From the Atlantic’s feature 14 3/4 Biggest Ideas of The Year, Information Wants to Be Paid For is a strangely dull piece from Walter Isaacson, where he tries to make the case for how magazine and newspapers for going to be able to charge for digital subscriptions and that this will “usher in a new golden age for them.” His piece doesn’t convince me of that or what made it a Big Idea.
Forrester just released a new report on ebooks, so you are seeing glimpse into some of that research appearing on their blogs. James McQuivey’s wrote a post titled On The Certain Economics Of Relegating Paper Books To The Margins Of The Business, which as it sounds makes the argument for why pbooks will be just a shadow of what they are today. McQuivey says as the usage shifts from atoms to bits, the economic case for print will get harder and harder to make and he draws the common parallel of the transition in the music industry.
“Once the industry used to base all of its economic planning on the release of the CD as a tentpole in terms of promotion and revenue, now the CD is just another trinket to sell behind the digital release. It’s a glorified tour t-shirt.”
The only question the reader should hold is whether the transition in book publishing will as closely mimic recording industry as folks like McQuivey make out. I honestly don’t know, but a different set of characteristics around the product and the customers leaves me hesitant to accept history of the music industry as the model for disruption in book publishing.
- On the HBR blogs, there is a strange article about lending ebooks which at its core is right on – if we buy an ebook, we should be able to share it. Joshua Gans, an economics professor at University of Melbourne, questions the efforts to allow people to lend ebooks saying it’s insufficient. His answer is to let customers buy additional copies at discounted prices for sharing. I can’t think of another successful example of this purchasing behavior and it seems to solve a simple problem with a undesirable solution.