I haven’t gone on for a while about the need for book production workers to retrain. There’s a risk of overstating the obvious. But things are NOT going to be staying as they are. Expertise in buying book manufacturing services from a defined set of suppliers is not a skill which is going to be increasingly in demand. Here’s an interesting piece from LinkedIn, “We are heading for a jobless future . . .”.

I rather like the idea of everyone getting to work a 10-hour week, though I doubt if we will be willing to settle for that. Everyone will want as much pay (as many hours) for themselves as they can get, and the devil take the hindmost. It will take an immense shift in public perception to get away from the attitude that having a job is measure of your worth in the world. Theoretically one might hope for a world where robots do the work; the companies they work for pay the taxes; and from that revenue the government pays everyone a living wage. And we all loll about reading our Kindles. No doubt that sounds too socialistic even to be considered! But more and more work is being done by robots. The Economist of 16 August even had an article about an AI, robotic, psychotherapist: the researchers found that people were more willing to open up to a machine than they were to a real live person. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s not just bookshops but the entire universe of bricks-and-mortar retailing that is about to disappear. Lots of people already buy their shoes from Zappos — all that’s really needed is a pre-paid return mechanism. It doesn’t take too much to imagine a world in which a 3-D scan of your body can digitally be dressed in some garment available for on-line purchase. Groceries are on their way to being ordered for us by our smart refrigerators: though the possibility of sorcerer’s apprentice-like glitches open up thoughts of a delightful world of excess in, say, the yoghurt department. Monitoring your medical condition is about to be automated. Only old folks like me still use road maps.

As a minimum, all book people need to be able to understand e-books and how to put them together. If you don’t, make sure you find out. It doesn’t help that many publishing companies are setting up separate workflows, separate departments, for e-books. It’s not up to your employer to ensure that you have the knowledge that will enable you to keep working into the next decade: they just want you to be good at doing what you are doing today. So take responsibility — of course we don’t know what tomorrow brings, but doing something is better than doing nothing.

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