You'd think book publishers would have learned something. After seeing the recording industry ignore then dig in and fight new technology to the extent that now they're struggling to maintain their current business model, one would guess that book publishers and authors would see the folly and strive to avoid repeating it.
Not so much.
Before the floor of the Morgan Library in NY had even cleared after the press conference heralding the coming of Kindle 2.0, some in the business were already proving that they would not go gently into the good e-book night.
Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, raged against the Kindle's new "Read to me" feature. ""They don't have the right to read a book out loud," Aiken told the Wall Street Journal. "That's an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law" (Fowler).
Attaboy, Paul! Cling to that vague copyright language! Even if it means alienating a growing percentage of your customer base. Who cares that it's only a "GPS voice," as Stephen King called it at the press conference, and not a true reading of the text?
Meanwhile Carolyn K. Reidy, chief executive of Simon & Schuster, was crying to the New York Times about the pricing of e-books. “We do not agree with their pricing strategy. I don’t believe that a new book by an author should ipso facto be less expensive electronically than it is in paper format" (Stone).
As the young'uns today say: "O RLY?" The fact that there is no paper, no ink, no electricity to run the presses, no packaging, no shipping, and no money paid to retailers when unsold books are returned should have no effect on price? Interesting. Ipso facto indeed.
As John Siricusa at ars technica observes in his excellent (albeit too cozy with Apple for my taste) essay, "The once and future e-book: on reading in the digital age,"
In short, the terms [of e-books] are unbelievably favorable for publishers. It essentially moves them from print publishing margins to software publishing margins: pay once for the creation of the content, sell an infinite number of times with no additional per-unit cost.
So why do some publishers and authors continue to fight against the future? Fear? Greed?
They certainly should take some time to study the recent history of technology and media distribution. Maybe even have a lunch date or two with some record executives before they, too, learn too late and grieve their industry on its way.
The future is coming, with or without you.
Fowler, Geoffrey A. and Jeffrey Trachtenberg. "New Kindle Audio Feature Causes a Stir." Wall Street Journal. February 10, 2009.
Stone, Brad and Motoko Rich. "Amazon in Big Push for New Kindle Model." New York Times. February 9, 2009.