The editing work that started my career was laboriously done with pen and paper. Each day, I would literally cut and paste strips of text from one printed book over a new version, proofread and check the flow of the text, package it up in a large yellow envelope and send it “downstairs” for typesetting. That’s where the magic happened.
The typesetters, using specially-designed keyboards (not qwerty mind you), they would enter the changes into the publishing database and spit out “proofs” for proofreading. Those yellow envelopes would be sent back upstairs and, after another round of checking, I’d approve them and request “camera ready art”. I can still remember the smell and fell of those warm, thick, slightly sticky pages that would be carted off for photographing and printing.
Even in my earliest years, however, I could see the massive opportunities offered by what we now call “digital disruption”. I helped my company lead the digital charge – moving my products out of the production line and into online coding. This meant coding up changes on floppy disks and sending the disks down in the yellow envelopes.
From there, I pushed into desktop publishing, tapping directly into the data warehouse to edit and produce the proofs for printing. These changes produced massive changes in a highly competitive business. Our publishing cycles improved by 66%. Costs fell dramatically.
By 1995 I was hand-coding websites for clients. I had fallen in love with the speed of digital and the ease of online publishing. Sure it was still technical, but it was also democratising an ancient process that had been slow to change.
But that was 1995. Twenty years later, the forces of digital disruption are still playing out in the publishing and media industries, and it is not over yet.
Often when we talk about digital disruption, we do so from a point of fear. We fear for our jobs and our careers. We fear for the changes that we expect will overwhelm us.
But in reality, these massive changes take time to work through an economy. They take time to reach mainstream acceptance. And they take time for the legal system to catch, hold and support them.
Digital disruption is coming, but it’s a slow march for most of us. The question is, can you hear the drums?