We read so much now about the magic word ‘exclusive’. It is used as if it is something clever that a Marketing wiz kid has discovered to make the offer more compelling. The reality is that it is often born out of pure self interest and is inherently a bad trading practice. Like discounting it can work well in the right place and for the right reasons but if abused or over used it like others can become destructive.
We have Waterstones having a two week exclusive deal on the Sony reader. These are at a time when the market is starting to develop not restrict consumer digital awareness, choice and confidence. We have long wished that Audible adopted an open approach that enabled their DRM to be used under licence by all and not just by them. There are other deals, such as that between Ingram and the Fictionwise to restrict the usage of their new iPhone application. However, many of these such deals don’t restrict the title only the channel and delivery. Some would argue that they are bad practice, others that it’s market forces etc., others that its mere testosterone!
The joke about the exclusive book deals that Amazon has started to do and that others will surely now follow is that Amazon already has an exclusive. A Kindle tile can only be served up by them, over their exclusive connection, to their exclusive reader. So why does the title also have to be a digital exclusive? When we look at Booksurge and POD, we see similar desire and intent to restrict the channel, but not exclusivity today. If the publisher wishes their title to also be available via LSI or Rowe they merely have to do so. Some may agrue that Amazon has now seen a way to become the exclusive digital publisher of that title in perpetuity? Some may say that this is a cleaver and another cheap back door into acquiring digital rights?
Any publisher who enters into an exclusive distribution and retail agreement on digital content that is tied to an exclusive channel and technology needs to think about what they are trying to achieve and the potential risk versus short term reward. Authors and agents should also think about such ‘special deals’ both in terms of rights ownership and reversals.
As we move forward into this Brave New Digital World we must think not once but twice and avoid stumbling into practices that have long term potential dangers to all that may not have been thought out by those seking shortterm self gain.
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