Pushing The Boundaries Of The Software and Publishing Industry Through Technology.

In the summer of 2015, during a presentation done by Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook Headquarters, I remember being in disbelief by all the technological advancements that had yet to be produced and disrupt industries. The Oculus Rift, which was a virtual reality headset had a $1billion market place valuation and hasn’t even been produced was an example of disruptive piece of technology yet to reach market. The constant advancement of technology has both been beneficial for some and has changed the job market for others. In particular, the publishing industry and software industry has been challenged to adapt to technologies. Of course, the publishing industry has been around longer than the software industry with roots tracing back to news prints. However, with the introduction of the internet, personal computers and mobile devices; technology has radically shifted the production, distribution and consumption model of both industries equally.

Publishing is an established industry with its foundation rooted in the print culture evolving organically with technology overtime. Similarly, the processes of software have developed organically and utilizes the advancement of technology to its benefit. Software is defined on an open source software site called OpenProjects as a “collection of computer data and instructions”, which can be further broken down into two software systems and applications software.(OpenProjects, n.d.). For the purpose of this essay, software will be discussed at a higher level.

Production of code and content in both these industries tended to have a linear path, starting from either the software engineer or author. The intended audience had no role in the former and only a limited role in the latter(Lloyd,2008). However, with Tim Berner’s Lee invention, dubbed the internet, digital natives have morphed into “prosumers” whom Lloyd defines in A Book Publisher’s Manifesto for the 21st century as producers who are consumers that “expect a great deal more involvement in both of these areas of activity if they are to be engaged by texts.”(Lloyd,2008). An instance in publishing where prosumers engaged in the text was Chris Anderson’s, The Long Tail, which was written “‘in public’ via a blog, allowing readers to post comments and to be involved in the very act of writing the book.”(Lloyd,2008). Today, reading is a much less passive activity and it is connected with many and diverse related activities.The reintegration of producers and consumers with the support of technology is just an “extension of the decentralization”(Alstyne, n.d.). New media tools have evolved to support this trend, as consumers are ever so empowered to create their own content reversing their role as passive consumers. Examples of consumers becoming producers with new media tools include the “creators of Web sites and blogs, podcasters who create their own radio shows for other MP3 users, iMovies users who can create their own movies from raw video footage” (Alstyne, n.d.).

The software industry has adopted a collaborative method that is comparable to the publishing industry. Particularly, with the support of technology advancement, open source software has been really able to take off. This, allows multiple developers to comment and develop programs in a shared method.  According to TechTerms, Open Source means the “program’s source code is freely available to the public. Unlike commercial software, open source programs can be modified and distributed by anyone and are often developed as a community rather than by a single organization.”(Christensson,2008). Pre internet, software was written in different languages specialized for an individual network. Arpanet, which was the strategy to connect networks of computers had multiple languages that made it difficult for software engineers to collaborate with each other. However, with the internet, it was the first time that networks communicated in one language, making it interconnected between different networks (ColdFusion, 2013). Furthermore, Tim Berner’s Lee was one of the first to pioneer “open source” code as he released his project, which was the internet as “open source” itself.  For the first time, software engineers could comment and view the source code for free. Linux is the best-known and most-used open source operating system that was developed through a collaboration between software engineers. As an operating system, Linux is software that sits underneath all of the other software on a computer it “receives requests from those programs and relaying these requests to the computer’s hardware.”(OpenSource,n.d.). Collaboration between software engineers is a behaviour that is widely recognized now and is only possible with the advancement of technology. Popular tools are built to support this interaction between software engineers, such as Github, which provides an “open-source distribution of such a software library — to be used, to show how it can be done, and to enlist the help of other like-minded software engineers in advancing a world-class platform suitable for large-scale, industrial software product development.”(Fleming, 2014)

Distribution is the process of getting your product to the consumer. In particular, the publishing industry had the biggest advantage with distribution as it was the biggest hurdle to overcome for new authors. The publisher had the control and the network that allowed books to be distributed to bookstores (Lloyd,2008). Originally, without a publisher, authors were challenged in trying to reach international audiences. However, technology advancement have changed the way books have been distributed. Digital technology has no boundaries in geography and time because books can be published, marketed, bought and read anytime and anywhere(Essays, 2013). The power that came from physical distribution has disappeared as retailers or salespeople have no influence in the actual “buying and selling behaviour as they did before because traditional printing is no longer the only way to have content published”(Essays, 2013). This, has given power to authors, allowing them to be an in-house self publication. Self publishing is an industry that has evolved from the online distribution model. As defined in a blog post on Scribendi called Traditional Publishing Versus Self Publishing, self publishers are authors that take on the role as a publisher. “The author must proofread the final text and provide the funds required to publish the book, as well as the camera-ready artwork. The author is responsible for marketing and distributing the book, filling orders, and running advertising campaigns”(Sribendi,n.d.). Services such as Amazon, Blurb, and CreateSpace have been created to support the self publishing industry. Once was a publishers strongest tool is now being disrupted by technology itself.

