Making it New: “Take the map as an example….”

By | June 4, 2014

Take the map as an example. The print map has largely gone away…online mapping has become the norm. And in the process, the form of what we expect from maps has completely changed.

They [online maps] tell you where to go. They include directions. They tell you where the nearest gas station is or, if you’re using a location-based product, they tell you there’s a merchant nearby that has deals for you.

So the question we need to be asking ourselves about e-books is, are there similar transformations that we can expect in what we think of as the book?…That’s where the really interesting game is going to be played—in making it new.

Tim O’Reilly, Founder, O’Reilly Media, Forbes interview, March 25, 2011

Knowledge management, education, and decision support for professionals have been entwined with publishing since the early days of writing.  When the Babylonian King, Hammurabi, distributed multiple copies of his code of laws in about 1750 BC he was using then-modern publishing technology: cuneiform script pressed into clay tablets or carved on stone columns.

Given the limited literacy of population at the time, the publication of Hammurabi’s 282 laws covering criminal actions and punishments, as well as contract law, seems intended to educate government officials in the realm and provide them with accessible and authoritative support for their day-to-day decisions.

Today, printed reference works, operating manuals and textbooks for professional education and practice are rapidly giving way to searchable digital collections that include text, video, audio, special purpose calculators, simulations, and interactive data displays.

This transition is being driven a) by the need to manage and access rapidly increasing volumes of professional and occupational knowledge; and b) by a cluster of important innovations in digital publishing.

Innovations Supporting Next Generation Publishing for Education and Decision Support
(i.e., reference works, manuals and textbooks)


New generation reference works, manuals, and textbooks can be community-linked and interactive, and can easily deliver adaptive learning and search-and-recommend intelligence.  As such they will change the landscape of just-in-time information access, digital interactive learning, and decision support.  As Tim O’Reilly said, “That’s where the really interesting game is going to be played–in making it new.”