Wednesday, September 01, 2010

A dinosaur

From the Barnes and Noble debacle (they can't sell ebooks to overseas), it's becoming clear to me that the book publishing industry is letting old ideas of national markets strangle the ebook market for themselves. Which is one of the best indicators I've seen that it's not going to be these guys who will be the big players in the e-publishing market in this century.

Seth Godin said something similar: new things will be the new publishing. And it will not be done by the same people.

Indeed. It would be like a 40-year-old boxing champion trying to take up bicycle racing. To old, too slow, much too different a game.


Bruce said...

I think that the main players in the book publishing industry will remain the same in the long run. They will be slow to adapt, but in a few years they will. Any interloping innovators who succeed in the interim years will be bought out or otherwise absorbed into the current power structure.

I wish this weren't so. In particular, I wish that what is predicted for the book industry had actually happened in the cell phone industry and the music industry. But here in the USA the same old dinosaur companies are still in control in both industries.

For a while in the music industry it looked like the record companies were doomed, but they eventually figured out how they could still exert control. Publicity and touring are two areas that recording companies are expanding into now.

In the cell phone industry, all the new, innovative companies were bought by established landline companies: Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T. T-Mobile is an exception, but I believe they started as a landline company in Germany.

Anonymous said...

I worked in the record industry 25 years ago. One of the largest companies. Now miniscule. Change resistant they were.


Gil said...

Bruce, the big Dino may be able to afford to buy up the new innovator, but then what happens? Look at how AT&T has driven cellphone usability into the ground, and not kept up with ordinary cell services that other countries have enjoyed for a decade.

If the big publishers use some of their money to buy up little, innovative companies it may help them for a while, but not in the long run. Why? Because after the buyout the real talent takes the windfall and goes off to start something even more innovative. The dinosaur still doesn't get it, stays two steps behind, and never catches up.

Proof that they don't get it (small example from my personal experience): I bought an epub version of a book on iBooks last week. Huge publishing house - household name - with probably hundreds of editors at their disposal. The thing was rife with errors. It was apparent that the "e" edition had been no more than an afterthought to someone. It had basically been scanned and OCR'd by someone, and not thoroughly checked.

As an author, if someone did that to my work I'd freak. It was an embarrassment.

I just feel that they don't get it, and if you can't get how to port an existing work into a new media, how are you going to innovate to the full potential of the new media beyond what paper books can offer today?

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

(Odd, Gil's comment has not appeared on this page yet...)

"Don't get it" is key. They don't understand why anybody would want, for example, ebooks. And they can't re-train their minds to the different (and much, much faster) procedures of this century.

A paper book typically takes well over a year to publish. For an ebook this is laughable.

Gil said...

That is odd. It showed there right after I posted it. Now it's not there.

Maybe the publishing industry saw it and censored it. Or that big cellphone company I used as an example of badness.