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Old 01-05-2007, 04:20 PM   #1
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The future of e-books

Book publishers have a lot to learn from the debacles of the music and movie industries.
Just because e-books haven't caught on in great numbers yet does not mean publishers can be complacent. Publishers should get in quick – while the numbers are low — to set up their business models in readiness. Now that evolving e-ink technology is upon us, the time will soon come when millions will want e-books. Put an e-reading device in the hands of a child and he will grow up to associate enjoyment of literature with the device and will lose his affiliation with paper books. People are also more aware of global warming and what they can do to help. Trees are a great way to reduce greenhouse gases because they absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the air. Read an e-book — save a tree!

The mistake the Music and Movie industries made was trying to shut the stable door after the horse had bolted. I can't remember the date when they sued Napster out of existence (2000?) But I believe that if they had tried to do a deal with Napster to get revenue from each download at the time, this may have opened up a new income stream and set the pattern for other evolving p2p networks. As it is, it's too late for any of that now, the dam has broken, the internet is flooded and the AA's can't stem the tide. How naïve they are to assume their old-fashioned business model will last forever. As they continue their death march into irrelevance new developers and users of technology will take up where they left off.

The AA's may have won a few battles, but we all know very well who is going to win the war.

Publishers, please embrace this new technology. Give us digital books, newspapers, magazines and comics. Release your copyrighted out-of-print back catalogues. We don't expect to get them for free but we expect sensible prices and fair use.
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Old 01-05-2007, 05:04 PM   #2
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I agree with you in principle, but in fact, Microsoft did do a deal with Napster, and Napster still exists, now as a legal source of music: http://www.napster.com

They work on a flat monthly fee model for unlimited downloads. Decent range of music, too. I don't know what their DRM model is like for downloaded tracks-- I'm not a subscriber and there weren't any restrictions described on their website that I could find.
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Old 01-05-2007, 05:34 PM   #3
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Thanks Nekokomi.

I wish I could back-space my mouth sometimes!

I meant, of course, Napster in its original form, was closed by the courts.

I understand that Napster operates today but not by its original owners who, I believe were bankrupted after being sued by the RIAA.
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Old 01-05-2007, 05:47 PM   #4
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we both need that back-space. You were closer to the truth than I was, as it turns out. Roxio ended up buying the name, but used it to "brand" their own software. I remembered that someone had made the offer for the company and software (turns out it was Bertelsmann), but had forgotten that that sale was blocked by the court. As usual, you can read all about it on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napster
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Old 01-05-2007, 06:55 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moonraker
Publishers, please embrace this new technology. Give us digital books, newspapers, magazines and comics. Release your copyrighted out-of-print back catalogues. We don't expect to get them for free but we expect sensible prices and fair use.
Today publishers have value in that they created the infrastructure that allows pBooks to be sold cheaply to the masses.

That infrastructure is not needed in the eBook world.

Publishers bring no value to the eBook market. A booming eBook market will mean that most publishers will die, so the last thing they want is to make eBooks popular.
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Old 01-05-2007, 09:03 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rlauzon
Publishers bring no value to the eBook market. A booming eBook market will mean that most publishers will die, so the last thing they want is to make eBooks popular.
Amen.

The companies who should be interested are device manufacturers, unlike SONY though who tries to be both and will likely fail (in my opinion of course )
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Old 01-06-2007, 06:41 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sic
The companies who should be interested are device manufacturers, unlike SONY though who tries to be both and will likely fail (in my opinion of course )
Sony (and others) have what I call the "monopoly mentality".

Their business model is basically this:
1. Create a monopoly.
2. Screw the customers, content creators, etc. (i.e. everyone except the company).

As we have seen time and time again (both in recent times and in History class), this simply doesn't work in the long term. Monopolies are broken one way or another and, because the monopoly never had to compete, they are unable to change to a competitive business model and die.
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Old 01-07-2007, 05:36 PM   #8
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AFAIK Sony has no assets in the book publishing business, which explains why they came out with their reader. Otherwise, I doubt that they would have - they must realize that it's likely to hurt publishers.
What happened to Sony in the mobile music players market is telling - they resisted coming out with a good device, to avoid cannibalizing their music publishing business, and so the WalkMan brand has made way to the iPod. I doubt whether today's teenagers even know that Sony once dominated this market.
Maybe Sony has learned its lesson, and decided make money once again as a technology company, instead of a media company? Again, book publishing not being a business of theirs must have helped...
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Old 01-07-2007, 05:48 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moonraker
Book publishers have a lot to learn from the debacles of the music and movie industries.
Oddly enough, I think book publishers need to learn from an earlier chapter in the history of the music industry (and the modern music industry needs to learn from its past). I've been reading up on how copyright law works, and I think the answer lies somewhere in the kind of statutory licensing and collection societies developed to deal with radio and television broadcasts. More in this thread.
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Old 01-07-2007, 06:34 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ekehat
What happened to Sony in the mobile music players market is telling - they resisted coming out with a good device, to avoid cannibalizing their music publishing business, and so the WalkMan brand has made way to the iPod. I doubt whether today's teenagers even know that Sony once dominated this market.
This echos the move from the Intel 80286 chips to the 80386 chips. IBM resisted creating PCs with the 386 in them because such PCs would eat into their low end mini-computer sales.

