Sunday, February 04, 2007

Can you hear me, Mother?

We argued in “Brave New World” that the audio book would lead the digital revolution. The consumer experience was the same, MP3 technology was available and being used by all and the experience was complimentary and not substitution to reading. There are real obstacles; Audible’s proprietary DRM, their book club commercial model, their exclusive iTunes relationship, the lack of effective standardized DRM, etc. It is also clear, that market demand can’t be created in a vacuum and today there is certainly a vacuum of digital audio content.

So it was disheartening to hear news that, at the Association of Authors’ Agents recent AGM, there was disquiet raised at the perceived low levels of royalties being offered by publishers for digital downloads of audiobooks. The question should not be one of increasing individual percentages, but one of how we all maximize the opportunity and grow the pot for all. The adversarial stance on percentage points does nothing to getting more titles into the market, changing the stranglehold of some on the channel or sorting out the question of DRM.

Why does everyone want more out of the digital pie before it has even been established? The publisher is often seen as wanting to sell and distribute direct, cut others out and enjoy greater margin. The retailers wants to do it, but don’t have the infrastructure or Internet visibility to deliver. The author wants a greater slice before the pie is even mixed, let alone baked.

Why can’t everyone work together to establish the market based on today’s model and channels?

After all, it is better to have the same share of a bigger pie than a bigger share of a smaller one. Volume is the key and in a market segment where prices are perceived as high, volume must be the way forward.