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Today, Digital Books. Tomorrow, Instant Communication.

E-books are popping up everywhere suddenly.

 

As I write this, mediabistro.com’s e-book summit is live-streaming on my office PC. The hot, nearly new gift for Christmas this year was an e-reader, whether it’s a Kindle, a Nook, a Sony Reader or one of the others coming soon.

 

The entire publishing industry is all abuzz about e-books. Simon & Schuster announced recently that they would delay e-book editions for four months, giving breathing room to their print editions. Stephen Covey has just broken ranks with his print publisher, asserting his ownership of digital rights, and has struck a deal with Amazon to sell his books at the Kindle store.

What does all this mean? Here’s my take, for what it’s worth:

 

  • E-readers are transition devices. Just like PDAs and netbooks, dedicated e-readers are going to bridge the gap between the nontechnology generation (baby boomers and older) and the technology natives (those who grew up with all this digital stuff). In less than five years (maybe sooner), e-readers will look as quaint as PDAs do now.

 

  • Print publishing and print publishers are going away. Just like newspapers, it’s not the content people don’t want, it’s the format (print) and the super slow delivery system. Even daily newspaper delivery looks really slow compared to instant access to anything you want to read or see. Having to go to a store to buy a book, or even wait for the Amazon delivery of one to two days later, will quickly fade. This is the always-on era, including all media; books and magazines are just late to this party.

 

  • Creators will own the entire process if they want to. People can now create, format and upload to Amazon and other e-pub bookstores. Good stuff will still find its market.

 

  • Creators may not want to own the entire process and may outsource the editing and e-publishing technicalities to others. Hence, e-publishers are born to deliver as much or as little assistance as needed, both editorially and technically.

 

  • Distribution can work across multiple channels like Amazon, Sony’s e-bookstore, Barnes & Noble’s e-bookstore and lesser-knowns, such as Booklocker and so on. But Amazon rules the day now. They created the instant delivery, the first e-reader that did not need to hook up to a computer and the “first instantly available with no hassles” delivery system.

 

  • Print publishers are still trying to protect a dying format — the hardcover first edition. Note the ill-conceived plan of Simon & Schuster to delay e-books for four months after the hardcover edition.

 

  • New e-publishers, who are not tied to the traditional printed books industry, will offer new perspectives on publishing. They will think differently than just “print” publishers.

 

  • It’s all going mobile soon. Back to my fascination with mobile phones. Obviously the iPhone was the game-changer that set a new paradigm of multiple uses for a mobile phone. Tomi Ahonen had a piece citing stats that Americans now use their phones more for texting than for voice calls. The transition has already started of mobile devices as total communication tools — voice, text, data, reader, video, photos, music, internet, PDA and on and on. Depending on what Apple does with its iTablet, if it exists, this could be another game-changer. However, the new, rumored Google Phone (bigger screen than the iPhone), which is set to work seamlessly with Google Books, is really the future. One device, which fits in your pocket, that does everything you want to do.

 

What, you ask, does this have to do with small churches or churches of any size? For the first time ever in the history of humankind (drum roll) you will be able to communicate directly, personally and at any time with anyone you choose to.

 

This has huge implications for how churches communicate, gather people, do ministry and publish their message.

 

Chuck Warnock is pastor of Chatham Baptist Church in Chatham, Va. He blogs at Confessions of a Small-Church Pastor.