So other companies took over and IBM fell as being the premier PC maker.

As the old saying goes "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

Now, if only we can send the gov't and Content Cartel back to high school and have them study why prohibition failed so horribly.
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Old 01-08-2007, 12:28 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rlauzon
Today publishers have value in that they created the infrastructure that allows pBooks to be sold cheaply to the masses.

That infrastructure is not needed in the eBook world.

Publishers bring no value to the eBook market. A booming eBook market will mean that most publishers will die, so the last thing they want is to make eBooks popular.
Sigh...

Publishers most certainly do bring value to the eBook market! You are, of course, correct that much of the infrastructure they have created for paper books is not needed in the eBook world. But they still proved a tremendously valuable editorial service. That's not primarily "editorial" in the sense of "helping the author modify their book into a better book" -- although they perform this service too -- but rather in the sense of "choosing books that are 'good enough' (along some particular axes of measurement) to be published as a Baen/Tor/Signet/Ace/HBJ/Whomever book." It's called selection, filtering, and branding.

You don't realize how valuable that service is until you've plumbed the depths of the slush pile. Really! The average submission induces a massive need for mental floss. The really bad ones make you want to pound your head against the wall until it goes away

Really, the publishers still provide value. Not in distribution/printing/etc., perhaps, but important value nonetheless. And don't forget about marketing...

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Old 01-08-2007, 12:49 PM   #12
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I think there are still slush threads at the Baen Bar -- I've heard enough slush horror stories to make me avoided them.

Anyone who signs up with that forum can read the slush posted there, so if anybody wants to have a look to see what sort of stuff gets slushed, there's a good place to do it.

Please note, however, that I have no idea how representative of the species the Bar slush is, if somebody who (unlike me) has actually done real slushing wants to comment on that, I'd appreciate it.
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Old 01-08-2007, 03:33 PM   #13
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Your peers can be the editors

Quote:
Originally Posted by Xenophon
Sigh...

... "choosing books that are 'good enough' (along some particular axes of measurement) to be published as a Baen/Tor/Signet/Ace/HBJ/Whomever book." It's called selection, filtering, and branding.

Xenophon
Xenophon,

While I agree that digging the gold out of the dirt for the rest of us is a worthwhile service, I think that the web now provides other mechanisms that serve the same purpose.
Look at the blogosphere for example. There are millions of blogs out there, there's no editor, and some of them rise to fame and serve thousands of visitors daily, while others remain obscure.
I find new blogs to read by following links from blogs I already read and like. This way you rely on people who's opinions you value or who's tastes you share, to introduce you to new content.
I see no reason why a similar mechanism can't grow up around books. In fact, I already select many books to buy based on other people's reviews on amazon.com, which amounts to about the same thing.
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Old 01-08-2007, 04:43 PM   #14
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I agree that the Web provides similar mechanisms that are able to filter book submissions. We could easily imagine, books released for free by amateur authors without any selection, and the 1% that would be successfull could then be printed etc... I agree that the filtering is important, but the main problem is that there's also niches that publishers can't possibily fulfill with such a system. With no retail cost, e-books should be the new way to provide much more content than what's already available. Let the users decide what's best suited for them, and if you still want experts reading and selecting the right book, you could still do this but online. MP3 blog are getting more and more popular, I believe we'll soon see e-book blogs and people trading their creations on the web, that you'll be able to read on your e-ink devices.
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Old 01-08-2007, 05:41 PM   #15
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Quote:
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I see no reason why a similar mechanism can't grow up around books. In fact, I already select many books to buy based on other people's reviews on amazon.com, which amounts to about the same thing.
I'm not saying I completely disagree, but:

1 - Books are longer than blog entries (most of the time, anyway ), so a lot more effort is involved in discovering whether they are worth recommending.

2 - Blogs are generally free to read, and books often are not. Reading something unknown to see if you like it is less of a big deal if you don't have to pay for it first. Books on Amazon have been filtered somewhat by the editor even before the first reader-reviewer pays to read the book and write the review.

3 - Blogs are often funded in part by advertising. Do you want to see advertising in books? (This is not a rhetorical question or baiting, I'm quite serious.)

4 - I myself expect a higher quality of writing in a book than in a blog, and though I enjoy reading several blogs, they don't satisfy me the way a good, well-written book does. Writing the quality book that I want to read takes a lot of time and energy. If authors are rarely or never paid, I don't think many will put in that much time and energy. I think that would be a great loss. So whatever alternate method is found to publish books, compensation for the authors is still needed.

I also think the editorial services involved in helping a writer to improve the book are valuable, and should be compensated. Yes, it could be done some other way without a publishing house, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
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