Red Peter and me

Do you ever get the feeling that finding a way through all the challenges of digital publishing - past, present and future - is a bit like running a marathon? And that keeping up with the latest developments - identifying them, reacting to them, possibly doing something with them, and then moving on - is kinda like sprinting between posts setup along the marathon route? Trawling through my RSS reader, I sometimes feel an echo of my high school hockey training, when our coach made us put sticks down at three markers, each further than the last, and then sprint back and forth between them: to the first and back, to the second and back, to the third and back, to the second and back, to the first and back... and repeat. There are so many competing versions of the same product or service idea out there. For example, products for tracking your library and reading: add books to your library/shelf, mark them as read or to read, rate them, review them, share them with your friends (find your friends, add them, rate them etc.) and so on. I've tried a few of these - iRead, Shelfari, LibraryThing, and more - and settled on Bookshare in Facebook because I like the interface and my friends are also using it. But just last week there was another new app with similar intentions announced, Digital Texts 2.0, also for Facebook, adding to the set of existing apps all doing much the same thing in much the same way with more or less success, although this app is more focused on academic humanities texts than commercial books.

These products are clearly on a development lifecycle that is familiar to us: lots of entrants in the market, healthy innovation, competition reveals the strongest, partnerships and acquisitions consolidate things, and eventually you have some kind of normal curve with the few big apps in the middle that most people use (think Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Corsa), a few at the top edge (BMW) and some at the bottom edge that either stay there, fall away or rise into the middle of the curve (Tata Nano, maybe?).

And you could point to other ideas, products and services with a parallel drive to proliferation. Ebook readers, anyone? Cuil?

Now, don't get me wrong, please! I'm not moaning... oh there are too many products... oh there are too many ideas... Nope, nope, nope: not moaning.

Rather, I'm drawing a line in the sand for myself: I'm no longer hectically searching for new ideas and a way to leverage them, and instead I'm determined to make good, informed decisions in pursuit of a reasonable strategy. Here I stand.

[I suppose, in a roundabout way, I'm talking about the tension we saw recently between the drive to engage and innovate (represented by Sara's publisher's manifesto for the 21st century) and the wait-and-see response of publishers to the launch of the iPhone 3G.]