Friday, July 17, 2009

i'll have that swamp land

As if on cue or via eavesdropping, Jack Shafer at has decided to do a piece on something the Eleven debated, at length, last week: e-books (and our discussion eventually turned the newspaper industry but that's for another time). What brought it up then was the arrival of L.'s Kindle reader that I'd promised her for her birthday - Kindle reader, iPods; books, music. My position on all the technology and cultural tidbits is this: I believe that the publishing industry and newspapers are too stupid to have learned from the downfall of the record labels. That's a very simplified version but it cuts to the point. I also don't believe that those running newspapers or publishing houses are any smarter, either in business or technology, than music industry executives; I think they're all blinded by profit and are willing to do anything they can to keep what they have right now. I told X that if I were a book publishing house I would be at the very forefront of moving nearly all my books to e-books while working in coordination with Amazon and Sony to develop software that protects the product while still earning money. I don't see that as swimming against my company's or my client's best interest - anything less is more like dereliction of duty. Yet, here we see publishers fighting the technology by wanting to keep prices up and delaying e-book releases for no good reason. What's even more comedic about the "delayed release" road is that the movie studio-to-VHS-DVD triptych has already played that out. Remember when the window (I think that's the movie business term) for release of a movie on tape or DVD after it's theatre run opened used to be six months or more? Then 90-days, then 60, now it's something like 30 day for most movies. Why? because people won't wait that long and the iron, for a hot movie, cools rapidly. As the scales tip toward more e-books the industry will fall way behind if it keeps the prices up and plays with marketing via two different technologies. I cannot even fathom what business model involves a meeting where anyone in the room utters the phrase, "Well, we'll release it in print on June 1st and dick over the e-bookers by waiting to release it until September 1st." I'd actually fire that person for even thinking that thought. I don't know what to say about the person who accepted that advice. The question is this: what outside agent, and it may be Amazon, is going to jump into the market and force the publishers to work by their rules? Apple has clearly dominated the market for music and they don't even own the music - nothing but a gateway that racks up billions of dollars because the music industry was too slow and stale to consider keeping up. We'll talk again in a few years and see just how much wasn't learned by the publishing industry.

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