06/15/2010 10:44 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Cutting Edge

My company is trying to develop new and unique content for the print and digital book world. Our premise is that internet-age readers (basically all of us today) absorb, process and retain information differently than did prior readers (our parents).

And so we find ourselves at what some might call "the cutting edge," that spot where change takes place. Also that spot where enormous resistance comes with the territory.

Back before I got into publishing, I was a real estate developer and investor. I was always trying to find new areas to invest in -- locations that were not that well established but were due for some gentrification or other upward change. Sometimes I was right, sometimes wrong. And when I was wrong, the phrase "cutting edge" took on new meaning -- OUCH!

I know that I am right now. I know that digital media and the internet have changed the way that people interact with the printed word. I know that it is just a matter of time -- BUT, it is sure painful (cutting) at times when people look at me with a blank stare and that "he must be nuts" look on their face.

What gives me strength is the feedback we are receiving from readers of our Skinny book series. And from educators who have tried our books in their classroom. And from others who see "the writing on the wall" (pun intended) as to where the reading experience is headed.

In that regard, I am just finishing an excellent new book titled, The Shallows, written by Nicholas Carr. Carr is a well-respected journalist and columnist who attracted a lot of attention in 2008 with an article he wrote for The Atlantic titled, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?"

The Shallows is a detailed and comprehensive study of how certain technologies change the way people think... here are a few quotes that apply to my own particular quest:

"As people's minds become attuned to the crazy quilt of Web content, media companies have to adapt to the audience's new expectations. Many producers are chopping up their products to fit the shorter attention spans of online consumers ...When access to information is easy, we tend to favor the short, the sweet, and the bitty."

"Changes in reading style will also bring changes in writing style, as authors and their publishers adapt to readers' new habits and expectations."

My company and others will struggle to create content that will be standard fare in a few short years. It's just that for now, being at the cutting edge, can be a little dicey.

Jim Randel is the Founder of The Skinny On™ book series. See