Sometimes evolution is not gradual, but sudden. Phase transition, change-point.
How do you spot these?
My own take, having followed this for a couple years now, is that the surprises from here on out will more often be jerks of sudden acceleration — like this rally against Elsevier — than unexpected stops. The past couple of weeks have shown how incredibly volatile the ground is around the traditional publishing structures and practices. As described deftly in the Economist story, a couple of missteps by Elsevier seemed to ignite an extraordinary amount of fuel. And as efforts outlined above show, the advocates of change have not just been complaining; they’ve been building a replacement for the old vehicle they want to ditch.
As I’ve covered this, I’ve often thought of happened to the music industry a decade ago and is happening to the consumer newspaper, magazine, and book industries now. In every case, change arrived in a way that brings to mind a roller coaster ride as it approaches and then descends that first wild drop: The change came slowly at first, sped almost imperceptibly for a bit — and then accelerated wildly in a long drop that would forever transform the ride. Even among the industry insiders who saw change coming, most badly underestimated the steepness of the drop they were approaching. Once the drop started in earnest, the only ones having fun were those who saw the big drop and, whooping, leaned into it.
Love that final image.