Just as the print industry belabored over the CTP (computer-to-plate) dilemma for more than a decade, e-book debates will undoubtedly continue to wage for years. Indeed, the births of these two phenomena mimic one another in several ways.
The evolution of a revolution
As we look back, the dawn of CTP led to a great deal of speculation on the print producer's part. Many openly scoffed at CTP's validity; others simply avoided the topic, as if skirting its discussion would deny its very existence. It took several years—and the growing support of industry standards groups—to bolster an acknow-ledgement that CTP was our destiny.
The realization became more poignant as those around us took the proverbial plunge, and we started to test the waters. Some print segments were faster to adopt CTP than others, particularly those with pressures to compress cycle time and meet print deadlines (weekly publications and catalogs, mostly). Their vendors, expecting they'd need special incentives to sell customers on CTP, swiftly began to develop infrastructures that supported digital asset management, file preparation, database management and versioning.
Other segments—and in many cases, rightfully so—took a more cautious approach to CTP, choosing to stick with tried-and-true film. Was film really tried and true?
Fickle print producers put printers in the awkward position of supporting both analog and digital workflows. Some printers who went exclusively CTP lost customers because of it. Soon, the precarious balance between analog proponents and those who were willing to service them fell off-kilter, but eventually, we overcame our fears.
A few years since the e-book big-bang
The e-book market seems to be entering its second-phase evolution. At a ripe-old age of less than a decade, e-books appear to be making a downward turn. With the dissolution of some of the mystery that surrounds the market, the hype has softened. Mention e-books to a fellow publisher, and they probably won't balk at the term. You no longer find many publishers huddled in the corner of trade show halls, whispering disdainful things like, "Do you know who's doing e-books now?"