Seth Godin wrote this ingenious analysis of market changes titled “It’s not the rats you need to worry about“. It got me to thinking about how I prefer CDs over downloaded music. Primarily I have this preference based on the quality of the content. I’d prefer not to have more physical media taking up space in my house, but until someone offers CD quality lossless downloads I feel like I’m stuck. However, I’m not the ideal customer. The last time I bought a CD was 6 months ago, the time before that was a year and a half. One CD a year is not going to sustain your industry.
On the other hand, I look at my buying practices with books. I love books. I’d say about 90% of my purchases over the last 2 years have been digital though. I don’t prefer digital to physical books, but I get more for my money that way and I don’t have to build a bigger house to accommodate my habit. I probably purchase 40 to 50 texts a year on technology alone. I have a subscription to O’Reilly’s Safari library. All together I probably spend $100 a month on digital books, subscriptions, and physical books. I think I’m a good customer for the publishing industry. Now, they need to figure out how to target me. Here is something crazy. I’ve purchased both the paper and digital copy of stuff. Why? Because I can search the digital copy and it goes with me everywhere my MacBook goes.
There is an easy lesson here. Go where your customers want to go. Oh, and if you go there before they realize they want to, you’ll look like you’re innovative. If you hold on to the old model too long you just look like you need to be replaced. Who cares what the rats are doing if you’re not piloting a sinking ship?