Friday, March 12, 2010

A Cacophony of Digital Noise

Today's digital book world must be confusing for consumers and resellers and let’s face it most people! It is as if the world can only talk about digital books and yet we find ourselves still firmly routed in a physical book world.

How many bases must a ebook reseller and publishers cover today? They may want to have an iPhone app, obviously will need to cover the eink ‘lookie likeies’ that are mostly crowded around Adobe’s ACS4 DRM service, then there is the kindle fortress. Lets not forget Google Editions, the 'restricted' but open world of the iPad, we mustn’t forget Android and then there’s Blio. We are still in the world of DRM and secure files. We still are download focused with online waiting patiently in the wings. We still have not addressed the challenges and opportunities of libraryworld? We almost forgot that publishers are going digitally direct and finally we have the increasingly challenging self publishing world of the likes of Scribd and Lulu.

Take the relatively short look at the digital world of US Bookseller Barnes & Noble. First they thought Barnes & would crush, they then caved in and handed their Internet business over to them, then they reversed that and came back as themselves. Then the current ebook wave hit them and they acquired Fictionwise, when some said that they should have probably bought Stanza. They went for their own device, the Nook, then after the euphoria, started to grapple with its challenges. They became device agnostic one day and introduced Samsung the next. Now they boldly plan to release bookstore and e-reading software for the iPad with an application that would compete with Apple's own iBookstore.The new Barnes & Noble, iPad-specific version of the software has been designed specifically for the iPad and Amazon has yet to announce its iPad plans.

We read about millions of digital titles, many of which are public domain and have dubious merit, but they make the numbers look good even if you can't find the latest release! Some say that we are still in the school yard and bragging days of ‘my repository is bigger than yours’. Some question whether size actually matters over substance.

The noise levels are certainly increasing with big resellers and publishers appearing to be slugging it out on what appears to be every digital platform. Meanwhile Gorillas, such as Google, Amazon and Apple, are demanding their way. New hardware devices, like rabbits on a Spring day, pop up everywhere and everyday.

What about the physical book reseller? What should they do today and is their digital future beyond their grasp? We still believe in what we wrote nearly four years ago in our Brave New World report. However, has the market responded, or has it adopted the same response it did when the Internet first appeared and said ‘not today thank you.’ Bookselling is bookselling be it physical, digital, antiquarian, remainders. Readers are by their nature eclectic both in their taste and how they read.

Only offering one solution, be it digital or physical, will not work.Sitting on the fence just increases the potential of getting splitters where you don’t want them. However, digital moves may result in expensive lessons. Resellers need direction and leadership and to draw on their publishing relationships. That is often difficult as consumers are dazzled in the glare of the digital headlights, publishers try to do it themselves and the cacophony of digital noise grows.


Aaron Pressman said...

In its announcement of the Kindle app for Blackberries, Amazon also said it would have an iPad app:

“Amazon’s Whispersync technology saves and synchronizes a customer’s bookmarks across their Kindle, Kindle DX, iPhone, iPod touch, PC, BlackBerry and soon, Mac and iPad, so customers always have their reading material with them and never lose their place."

Martyn Daniels said...

This is very good if you live within fortress Amazon ie you buy amazon, read amazon live amazon etc. It is based on a centralised control and an exclusive not inclusive approach. Not everyone lives in this space nor wants to and multi platform doesn't mean interoparability, it just means multi platform. Personally iam agnostic in my buying habits and eclectic in my reading ones and Amazon doesn't match that profile.

So i buy a book from B&N, a book from iBookstore and a book from Sony, one from Google editions and one from Amazon. I have 3 potentially 4 differnt DRMs, inconsistancy on what i can play what on, different pricing models, different formats and we are talking about the same piece of text.We have to invest in technolgy in order to play etc etc

Why is exclusive so important why does everyone have to screw everyone else? Why should i buy stuff when the industry can'r agree what its selling?