Format change in action – a couple of examples from history:
1. Movies and TV: in the late 40s/early 50s, movie companies fought broadcasters to protect their industry against the upstart television. Their frontal attack failed, and consumption of moving pictures largely moved from the cinema to the home. TV developed wholly new formats (game shows, chat shows), but also reformatted drama (soap operas, seasonal series) beyond what the movies had ever been able to achieve. Much of the talent that had worked exclusively in the cinema found new ways to make new livings.
2. Counter service grocers and self-service supermarkets: another mid-century change. The economies of scale, and the ease with which savings could be passed on to the customer, rendered counter-service stores rapidly obsolete. Supermarkets sold bulk and sold convenience; as the years passed, they progressively improved product quality, all the time managing value.
In both cases, “big business” created the format shift – just as big businesses have created ereaders and tablets; but thereafter, they had to develop those formats as dictated by the customers. Publishers in the post-paper world will have to do the same.
Indeed, pbooks are set to join cinemas and small food stores on the junk heap of history – until they reinvent themselves anew for an ebook audience. But that will have to wait another 10-20 years – a cycle of decline, to be followed by a renaissance in a new and different form?
Hitch: http://jimberkin.wordpress.com; supermarket: business-school.exeter.ac.uk