Saturday, May 22, 2010

Paradigm Shifts - Epilogue

I'm always amazed whenever the subject of paradigm shifts comes up, people seem to be in one of three camps: there are those who are aware and open to the idea of the "book" evolving, those who seem, by virtue of their knee-jerk reaction to decry it, and finally those who seem to think this is old news.

Some comments from Absolute Write members my post on the subject:

Quote: Originally Posted by JudScotKev
I think people love to shriek about one medium REPLACING another, but in reality that doesn't often happen. True, TV makes more money than radio, but people are still listening. Even in the iPod age, radios are still included in every new car.

My first graders love a website called that has interactive books. But I've never had a single student complain about "real" books. They LOVE picture books. They LOVE reading. AND they love video games.

My son has an iPod Touch, an Xbox, a PS2, and satellite TV. And he reads every day, over 2 million words this year alone. He will actually turn off the TV to read.

I don't think it's a competition. I think it's a smorgasbord of choices. Some stories and activities work well in one medium; some work better in another.

Personally, I thank my lucky stars I'm alive in an age that gives me Google, iTunes and Harry Potter, all at once.

My response:
I hope my post didn't come across as alarmist. In fact, my intent was not to bemoan the evolutiontoion, but to 1) celebrate the changes we're seeing and 2) to inform and encourage providers of children's content to think beyond the printed word (and, as I've blogged about before in the case of picture books, the illustrated page). I don't think anyone can deny that information content is reaching us in new and varied ways; our children will have access to more knowledge brought to them in more forms than we enjoyed as children. This is a good thing. But as providers of content, we must evolve as well in order to stay relevant.

Anecdotal claims to the contrary aside, these new forms do compete with one another for our attention. To put it in modern terms, it's about bandwith. Believe it or not, our ability to take in information is limited, and when the preferential mechanism for doing so shifts, it does so at the expense of something else. This is not a bad thing, but it is real. And while I do believe (and have consistently stated in the past) that traditional forms of the book will be with us for a long time to come, we cannot simply recite History and claim that these new paradigms won't change anything. That is simply naive.

Quote: Originally Posted by Ineti
I think it's pretty much a given, and business as usual. Books compete against movies, television, video games, and plenty of other forms of entertainment. Electronic readers that can do color and sound and so on are just the latest hotness. Some new technological marvel will come out, and print books will have to continue to compete. Nothing really earth-breaking here.

My response:
It's a disservice to those new to the business, as well as veterans firmly entrenched in traditional written forms, to understate the significance of the phenomenon by implying only earth-shattering events warrant notice. The evolution of literature, and especially children's content, is an on-going process. It's not something that happened at some point in the past and we've moved on from, but rather something that is happening and continues to happen. Children's lit is especially susceptible to flux as its forms are so varied, from picturebooks and videos to GNs to novels; children today are much more keyed into digital (NOT, I firmly believe, at the exclusion of analogue), which means that they are actively seeking content in these forms. It is our responsibility to meet those expectations.

A thorough read of my blog would have shown that it's not a call to arms against change, but a call to embrace changes, to broaden our horizons as content providers and to stretch those boundaries.

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