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Rex Sorgatz

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mar 2
2010

Macmillan wants to sell hardcover eBooks

It's interesting to me that no sector of the mass media learned from any other sector as each one got its turn to react to the ongoing digital revolution. The newspaper industry is in the same throes as the film industry was, just as the film industry's struggle mirrored the music industry's.

For the last year or so, it's been the book publisher's turn to demonstrate it has learned something -- anything -- from the last 15 years. But, as the kerfuffle over pricing and DRM have demonstrated so clearly -- they haven't.

The latest WTF moment comes from Macmillan (them again): CEO John Sargent says he wants to sell "hardcover" eBooks. As TUAW's TJ Luoma astutely points out, there are only a few reasons to get a hardcover instead of a paperback, and they either don't apply or make no business sense in the digital realm:

  • You want to buy the book soon after it's published? eBooks take care of that. You can have it a few seconds later, in fact. If the publisher delays releasing it because it's a "paperback," they're just shooting themselves in the foot.
  • You want a collector's item? Too bad! THEY PUT DRM ON THE EBOOK. Not much resale or nostalgia value there!
  • You want bigger type? Press the "+" button.

Panic moves like this are just like the nonsense we saw from the music, tv, film, and newspaper industries.

Here's my (free!) business plan for book publishers: Since you're going to have to do it eventually anyway, give your customers what they want now. Four other industries have already learned these lessons for you -- and in some cases are still learning them. They spent a lot of years and money (and angered a lot of customers) so that you wouldn't have to. Wishing things away is not effective. --ADM




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