Tuesday, March 24, 2009

eBooks Aren't Binary

Sometimes we prescribe before we understand the diagnosis and then we are surprised when the reaction is not what we expected. As a consultant you often merely move on, as a business you count the cost and put it down to experience. We are all guilty.

The offline channels have been buzzing with new business model talk, how publishing should reposition itself and what digital pricing could look like. Its great fun to participate and great to hear others viewpoints but it’s always dangerous to take yourself too seriously and believe that you have invented the silver bullet.

Mike Shatzkin has tried to distil his thoughts and produced a excellent and recommended read,'This eBook thing is just going to get more complicated'. We may not agree with everything that Mike says but there is a lot of insightful thoughts on the market especially on the current omnivore positioning and potential wars between Apple, Google and Amazon.

The one area that struck us and has nibbling away in our conscious, is that of digital content distribution versus ownership. The players we talk most about today; Google, Amazon, Apple, Fictionwise, Stanza, Adobe, Overdrive, Netlibrary, Questia, Ingram etc. do not create content they merely distribute, sell and licence it. Apart from the potential land grab of US orphan by Google, they don’t have exclusivity on the content yet. This itself posses many questions on just how many digital distributors are needed to change a light bulb and whether the proliferation of digital files and different technologies is wise?

We recently wrote our thoughts on the digital supply chain and have also written about the challenges that can exist when a reseller changes digital supplier or a distributor ceases having encrypted DRM licences. In a digital world there would appear little sense in building monolithic repositories to duplicate content. There again, there are no silver bullets.

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