Will machine learning and automation change the way content is created? That’s the question posed by a recent article in Forbes magazine. We have touched on content farms and “robo-reporters” before. Now, there appears to be a real possibility that this type of content creation may transform publishing as we know it.

The subject of the article is a new publishing company, Nimble Books, which is changing the way books are written. They call it “combinatorial publishing.” Starting with a seed of an idea for a book, the company then uses a set of algorithms to search out and locate relevant content. This content is then organized into a consistent form and delivered with a cover, table of contents, and chapters.

Thousands of books can be created in a single day using this method – but of what value would they be? Maybe the initial content creation can be assembled through machines, then refined and finalized by a human being. Or perhaps this type of content creation will be useful for specific purposes such as corporate intelligence, research, or how-to books.

The founder of Nimble Books, Fred Zimmerman, considers this to be the emergence of a new Web application that he calls Web 3.0. While the original Web was all about search, and the second generation of the Web was about social, Zimmerman sees Web 3.0 as being about creation and work product. Is it possible, as the article suggests, that this type of publishing could transform the “industry of reading?”