From steam ships to ebooks via disruptive innovation

Posted on: November 2, 2009

Technology and changes in technology play a very important role in innovation.

We often hear the words disruptive technology but what does it actually mean?

Disruptive technology is quite simply an innovation that destroys the value of an existing technology and creates new market for a particular product or service.

A disruptive innovation technology can create what is essentially a new industry or can harm a learning process for a particular industry. Some industries are better able to adapt due to their greater resources,skills and ability to gain access quickly to the new technology.

When a disruptive technology creates a new industry, competitors usually follow.

One example is the introduction of the steam ship.When they were first introduced ,steam ships  were not reliable enough to travel trans-Atlantic distances, they couldn’t travel far without breaking down, and they were inclined to blow up.



Steam ships were able to find a niche in lake and river transport, where the distances were short, and where they had the advantage of being able to travel against the wind and on wind-still days.

Whilst in the niche market they were able to work on improving the technology and soon the age of sail across the Atlantic was confined to leisure and the history books.

Bringing that example forwards to today and maybe E books are in the same situation.

They have failed so far to penetrate the reading market,Screen quality, user interface being the main problems.But they could find their niche in reference and journals where their cheapness and ease of publication will give them a competitive advantage.

Once their problems are ironed out maybe the book will go the way of the sail?


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