Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Invading the Book: The DoJ Settlements & Book Prices

Today, the publishing industry is being rocked by the DoJ suing some of the Big 6 publishers and Apple for price fixing e-books. It is a huge crapstorm that reaches deeply into the product chain, all the way down to the authors. Most of it will have long-term repercussions in ways that aren't directly addressed in the suit. I'm waiting for the myriad of affected groups to voice their reactions before formulating a rational opinion. 


Business statements like the one below caught my eye because they make me worry about "Can vs Should" when trying to monetize new technology. This is a bullet item taken from a memo from HarperCollins (Publisher) regarding why they quickly settled with the DoJ:

"...The introduction and rapid development of enhanced e-books with audio, video and interactivity, which are a fast-growing digital format for HarperCollins." -- Source:

If I wanted to play a video game, watch TV, or browse the Web, I wouldn't have picked up a book to read. Not every activity is meant to be a social experience. Not every digital purchase is an invitation for an upsell. Not every advance in technology should serve as a host to the virus of sales and the further decline of consumer privacy.

Now, I'm aware the "choose your adventure" books are making a tiny comeback in adult fiction. E-publishers like Colilquy are using enhanced e-book technology to allow the reader to choose which lover a heroine pursues or which mentor a wizard-prodigy is assigned. That's cool, great, fab, whatever from a consumer perspective because I chose an entertainment experience with which I expected to interact.


Business is business. Successful businesses protect the revenue streams they have and create new ones. Big publishers are still scrambling to cope with the mainstream adoption of e-books. The DoJ litigation forces them to rethink traditional revenue streams. They have no choice but to explore revenue opportunities available with digital books that do not exist in print books.

I worry. 

I worry because I know for what I would be pushing were I still responsible for a P&L. I worry because I know of what the technology is capable and which genres are ripe for exploitation.

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