A Reminder: Change Is Non-Linear

Is Publishing Doomed?

There are deeply embedded cultural practices around writing and reading and these are not going to change quickly and easily.


They cherish the book. And they believe that this is an artifact that they want in their lives.

Google failed me — once again. I couldn’t turn up a single chart showing the history of typewriter sales compared to home/office computer sales. It’s probably out there, but Google isn’t finding it.

So, next best thing: Company History: Smith Corona Corp.

However, few anticipated the speed with which the quality of PCs would go up and prices would come down.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

And the interesting thing is that, like Wang (the dominant word processing company), Smith Corona tried to change with the times. They didn’t sit around fooling themselves about customers having some bizarre emotional attachment to their machines (read: product).

However, it seems those in print publishing are counting on some sort of bizarre emotion from buyers to keep their current obsolete system going and the gravy still flowing.

Listen, I was there. When Jack Tramiel crushed the price of the VIC-20 and Commodore-64 computers, all hell broke loose. It was equivalent to the shift in the Kindle dropping from $259 to $139. The Commodore-64 had been sold in swank computer stores for a whopping $600. I know this because I went in such a store to drool and was sneered at by an expensively-suited salesdroid.

The C64 made an impressive debut at the January 1982 Winter Consumer Electronics Show, as recalled by Production Engineer David A. Ziembicki: “All we saw at our booth were Atari people with their mouths dropping open, saying, ‘How can you do that for $595?’” The answer, as it turned out, was vertical integration; thanks to Commodore’s ownership of MOS Technology’s semiconductor fabrication facilities, each C64 had an estimated production cost of only US$135.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

Within a few months, I was able to buy one for $200 at Toys-R-Us! In fact, I went to that store and bought a VIC-20, a cassette drive, a Commodore-64, and a 1541 disk drive for less than the price one Commodore-64 cost a few months prior!

No one predicted such a change. And I know this firsthand too because I worked for a company that tracked companies such as Apple, Atari, Commodore, et al. The change came totally out of left field.

And that is how change happens.

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