Read for Later - “We are now over the digital tipping point"

This week’s headline quotes John Fallon, CEO of Pearson, on that company’s decision to move more students to its e-textbooks instead of traditional print books - while Fallon’s talking points speak to generational rent versus own preferences and the opportunities for digital updates and media integration in e-books, concern for revenue and profits are driving this movement (BBC “Education publisher Pearson to phase out print textbooks”).

You can always check out the Center's trend collection to see how this scanning comes together to identify trends relevant to our futures.

What new information has sparked your interest? Drop me a line to let me know what you're reading or discovering that helps you consider the future of libraries.

Five Highlights

The New York Times “Despite high hopes, self-driving cars are ‘way in the future’”
Several carmakers and technology companies are realizing that autonomous vehicle technology is going to be harder, slower, and costlier than they thought – automakers Ford and Volkswagen recently announced that they will work together with Argo AI to accelerate their self-driving strategies, working to help the technology manage the complexity of human behavior.

BBC “Education publisher Pearson to phase out print textbooks”
Pearson, the world's largest education publisher, has begun to phase out print books, shifting its learning resources to "digital first” – while print textbooks will still be available for several years, the publisher hopes the move will make more students buy e-textbooks which are updated continually.

The Atlantic “The future of the city is childless”
Since 2011 the number of babies born in New York City has declined 9% in the five boroughs (15% in Manhattan) and the net number of New York residents leaving the city has more than doubled – while there are many reasons for declines in the number of children in many of the largest cities in the U.S., one of the most obvious might be the difficulty of raising a family in cities with rising costs of living.

Bloomberg “Apple plans to bankroll original podcasts to fend off rivals”
Apple reportedly plans to fund original podcasts that would be exclusive to its audio service, increasing its investment to compete with providers like Spotify and Stitcher – executives have reportedly reached out to media companies to discuss buying exclusive rights to podcasts.

Gizmodo “The VR revolution is alive and well, it's just not ready for you”
The proving ground for VR has shifted from consumer-focused products to enterprise solutions for corporations – the expense and lack of content has limited VR's use for personal entertainment, but companies are investing and assembling teams to explore its usefulness for training, prototyping, marketing, and other purposes.

Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines

Wired “Here’s how Elon Musk plans to put a computer in your brain”
Elon Musk provided new insight into his Neuralink company, introducing a tiny computer chip attached to ultrafine, electrode-studded wires that can be stitched into living brains by a robot – the long-term vision for Neuralink’s technologies is that they will be able to pick up signals from across a person’s brain and turn them into machine-readable code that a computer can understand and act upon.

Wired “This food-delivery robot wants to share the bike lane”
Blending advances in last-mile micromobility, autonomous cars, and wheeled bot delivery, Refraction’s three-wheeled REV-1 avoids the hard parts of driving by acting more like a bicycle, using bike lanes or street shoulders to make deliveries in urban settings.

Communities and Demographics

The New York Times “Why midsize cities struggle to catch up to superstar cities”
For decades, smaller metropolitan areas closed the income gap with bigger, richer ones, but the pace of their gains may be slowing - the cheaper labor that smaller metropolitan areas offered has lost some of its pull and many companies now gravitate toward big cities where they can find clusters of highly educated workers.

Education

Forbes “University Of Texas announces tuition-free college program”
The University of Texas at Austin will offer a tuition-free program to make college more affordable, following a unanimous vote by the UT System’s Board of Regents to create a $160 million endowment that will cover tuition and fees for students from families that earn up to $65,000 a year who have financial need and provide some assured tuition support to students from families with incomes of up to $125,000 who have financial need.

Nature “The plan to mine the world’s research papers”
A look at the possibilities and legal limits for data and text mining academic literature, using as an example Jawaharlal Nehru University’s (JNU) data depot, which has amassed some 73 million journal articles that might be crawled by computer software to pull out insights without researchers actually having to read the text.

The Internet

BuzzFeedNews “Google VP tells US Senate the company has 'terminated' Chinese search app Dragonfly”
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Google vice president of public policy Karan Bhatia said that the tech giant’s much-criticized effort to launch a search engine in China, Project Dragonfly, had been abandoned – a Google spokesperson noted that the company indicated in March 2019 that it had no intentions to launch a search product in China.

Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces

CNBC “Life after liquidation: Toys R Us stores will be back this holiday season, this time with a tech partner”
Toys R Us will open two permanent stores in Texas and New Jersey, working with software retailer b8ta and Tru Kids – the stores will include more experiences like theaters for movies and video games, STEAM workshops, and a treehouse where kids can play.

Streaming Media

The New York Times “Have we hit peak podcast?”
In 2019 there are over 700,000 podcast programs with over 49 million episodes, but as a growing number of people enter the space, there is concern that the ease of entry avoids questions of authority, expertise, influence, and care for the listener as hosts and providers scramble to establish themselves. See also The Verge “How podcasts grew into a multimillion-dollar industry”

TechCrunch “Netflix reports first net subscriber loss in the US, misses global subscriber growth predictions”
Netflix added 2.83 million new subscribers around the world in its second quarter, but lost around 130,000 in the U.S., leaving a 2.7 million growth result – continued subscription price increases (from $10.99 to $12.99) likely contributed to the declines in U.S. subscribers.