Originally, independent engineers had software distribution limitations as well because international reach was troublesome as software was distributed physically through either CD’s, DVD’s or passing around USB drives. Larger software companies who had the resources had the power to reach audiences globally (AvantGate, n.d.). When consumers needed an update, separate physical copies would have to be mailed out. Methods today allow any software engineer to reach their audience at an international scale. Electronic Software Distribution is a solution devised by software producers that is defined in Wikipedia as a distribution model “meant to allow users to download software products over the Internet (i.e. electronically)”.(Digital Distribution, n.d.). Software products distributed electronically have the advantage of costing less than software distributed on physical media it offers buyers permanent access to software products, 24/7, regardless of time or place. (AvantGate, n.d.). This has enabled software engineers to release there products online and reach new audiences without the barrier of physical distribution.

Today, product consumption is highly more immersive and interactive with the evolution of technology. In the publishing industry, technology has enhanced the reading experience, enabling it to happen across more “disparate networks and allowed it to be recorded, aggregated and interlinked in exciting new ways.”(Lloyd,2008). Authors and publishers need to acknowledge that books are essentially a “networked book that contains the conversation it engenders and which, in turn, engenders it.”(Lloyd,2008). Devices that enable this include the Kindle and mobile devices of today, such as the IPhone. In fact, Overall, 50% of Americans now have a dedicated handheld device–either a tablet computer like an iPad, or an e-reader such as a Kindle or Nook for reading digital content.(Zickhur,2014). E-books typically have in-use features such search and cross reference function, hypertext links, bookmarks, annotations, highlights, multimedia objects and interactive tools. With physical books, you didn’t have the concept of hyperlinks. Hyperlinks allow authors to integrate contextual information form other resources by linking readers to that resource. Hyperlinks is defined as a“ digital object with textual and/or other content, which arises as a result of integrating the familiar concept of a book with features that can be provided in an electronic environment” (Carreiro, 2010, p.221). This, allows readers to discover an in-depth view about a certain reading by linking them out with hyperlinks.

On the other hand, Apps have integrated existing service’s API’s into their own apps to develop interactivity. API is an abbreviation for “application programming interface that is a set of protocols, routines and tools used for building software to integrate within their own app ecosystem”(Beal,2015). By integrating APIs make it possible for big services like Google Maps or Facebook to let other apps “piggyback” on their offerings (Proffitt,2013) .An instance where APIs support an interactive environment is when you achieve a high score in a game, you are able to “share, chat, post high scores and invite friends to play via Facebook, right there in the middle of a game”(Proffitt,2013). By “piggybacking” off of other services through both hyperlinks and APIs, it allows producers to enhance the main experience for their intended audiences.

Technology has radically shifted the publishing industry and software industry in all aspects of production, distribution and consumptions. Benefitting the actual consumers themselves who then have turned into contributors to the projects. Without the internet, there would have been a handful of individuals that would have not been able to share their creations with an international audience. However, the evolving landscape has given tools to creators and allowed for a fair competitive industry for self starters to create their first fiction book or small app without the assistance of corporations. Collaboration and sharing of knowledge has connected both publishers and developers to their intended audience. This has produced a much more complex consumer business model as the process to create code or a book has many different paths.

Alstyne, G (n.d.).The Prosumer: Consumer as content producer [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://2020mediafutures.ca/The+Prosumer%3A+Consumer+as+content+producer

AvantGate (2015). Electronic Software Distribution and e-Commerce – Where Do They Meet?[Blog Post]. Retrieved from  http://www.avangate.com/avangate-resources/article/electronic-software-distribution.html

Beal, V. (2015). API – application program interface [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/A/API.html

Carreiro, E. (2010). Electronic Books: How digital devices and supplementary new technologies are changing the face of the publishing industry. Publishing Research Quarterly , 26 (4), 219-235.

