Dying Dinosaurs Of Print: CHOOSE!

Over at Kung-Fu Monkey, Leverage co-creator/producer John Rogers posted: Streaming Mac to 360: Rivet.

It’s all about how on-demand streaming video via the Net is not the future — it’s right now.

This coincidentally dovetails nicely with my recent DVD epiphany.

And there’s one paragraph that I must quote:

The tone of voice when I talk about these things tend to be a disdainful “Well, sure but how are we supposed to monetize this?” Right question, wrong tone. We. Don’t. Have. A. Choice.

Emphasis added by me.

The music industry has been usurped by technology. Now television has been too. And movies.

The one remaining industry is book publishing.

Google has already stolen all of the historical backlist.

All that’s left is recent and not yet published.

It’s as if the book publishing industry was situated on a giant iceberg — which suddenly cracked apart, leaving publishers on a precarious floe.

Over there in a big rescue ship are eBook readers screaming, “We’ll save you! Just publish eBooks quickly and at reasonable prices!!!”

On the other side are the pirates on a self-built makeshift archipelago in international waters free from all law enforcement. They don’t care what book publishers do. They have worldwide distributed teams with scanners and free proofreaders ready to “set everything free.”

And on the horizon are writers themselves in small boats trying to figure out how to best survive on their own, liberated from the constraints of ink-and-paper publishing.

Book publishing — unlike music, unlike TV, unlike movies — Still. Has. A. Choice.

Will it allow eBook readers to rescue it?

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9 Comments on “Dying Dinosaurs Of Print: CHOOSE!”

  1. Kat Meyer Says:

    hmm. I think publishers are actually getting it. DRM battles asidde. I don’t, however think e-only is the way to go, but definitely major inroads need to be made quickly with regard to e-also editions of whatever books are becoming (content;centrally located thought storage). And your own argument about e-text/academic books not translating well to the multiple open book study mode. Plus, what happens when doom hits and your computer has permanent fatal error? ;) You’ll reach for a p-book and your shelf will be empty. (or, you’ll ecstatically find you are the last person on earth, surrounded by all your beloved books, only to step on your glasses). either way, it’s good to cover your book-related bases.

  2. Dani Says:

    After reading that all book sales were down in September except eBooks, which had a 78% sales increase, I agree with you that book people better enthusiastically jump on the new publishing bandwagon.

  3. Emma Larkins Says:

    I like the trial and error method, one thing at a time. Maybe for certain audiences, print books are still it. For others, it’s podiobooks (hehe, that word still makes me giggle) and for still others, it’s ebooks. I think an author has to try a bunch of different things to hit on the right combination and find a way to survive.

  4. Kirk Says:

    Nicely exuberant, but there are a few flaws.

    First, let me point out that “only” an estimated 68% of the US households have internet access. 75% (again approximate) have computers. Now that’s internet and computers, not PDAs or laptops or other portable e-book reading devices. For most people the ability to read without being tied to the desk holding the computer is not possible. This is especially important when we note that it is households, not individuals, with computers. If one person in the house has the computer, how are the others to read? Finally, that is still a quarter of the households for whom (potentially, at least) print is the only option.

    A second problem comes with DRM. Oh, not all e-books are using it, but many are. For print, the right of first sale is solidly established. Telling a bibliophile he is now restricted in the number of times he can read the book, or that he cannot transfer it from the computer to the PDA or to the new computer when the old one crashed or, well, you get the point. Basically, it makes your customer want to seek another source – or demand print.

    There are more, but this is a comment, not a post. In sum, I think you would be better served to contemplate e-books as a supplement – eventually (probably) the dominant partner – to the media.

  5. mikecane Says:

    @Kirk: There are always flaws. But …

    1) Perhaps the HH without Internet access aren’t readers at all. Anyone who can’t see a *reason* for *having* the Internet is most likely someone who sees no value in books, either. And for that small sliver that are actually readers but computerphobic, they can have POD editions they can get from FedEx-Kinko’s or — if any are left — bookstores.

    2) DRM can be cracked. And is cracked daily. The law can go fuck itself. If I buy an ebook that is DRMed, I will use a tool to crack it in order to put it into a file format I need. I will *not* share that book, however. Writers need to pay rent, dammit. Even with DRM, the Sony Reader allows up to five devices (a PC and four Readers) to legally share a book. (Not so with Kindle!)

    John Rogers’ point is still valid: Print publishers Don’t Have A Choice. You want Harry Potter in ebook? You can have it — just not legally. That’s suicidal.

  6. Kirk Says:


    to 1: Or perhaps it’s a matter of cost, and comfort. A point to consider that knocks the idea of non-computer HHs being non-reading HHs – the older the people living in the household, the more likely they are to not have a computer. I personally forsee computers (and intenet connection) being as ubiquitous as the telephone.

    to 2: let me begin by using a parallel technological issue. You are aware, I assume, that it is almost impossible to find payphones any more. The reason is the cellphone is so ubiquitous. That said, you can and will find wired phones in a lot of places. The “why” is simple – there are situations for which it is the best answer. I strongly suspect that you are wrong in assuming ebooks will replace print media. There are too many situations in which print is the better option. I agree that publishers SHOULD offer e-book as well. I disagree that e will replace p.

  7. mikecane Says:

    Within ten years, most printed books will be POD. Those that can’t be POD will be conventional — such as the huge coffee table books with big color photos. In other words, it’ll all devolve to Seth Godin’s “souvenirs.”

  8. Kirk Says:

    Mike, Most in the US or most in the world? sorry, unfair, but I’ve been dealing with nitpickers recently.

    If there were a way to guarantee we’d both be available to pay, I’d put a small wager on you being wrong about the POD. That assumes a few things:
    – By POD you are referring to user demand, not publisher demand. (A lot of small press is using POD technologies, so it’s relevant.)
    – We accept everything, or everything but vanity press (which is, these days, author contracted POD anyway).
    – We reach mutual agreement on what constitutes print and how it’s measured. This is not trivial.
    – We reach mutual agreement on the term “most”.

    The paperless office has been declared the wave of the future for a long time. It makes invalid assumptions, which are nicely examined in /The Myth of the Paperless Office/ by Abigail Sellen and Richard Harper. The whole surrounding that applies (imo) in almost perfect congruence to the argument of the e-book. POD muddies the water – creates a gray zone – but I think the biases and needs of various users will result in print being around for a long, long time. Whether it or e-books are dominant will depend on measure, but they’ll be mutually supportive, not supplantive. (A made-up example. Assume print sells 100 copies. It’s my contention that when e-books become common there’ll be 150 copies sold, with both getting 50 copies for sure and the middle 50 split depending on a host of issues.)

    Paralleling the argument has been the experience of the public library. A LOT of words have been written arguing that as computers (internet) were added to libraries, circulation of material would go down as the computers received more use. The reality (so far) is that circulation has increased WHILE computer use has increased.

    Again, I do not disagree with the core of several of your points – in particular that e-books will gain prominence, and that publishers who resist this are shooting themselves in the foot. My objection is to the argument it will replace print. It is my contention that it will complement print instead, and my belief that there wil be more e-books than non e-books in circulation is caveated by “probably” and “eventually”. About POD, however… not yet. POD is not yet ready for point of sale printing. Until it is, differentiating POD from “normal” press is arguing about what type of printing press the publisher uses. And above certain quantities, for now, the existing system is more efficient.

  9. mikecane Says:

    I’m a firm believer in the new Screen Generations — plural — disdaining the weight and bulk of print in favor of e. Let’s see how it all shakes out. My bet is against print, as you can see.

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