Web 3.0: the triumph of the incumbent?

One of the most successful narratives in modern capitalism is that of disruptive innovation, with its corollary of the fall of the incumbent and the rise of some upstart. We all know how it goes: there is a big, large, lazy established powerhouse that is well-established and conservative in style and approach. Suddenly, they are outmaneuvered and outperformed by some new player who is able to understand and use the power of innovation. This narrative is very appealing for many reasons: it is always easy to write a good story on this premise, it speaks to the good old feeling of rooting for the underdog and it satisfies a sense of justice, rewarding ingenuity and audacity over the conservativeness of the establishment. Above all, it resonates very well with way the United States tends to represent itself, starting at least with Theodore Roosevelt, as an upstart nation and innovator who looks towards the future while the old European empires are rooted in their glorious past.

However, the appeal of a narrative does not necessarily make it true. The fact is that the early years of the digital revolution saw the epic rise and fall of titans like Texas Instruments, IBM and Microsoft — although the latter was more like a dip. But it is also true that the big five (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft), or the ‘tech giants’, may be here to stay: generally speaking, upstarts and newcomers succeed in relatively new industries, where the incumbents remain below a certain critical mass and their position is still weak.

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Il dito, la luna e il libro

Un celebre detto afferma che, quando il dito indica la luna, il saggio guarda la luna e lo stolto il dito. Con tutto il rispetto per i detti tradizionali, a volte è comunque interessante guardare il dito, specie se indica nella direzione sbagliata.

Il dito in questione è un lapidario editoriale di Francesco Giubilei su cultora, dal titolo definitivo: Una pietra tombale sugli ebook, il futuro del libro è di carta. Prima di entrare nello specifico di questo pezzo, vediamo i dati dell’ultimo rapporto dell’Associazione italiana editori (si trovano qui, pagina 12). Bene, dopo anni di crescita tumultuosa a due cifre, il 2017 ha visto il valore del mercato ebook crescere solo del 2 per cento.

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Do digital books dream of digital readers?

Books, like any other human artifact, aren’t static objects. They evolve, change and adapt themselves, according to the needs and habits of people who use them: they fit into our lives and our worlds. As with any other human-made object, this is not a straightforward process, but one of action and response, where the emergence of a new technology to satisfy existent needs is always producing new needs and new adaptations, which in turn make room for new technological innovation. The printed book is a typical example of this feedback cycle: probably, when Gutenberg perfected the invention, he thought that he was just going to be able to churn out more books at a lower price, and that they would be very similar to the old ones. He couldn’t know that the printing press would be the engine that powered the Protestant Reformation and ultimately produced the eras of Rationalism, Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution.

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