The New Technology Timetable

April 2002
by James Lichtenberg

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The explosive arrival and, three years later, the explosive demise of “e-books” (leaving aside, for the moment, what the phrase specifically means) has left all of us in the industry with an understandable sense of discomfort. “Once burned, twice shy” rings in the mind, and anything positive about e-publishing now seems suspect.

Yet it’s important to keep a thought in mind of which historians of science are well aware…. The adoption of any new technology takes several decades. And the overriding issue is not technology per se. Instead it’s human nature.



For example, video phones have been a technological possibility for some 40 years, and they are periodically offered to the public. For personal–not technological–reasons, the public has regularly said “No thanks.” We apparently prize visual privacy while speaking on the phone over the opportunity to see whoever is on the other end of the line (perhaps because we prefer to talk in our underwear, wash the dishes, or do other things while we’re talking).

But even the basic telephone met with resistance at first. For example, the then-Mayor of New York was, reportedly, not impressed when he was able to reach his assistant in the City Hall office next to his own by phone. The apocrypha goes that Hizzoner noted the young man in question was strong and healthy and could stand up and walk into the Mayor&#…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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