Sometimes somebody writes a book that, in retrospect, turns out to have predicted the future quite accurately. Some people write books that are “way ahead” of their time, others are simply “timeless.” But what if you are tackling a topic that is developing so rapidly that (almost) everything you write runs the risk of being outdated as soon as it is written down? Well, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing lately, and the topic is, not surprisingly, the Internet. No other medium has developed so rapidly, and in many cases so unexpectedly, as the Internet. In the process of compiling and finalizing the forthcoming Berkshire Essential, Internet in China, we were faced with exactly that issue. So, instead of aiming to reflect the “current” status of the Internet in China (which is per definition outdated), we decided to provide solid and much-needed background information about a broad range of key aspects that characterize the development of the Internet in China–including community-building and social networking, online dating and romance, government regulation, education and entertainment, and phenomenon specific to China, such as the “Great Firewall” and microblogging.
One specific challenging aspect of compiling a volume such as Internet in China, which features 35 articles by 74 international authors (many from China), is consistency of key data and statistics. As we started the copyediting process earlier this year, we realized that many articles used numbers from different years and sources. To ensure consistency (and thus reliability and ease-of-reading for our audience), we decided to adjust all key data, as much as possible, to the most “recent” statistical report issued by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), the January 2013 “Statistical report on Internet development in China.” Checking and cross-checking all data across articles, querying the authors if the adjusted data is acceptable, and even doing some higher math ourselves (for the first time in years, I attempted to calculate a growth rate percentage. When the result of my first calculation was something like 3600 percent, I shamefully consulted, where else, the Internet for instructions on how to do this…) takes some time, but keeping in mind the end-result, upholding our high publishing standards of accuracy and reliability, is certainly worth it.
But lo and behold. We haven’t quite wrapped up the editing process, and the new and improved July edition of the statistical report is already available! No longer are there 564 million internet users in China (as in January 2013), but 591 million. Today (or probably a few days or weeks ago), 460 million people in China accessed the Internet using a mobile phone, versus 420 just six months ago. There is simply no way to keep up with these rapid developments, at least not when publishing in the traditional paper format. But we love books, and believe in their strength and importance, which is why we will continue to produce high-quality and accessible volumes that help students, teachers, researchers, and general readers understand the world around them better.
At the same time, we are developing and using tools and platforms, such as ChinaConnectU, that allow us to provide up-to-date information, adjust as we (and time) go along, and make information more readily available. No other medium is as suitable to document and display the development and characteristics of the Internet, as the Internet itself! The example below, from the Go-Globe website, gives you the most recent statistics of Internet usage in China. Recent until the next update, that is.
Infographic by- GO-Globe.com