The disruption of the publishing industry can be seen far beyond mere books. Trade publishing (general fiction and non-fiction books) are heavily impacted and get most of the attention, but think of all the other forms of publishing that have been hammered, some of them into near non-existence. Once you start looking, you see this impact everywhere:
- There’s map and atlas publishers, which have been decimated by the GPS units in our cars and smartphones.
- There are the phone books that we now throw straight into the recycling bin, replaced by Google and the like.
- There are the video game guidebooks that have been replaced by forums, GameFAQs, and other online resources.
- The comic book industry has seen triple digit growth in digital comics, and print has seen declines.
- Newspapers and magazines are getting hit hard, replaced by online versions, blogs, even Facebook.
- Travel guides are giving way to TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Google.
- I remember when Barnes & Noble had an entire section for computer books, with several aisles dedicated to thick works on every OS and programming language. These resources have moved online. It’s hard to find such books in bookstores anymore.
- Dictionaries, thesauri, and encyclopedias have been crushed by wikipedia and quick online searches.
- Trade journals and academic journals are moving to digital.
- As are sales catalogs. Including trade publishing catalogs, which have moved to a program called Edelweiss (and others).
- There’s also the publication of materials for other entertainment mediums, like music CD and film DVD inserts, which have been replaced by digital album covers.
- Fanzines are now fan blogs.
- Poetry chapbooks and literary journals are going digital at major universities.
- University textbooks are both going digital and being replaced by adaptive learning programs and online resources like the Kahn Academy.
What am I missing? This list is just off the top of my head. Some of these are minor, of course. Others are entire industries. The effect the internet is having on publishing cannot be fully appreciated, I don’t think. Publishing has long been about the transmission of language and knowledge. Digital does this better in so many ways. In fact, trade book publishing is somewhat protected by nostalgia and our fondness of books (it’s certainly true for me). While we wring our hands over the disruption in trade books, entire other swaths of the publishing industry are collapsing.