China, the civilization that invented paper, is on track to be to first to discard it.
Great story (even if I say so myself) in today’s SCMP (Warning: Pay wall. But do a Google search on SCMP, mainland, digital age, and it’ll come up and you can click in.)
In the past three years, the mainland’s digital publication industry – mobile phone publishing, online gaming, advertising, e-books – grew at an average pace of 55.7 per cent annually….
The number of mobile phone users on the mainland has topped 800 million. And the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC) reported that 65.9 per cent of the total internet population access the Web through their mobile phones.
Of those who use mobile phones to surf the internet, 75.4 per cent say they read news and novels on their handsets, according to a report released by CNNIC earlier this year.
A recent nationwide survey of 20,000 people by the Chinese Institute of Publishing Science found that half of those aged under 29 read digital content on their computers, mobile phones or e-books.
The popularity of e-reading has led to more experimental book publishing. Guo Jingming, a 27-year-old writer popular among twenty-somethings, launched his latest book Small Age 2.0: Era of Bronze in digital format for mobile phones rather than in print. In 20 days the book had received more than six million hits.
About 400,000 e-readers were sold in China last year; the number is expected to be 3.5 million this year.
By the way, if you’ve ever tried to read a long novel on an iPod Touch – it’s actually not that hard. And it can be very productive, since you’re most likely to be doing it during what would be down-time: Waiting in line, on the subway, etc. It’s what Clay Christensen referred to when he talked about the competition that free papers presented to quality broadsheets: It isn’t that free papers are better; it’s that they’re better than staring at a subway ad for 20 minutes.
What does that mean for journalism, content and information? Simply that as readers migrate to new platforms, we have to follow them – not simply in terms of getting our stories on mobile phones, but in terms of thinking of how best information can be presented on such devices. And no, I don’t mean quick headlines, videos and other bells and whistles – at least not only those things. We need much better understanding on how people access information digitally, and think of ways to really engage and cater to them.
Foursquare is one such innovation; mobile headlines are obviously another. But location-specific and timely information are just two of the most obvious ideas. The shift to app-based computing on mobile devices has changed the way we interact with our phones significantly – we play games, surf, take photos, navigate, listen to podcasts, read books and so on now. We don’t need to be chained to the idea of people only wanting fast-paced information when they’re on the go.