing. Don’t you just think sometimes what it would be like if you just had a job, the same job, a safe job, a job that you knew inside out, day after day, until you died?