Christensson, P. (2008, October 30). Open Source Definition. Retrieved from http://techterms.com

ColdFusion. (2013, August 03). The Greatest Story Ever Told, Where It All Began [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2wG0sXbMhw

Digital Distribution. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved October 04, 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_distribution

Essays, UK. (November 2013). Effect Of Technology On The Publishing Industry Media Essay. Retrieved from http://www.ukessays.com/essays/media/effect-of-technology-on-the-publishing-industry-media-essay.php?cref=1

Fleming, K. (2014, November 03).  Mission Statement. Retrieved from https://github.com/bloomberg/bde/wiki/Mission-Statement

Open Projects. (n.d.).Computer Software Definition. Retrieved from http://www.openprojects.org/software-definition.htm

Open Source (n.d.). What is Linux? Retrieved from http://opensource.com/resources/what-is-linux

Proffitt , B(September,13,2013). What APIs are and Why They Are Important. Retrieved from http://readwrite.com/2013/09/19/api-defined

Sara Lloyd. 2008 A Book Publisher’s Manifesto for the 21st Century. The Digitalist (Pan MacMillan).

Scribendi.(n.d.). Traditional Publishing versus Self-Publishing. Retrieved from http://www.scribendi.com/advice/traditional_versus_self_publishing.en.html

Zickuhr, K (January,16,2014). E-Reading Rises as Device Ownership Jumps. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/01/16/e-reading-rises-as-device-ownership-jumps/

3 Comments

  1. The article “Pushing the Boundaries of the Software and Publishing Industry Through Technology” makes some important points about the relationship between technology and the publishing and software industries. After the overview of modern publishing and new media based on Lloyd’s “A Book Publisher’s Manifesto for the 21st Century,” this article from the blog Technology and the Evolving Book compares some aspects of the software industry to publishing. It identifies the size of the market for online content, and discusses ways that apps can be used to enhance the reading experience. It also discusses the opportunities for authors to self-publish their works, and provides some detail on how this occurs. Although this article is a good start to the discussion about technology and publishing (or technology and the software industry), it misses an important point about the impact of new technologies.
    Lloyd’s idea that the audience has had little role in the production of either written works or software is useful for understanding the history of these industries. It is not, however, a good perspective for examining the modern industries. In the software industry and in a growing number of other industries, a methodology called Agile development is now being used. This methodology emphasizes constant engagement with clients, which helps uncover requirements. These requirements are then built into the software as soon as possible through a process of many iterations. New media and Web 2.0 technology facilitate Agile development because they make online collaboration easier. This trend of Agile development may still be young, but it is very important. It represents a fundamental shift in how software developers use technology to find and satisfy the wants and needs of end users.
    Recognizing the value of the Agile methodology highlights an important idea about technology and publishing that are missing from your article. New media provides an opportunity for authors, with or without a publisher, to engage with fans online easily and effectively. The trend of open-source software development that you mention could be a model for groups, or authors and their fans, to collaborate on written content online. Many of the products of the Web 2.0 revolution, like Wikipedia and Amazon, act as competitors or substitutes for publishers. Web 2.0 and new media are disruptive because new industry players found a way to use them to create value for end users. Publishers and self-publishing authors also have an opportunity to “piggyback” on the success of services like GoodReads and Amazon, the same way that app developers benefit from integrating APIs like Facebook or Google Maps as mentioned in the article.
    A thorough discussion of the impact of new technologies on the publishing and software industries in 2015 needs to consider the shift towards the Agile software development methodology. Authors could use a methodology similar to Agile where they engage with fans early in the writing process, and adapt the final product according to fan feedback gathered through social networks. This would allow them to build larger loyal fan bases and create products that satisfy fans. The article would be stronger with a discussion of these opportunities created by new technology, including examples like the Oculus Rift that it mentions just once.

    • This is a great critique, one that offers a new perspective while still responding to the article as written. It demonstrates a deep engagement with the ideas offered by the author, and provides further thinking on them.

  2. The choice of the software industry as a point of comparison was a particularly challenging one, and the author should be commended for the effort. Looking at the role that technology plays in the development of tech has a certain circularity that is not present in other industries (i.e., the book industry) and so drawing parallels was naturally difficult.

    As a result, the comparisons feel tenuous, and often unfocused. Furthermore, the use of definitions throughout the piece (often in place of having a more meaningful discussion of the term being defined) was distracting, and detracted from the main argument being made. A valiant effort, if lacking in some of its execution.

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