Thursday, January 15, 2009

What about the rights of the Digital Consumer? reports that growing concern over the lack of territorial controls has resulted in Hachette requesting its e-book titles are delisted from US digital books retailers. This action is because major US distributors (Overdrive, Ingram Digital and Mobipocket) have yet to implement systems to limit sales to assigned territories in a manner with which Hachette is comfortable.

Today’s digital marketplace is complex with distributor/ wholesalers supplying e retailers, whom may be operating across multiple territories. Who decides what an acceptable control is or what they are comfortable with? Will another publisher find what is acceptable to Hachette is not acceptable to them? Why do we have industry bodies and not use them to sort issues such as these out unilaterally? What about the books already bought that have now potentially lost their seller? Who does the consumer turn to if they have a problem?

It is important that we ensure that the consumer has minimal perceived barriers and risk in their take up digital content, be it online, offline, rented or bought. Yet some would say that we keep tripping over ourselves. Think of the consumer who can only buy certain devices in certain countries. The consumer who is offered a growing volume in one market and a slow take up, or dearth of content in others and an inconsistency of digital representation across titles in all markets. The consumer who is asked to spend a high ticket for books, for what they may well perceive as content that has no distribution and inventory costs and is identical to that already available in print. The fact that they also are expected to buy an expensive, one dimensional reader, which will probably have a limited life expectancy. Finally they have to grapple with DRM, which must be three letters least loved by many consumers. They have just seen DRM blown to dust in the music market and can get classics with no DRM today, but are expected to accept DRM restrictions in order get the content they want.

To top it all they see the fall out of Fictionwise with Overdrive with little if no real explanation and don’t understand why its them that has to clean up the mess.

There are a number of realities we must face with digitisation, but none is more important than consumer perception.

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