This post, by Bob Mayer, originally appeared on his Write It Forward blog.
In general it’s always a good thing to be the “first” at something. Being part of something on the ground floor tends to give you an advantage. This is why Bob and I are always trying new things and open to new innovative technology. But there is an inherent flaw in being “first”.
What was the first eReader? A Sony. They were first, but they aren’t really a big player anymore now are they? What was the first “smartphone?” Most people would probably say the Blackberry. Nope. It was a phone designed in 1992 by IBM called Simon. And well, we all know that IBM used to be synonymous with Personal Computer, except they have made a PC in years.
Anyone ever hear of Kodak? Did you know Kodak actually developed the technology for the digital camera? In 1995 they were pushing the Kodak DC40. They had pulled in Kinko’s and Microsoft to help develop digital making software and put kiosks inside Kinko’s stores. Even IBM collaborated with Kodak to make an internet-based network image exchange. These campaigns helped launch digital cameras to the consumers and now everyone uses them, but what has happened to Kodak?
It’s not that being first is the flaw. The flaw is the inability to adapt to continued change. Kodak made some ground breaking advances, but they never adapted to their own creation. The danger in being first and successful at something is the standard thinking that it can be re-created in identical format. Also, we have to remember that usually being first means it’s only the beginning. Too many people sit back and relax because they feel as though they’ve already achieved it. Whatever it is.
So, what does this brief little history lesson bring us to? Last week I visited the Corporate Offices of Kobo. During a tour of the offices with Mark we discussed various technologies, and how it has impacted the business of publishing, the writers, and the readers. I sort of joked that Kobo was a little late to the digital party and Mark responded with, “perhaps a little late, but with a solid plan.” One of the things that impressed me with Kobo is their ability to see what is going on around them and then act instead of react. They took their time launching the new Writing Life Portal. It’s been in the works for about a year, but they were busy watching, listening and learning. They are very aware of what is going on with other on-line stores and they welcome the competition. Mark constantly repeats how Kobo feels that the author should be able to get their book on as many platforms as possible.