We were looking in the wrong place

I love this article, The ‘Future Book’ Is Here, But It's Not What We Expected by Craig Mod (Wired, 20 December 2018), for how it opens up a new way of thinking about, and looking for, change.

Mod looks at the case of the venerable printed book and argues that while we’ve all been waiting for the physical platform of the book to change — and wondering why it hasn’t — everything else in the stack around, under, and on top of funding, writing, printing, distributing, and promoting books has changed dramatically.

We were looking for the Future Book in the wrong place. It’s not the form, necessarily, that needed to evolve […] Instead, technology changed everything that enables a book, fomenting a quiet revolution. Funding, printing, fulfillment, community-building — everything leading up to and supporting a book has shifted meaningfully, even if the containers haven’t.
Our Future Book is composed of email, tweets, YouTube videos, mailing lists, crowdfunding campaigns, PDF to .mobi converters, Amazon warehouses, and a surge of hyper-affordable offset printers in places like Hong Kong. For a “book” is just the endpoint of a latticework of complex infrastructure, made increasingly accessible. Even if the endpoint stays stubbornly the same—either as an unchanging Kindle edition or simple paperback—the universe that produces, breathes life into, and supports books is changing in positive, inclusive ways, year by year.

Mod’s observations seem to me to be a kind of ninja move for understanding the ways in which the most obvious and highly scrutinized components an ecosystem or piece of infrastructure can seem to remain stubbornly stagnant while in fact all of the unconsidered enabling elements around them are being transformed.

We tend to look at the surface of things, the indicator species, show stoppers, and divas, at the expense of the rest of the ecosystem — and those ecosystems can be fascinating.