Publishing changed slowly over millennia. From cuneiform, to bark and crude paper, to finally the printing press – entire generations consumed information as they had for generations. Honestly, what a feeling it must have been when Johannes Gutenberg inspected a German poem produced on his printing press, about the year 1450. That was truly a remarkable leap ahead.

In Europe at the time, books were copied by hand and obviously not accessible to the general public. Even Pope Pius II, writing to Cardinal Carvajal in March, 1455, marveled at the invention:

“All that has been written to me about that marvelous man seen at Frankfurt is true,” the pope wrote. “I have not seen complete Bibles but only a number of quires of various books of the Bible. The script was very neat and legible, not at all difficult to follow – your grace would be able to read it without effort, and indeed without glasses.”

We are in the midst of another great leap forward. An amazing statement by new CEO of Thomas Nelson, Mark Schoenwald, is proof of that: “We really no longer see ourselves as a book publisher.”

Schoenwald, in an interview with Christian Retailing, went on to explain exactly what he meant, insisting “We are really a content provider and want to deliver it in any format our consumers desire.”

One can presume that if the consumer wants information telepathically, Schoenwald’s team will find a way. Nelson is nothing if not innovative, especially in the Christian industry.

Quite interestingly, the new CEO not only alluded to digital publishing, but also “live events.” It is truly up to those who meditate on exactly what it means to communicate in this remarkable age to lead the way. Most of us follow the leader.

For example, I would never have been smart enough to develop a cell phone, but I just texted my daughter. Before I hit “send,” I quickly read over what I’d “written” and the truncated words bore no resemblance to what I learned in elementary school, back when crisp, stiff books and penmanship tablets were the delivery systems of choice. At the time, my uncle was on the ground floor of those infamous, refrigerator-sized computers that the average person had no idea would change the world one day.

My wife is also very partial to the Nook, so who am I to resist new delivery systems from forward-thinking “content providers”? I would half-expect to see business cards at Book Expo America to say “content provider” under the name of a publishing company leader, rather than “publisher.” Wait a minute, what am I saying? Business cards are soon to be antiques. Folks in the near future will no doubt enter new contact information into some type of hologram.

Michael Hyatt, whom Schoenwald replaces, said that Nelson’s entrance into e-books and social media were significant advances in his six years as CEO (at one time, it seemed that Hyatt was “tweeting” every four or five seconds.)

I was recently speaking to a group, and as I sped through a PowerPoint, I thought about those dark ages when we used overhead projectors. Good heavens, imagine what it must have been like for orators such as Charles Spurgeon to have bedazzled audiences using only acoustics.

While chatting the other day with a cell-phone representative at a retail store, I was stunned to learn that I could at least view a PowerPoint (or Keynote) presentation on my phone. Lo and behold, I downloaded a presentation and stood there almost speechless as I scrolled through the admittedly much smaller images and text. Yet it was all there!

Anticipating my question – my obsession with light travel and a hoped-for matchbox-sized computer is legendary – the sales rep shook his head and said, “I’m not sure you could actually RUN a PowerPoint presentation off your phone.”

Give me some time!


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