Music, videos, newspapers, books: Going, going, gone

The Kindle (version 2) is getting rave reviews, and Amazon has released a version for the iPhone. It suggests that we may be seeing the beginning of the end of the era of the book. Unlike music, videos, and newspapers, I don't think books will disappear entirely. Think of art and architecture books, how to books with lots of pictures and illustrations, certain kinds of specialty topic books.... but the Kindle hints that printing books on paper is about to become much less common.

The Internet is a transport system that is making many other information transport systems obsolete. First it was music; vinyl records and CDs are not about the music itself, they are simply a transport system to get the music to the buyer. Video stores are on the way out, as Netflix and Blockbuster, by using the Internet, are making the video cassette and DVD transport system obsolete. Newspapers are beginning to collapse, as the news-PAPER is just a transport system for reporting the news itself. The news and journalism business, like the music and movie business, will survive and even prosper, but the underlying business models are collapsing because we don't need four different transport systems: one for music, one for movies, one for news, and one for books. And let's not forget the phone and TV transport systems; we don't need those either. So there is a total of six separate transport systems we no longer need. The 'net handles all of those quite nicely.

And that's why every home and every business needs a high performance broadband connection; without it, you might as well be living in 1400--before books, before newspapers, before any information distribution systems existed.

Now, here's one more question. If every source of information is delivered efficiently over a single network, who should be in charge of that network? Do you want a private corporation, which answers only to its stockholders, do decide what information your community can access, or should the community or region have some control? We're not talking about doing away with private sector providers--we need and want them to continue providing the services they already offer--telephone, video, news, etc. We're talking about managing the underlying transport system differently. What if all the roads in your region were owned by s single out of state firm? Would that firm always be able to act in the best interests of your community? Again, the private sector is critically important to the long term health of communities, but we need to manage the information transport system differently.

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