Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tools of Change Lands At Frankfurt

So Frankfurt started with a full house at the inaugural Tools of Change conference at Frankfurt. All the right people were there and the expectation was high. The conference certainly was different to the usual pre fair ones and was focused squarely on the digital agenda and publishing. It was a long day crammed with much thought provoking presentations and dialogue. We thought that three conference/ meetings on the same day would be overkill but it worked.

One of the breakout sessions, with standing room only, was on the forthcoming Google Editions, which is an extension of their partner program. However the question on our lips, was what Google really wants to be when it grows up?

Not content with being the global library they want to be the global, search source, marketplace, bookseller, wholesaler and left only publisher and author undisturbed. Editions will fully embrace publishers, resellers and consumers with all content being supplied by Google on the online and cache model proposed under the book settlement. The potential conflict with the settlement service drew a ‘no comment’, but was on many lips.

There were many questions raised and we found pondering how territorial rights be effectively expressed and managed, on how Google checkout will deal with the various taxation issues and the list pricing supplied by publishers, how the single eISBN advocated will work. What is clear is that Google will own the digitised work.

The service will be advertising free, so the only revenue will be from book sales and all three business models presented will give Google a sizable chunk of the value share and in one case pit them squarely against aggregators and wholesalers and in others, against retailers. However when you are the source of all content then that isn’t a problem but an opportunity.

Sara Lloyd in her keynote speech said that there were three big players in the market. Google obviously think that is one is enough.

Interesting times and we must be careful what we wish for…

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