Is it time we made digital a dirty word?

The book publishing trade has passed the digital tipping point - no, the majority of trade publishing may not yet be electronic, but as an industry, there cannot be many of us who have not been exposed to digital publishing, thought about it, or talked about it, and it's impact is being felt by retailers too. E-books, e-readers and smaphones are mainstream. If you accept that's the case, maybe it's time we made 'digital' a dirty word.

Think about how often the d-word is used - and then think about how often a more specific, nuanced term could have been used instead.

You said digital, but could you have said...

  • Internet-delivered?
  • Rapidly developed?
  • Scaleable?
  • Mobile?
  • Zero marginal cost?
  • Easy to share (and copy)?
  • Granular content?

In a trade that, like most industries, has an incredible vocabulary of jargon, the d-word stands out as being used to mean any number of things in any number of settings. It can mean e-books, apps, websites, databases and so much more. This is deeply unhelpful and a genuine barrier to wider understanding.

Only by eradication of such terminological inexactitude can we actually start to have meaningful discussions throughout publishing. New entrants to the business are expected to learn about blads, presenters, ARCs, ISBNs, flaps, and RAP dates, so it makes no sense for knowledge of ePub, DRM, metadata, XML and JavaScript to be marginalised to digital departments.

Only once whole businesses have a proper understanding of the possibilities and pitfalls in the creation, storage and delivery of content by a variety of electronic means (see what i did there?) can we really push on and make great user experiences that delight, entrance and educate their users. So next time a colleague says 'digital', pass them the swear box, get them to pay up and then ask them what they really mean.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wmjas/148141867/

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