The Rise and Fall of the Hit — and the Textbook Industry

(This article was originally posted on the Tech Learning Blogarati on Monday)

There’s an article in last months WIRED Magazine that I have just gotten around to reading — and it’s got me thinking.

Chris Anderson / Long Tail Culture

The article is “The Rise and Fall of the Hit,” by Chris Anderson. It’s also the title of one of the chapters of Anderson’s new book, The Long Tail (Hyperion, ISBN 1-4013-0237-8). In the article, the author makes a case for the death of the hit, describing NSync’s runaway blockbuster, No Strings Attached. This supposed affirmation of the hit formula by Jive Records could actually be the very last hit album in history. I don’t pretend to be any type of expert about the music industry. I lost interest after Crosby Stills Nash and Young. But the data is compelling:

  • Between 1990 and 2000 album sales doubled.
  • Album sales began to decline in 2000 with a final drop of 20% by 2005.
  • 21 of the all time 100 top selling albums were produced between 1996 and 2000.
  • over the next five years only two albums entered the top 100.

Music, however, has certainly not gone out of favor. “There has never been more music made or listened to.” The labels have cried piracy, and certainly file sharing and CD burning have been part of the picture. According to the article,

Dispite countless record-industry lawsuits, traffic on the peer-to-peer file-trading networks has continued to grow, and about 10 million users now share music files each day.”

But it isn’t just new sources that have caused teens to exit the record stores.

  • The average peer-to-peer network has more songs than any music store — by a factor of over 100.
  • Given a choice for the latest blockbuster hit and trying something new, the enormous choice available at teenager’s keyboards leads them to want to explore.
  • With fewer visits to the record store, the music industry lost its best front for advertizing. MTV doesn’t even play much music any more. (I can’t attest to this. The last time I watched MTV, there was still a Soviet Union.)

So! I got to thinking. Could this happen to the textbook industry?

  • What if teachers and pre-service education students started writing little chunks of content, worthy of their textbooks.
  • What if a file-sharing network emerged where teachers could search, access, and download snippets of content from each other — world-wide?
  • What if teachers started assembling this shared content into their Moodle sites, or someone writes an open source application specifically designed to become the next-gen digital textbook?
  • What if we could stop buying text books, and use the money to provide every teacher and learner with access to the world of digital networked content.

Our homework assignments would change just a bit…


Ya’ll read the chapter and answer the questions at the end!


Ya’ll read the chapter and then validate it by Friday!

2¢ Worth!

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.