Publishing 2.0, 3.0 or 4.0?

In a post introducing the theme of cloud publishing in relation to  book publishing, I used the phrase ‘Book publishing 3.0’ to indicate the dawn of a new period in the industry’s development. The scheme I had in mind  ran as follows:

1.0 print publication;

2.0 ‘classic e-books’ (downloadable PDFs, ePubs and Mobis);

3.0 publishing (and reading) on the cloud.

One reader, Jonty Haynes, responded that I’d missed a stage: 1.0 should refer to the era of manuscripts, which would make cloud publishing 4.0. I decided, however, not to adopt that logic, on the grounds that, though accurate, the era of manuscripts is so long past as to have little relevance to industrial matters today.

A couple of other commentators have suggested that, on the contrary, I am one step ahead of myself: the era of cloud publishing should be termed 2.0. Their argument is that one of the distinguishing features of what Tim O’Reilly has termed ‘Web 2.0’ has been precisely the rise to dominance of cloud resources – for example, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

What they say of Web 2.0 is clearly true. Yet it does not follow that we should use the same periodisation for book publishing. The point here is that book publishing has been largely out of step with the more general development. The rise of social media has in the main been accompanied, not by cloud publishing of books, but by the development of what we might call skeuormorphic digital books – that is, e-books largely modelled on print books (and sometimes merely PDFs of the text of the print edition). Only now is cloud publishing beginning to show up at all prominently on the book industry’s horizon.

I propose, then, ‘Book publishing 3.0’. Any (further) objections?

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One Response to “Publishing 2.0, 3.0 or 4.0?”

  1. I thought the ‘Web 2.0’ tag referred to the use of the web, for the first time, as a *two*-way many-to-many information distribution system. Web 1.0 was skeuomorphic because nobody had yet grasped its two-wayness, and was para-publishing because no money followed the content, which was pushed out and not collectively generated or curated. In other words, the traditional publishing model – regardless of the distribution channel or ‘pipe’ – is ipso facto unidirectional, because publishers gatekeep their high-quality content so that money only goes one way. To borrow terms from classical economics, modes of production, distribution and exchange are separate and different. I guess these Publishing x.0 taxonomies will swim around in front of our eyes depending on whether we look at publishing with our socio-technical or economic spectacles on. Nicely controversial post!

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