The blog for social reading site Findings has posted a lengthy interview with author and Internet consultant Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everything and Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. Shirky starts the interview with the paragraph:

Publishing is not evolving. Publishing is going away. Because the word “publishing” means a cadre of professionals who are taking on the incredible difficulty and complexity and expense of making something public. That’s not a job anymore. That’s a button. There’s a button that says “publish,” and when you press it, it’s done.

Of course, this is a bit of an over-simplification, since without the other services publishers can provide, what people publish is not necessarily anything anyone else will want to read. So publishers will still have a place, but that place will be built on the other things publishers do than just “publishing”. Services such as editing, fact-checking, graphic design, and so forth, are going to be much more valuable than the ability to gate-keep over the distribution media when anyone can distribute to Kindle, or even just to a blog, with the push of a button.

The rest of the interview settles down into a look at the future of reading and “social reading”. One particularly interesting bit is where Shirky points out that the Internet means it’s no longer ever necessary to be bored, but that is not necessarily a good thing. In the context of all the distractions offered by full-fledged tablet devices, Shirky notes:

It was only later that I realized the value of being bored was actually pretty high. Being bored is a kind of diagnostic for the gap between what you might be interested in and your current environment. But now it is an act of significant discipline to say, “I’m going to stare out the window. I’m going to schedule some time to stare out the window.” The endless gratification offered up by our devices means that the experience of reading in particular now becomes something we have to choose to do.

He also discusses the value of annotating, what social reading is good for, and how social reading can connect to activism. It’s all interesting, though perhaps not quite as controversial as the section on publishing at the start. Still, he does have a point. The nature of publishing is changing, and it remains to be seen how well publishers can change with it.

(Found via GigaOm.)


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