Arthur Attwell has posted the text of his recent talk at a meeting of editors in Cape Town, South Africa. He focuses on the effect that increasing levels of automation have on the publishing industry, and how editors can stay valuable in the face of that.
This flow, from human creativity towards automation, is like a stream that you must keep swimming against to stay valuable – to keep your job, that is. Only by continually moving your skills (and value-adding activities) up the flow towards its creative end can you keep your job in publishing. Any jobs at the automation end of the flow are quickly taken over by robots of one sort or another. In the same way, in order to add enough value to the publishing process to be able to charge money for their products, publishing companies have to offer creative, human input to the content they gather from authors. That’s where editors are invaluable. Publishing companies that skimp on this will operate closer and closer to the automation end of the flow, employ fewer and fewer highly skilled staff, and eventually become no more than data-scrubbing clearing houses.
He ends on a positive note, emphasising the opportunities for anyone involved in making digital content for developing countries, where demand for that content will grow quickly, given the print-based cost and distribution problems it solves.