Eating your Bagel and spilling your coffee on the newspaper is not quite a thing of the past yet but it may soon come to pass that paper is replaced by words served up on digital displays. I dismissed the NY Times in less than a minute today and the Washington Post took less than five. Soon being a relative term, of course no one can accurately predict the future from where we stand. But some things are clearly more certain than others. “The sun will come up tomorrow,” in the immortal words of Little Orphan Annie. “Until it doesn’t anymore,” says the pessimist.
Organizing ideas and making them accessible are the main functions of newspapers and libraries. Some functional replacement for either of them will have to come along before they disappear. The internet is a great big mass of data, some organization will have to happen eventually. The real question for those of us who care is what form it will take.
Libraries may be an idea past its prime if I am reading Peter Brandt’s words accurately. Where will the repositories exist if Google fails in its effort to digitize and store everything? That digitization project will almost certainly fall short. I have watched as the Library of Congress shrunk to the size of a room and then to the size of a briefcase. It is not yet quite down to being written on the head of a pin but volumes can dance there now. Still the information repositories of the future will be different but no less necessary.
Selling the newspapers short may be a good idea for right now. But how long will it take for the bears to eat all the value in that industry? Will they leave the residue somewhere out in the woods with all the newsprint trees that are worth more for their fixed carbon than their fiber tomorrow? Does a bear really s___ in the woods? Not if they have an office on Wall Street.
Back to the future, only a crazy entrepreneur could think this thought, but isn’t some of this change fraught with opportunity? Aren’t the new ways of doing things going to result in more value being created than is destroyed? I think so but then I believed in the prospects of Alcohol Fuel back in the 1970’s. In investment timing is everything. Good luck guessing when digital will take over the newspapers and libraries but it is on its way!!!!!!