Thursday, January 28, 2010

iPad and Publishing

First: I am so sad I could cry. Or scream. Perhaps the latter is a tad more likely. From my standpoint the fact that Five of the Big Six have jumped on board the Apple wagon in hopes of pressuring Amazon is about to prove a massive error.

Ok, I get it, Apple sells. It's in the brand. We are sensitive to branding and so all the Apple lovers are about to race out and replace their iPods and macs with... what? A colorful Kindle-esque gizmo that can't even let me check my e-mail and chat at the same time? The memory is lousy, and it isn't even capable of flash.

Guess what, there's a new trend: Book trailers. Do a search, check 'em out. I'm not a hundred percent certain of what I think about these things, but if I "assumed" they were here to stay, and my iPad can't read those that have been composed in flash? Well, how many electronic devices do I need in order to do my e-book shopping.

E-books and Amazon are behind the whole Publisher-Apple contract, anyhow. With Apple, the Big Guys can set the price on e-books. Ok. I want the publishing houses to survive the current economic tumult and the cultural progression towards completely virtual existence because, at some point, I want my manuscript to be approved of by one of their editors. Unfortunately, I don't feel that selling e-books through the ApStore at a higher-than-Amazon price tag will win converts. But the publishers need customers and lots of customers to keep up. Print sales are plummeting and have been for awhile, while e-readers took CES by storm. More e-reader platforms, more e-books, more options. As the market expands, supply and demand will determine the future.

Truth is, any electronic data is competing with FREE. Free is illicit, yes, and most of us listen to the angel on our shoulder more than the demon, but the contrast is still present. I fear that the higher the price tag, the more it will drive people to pirate. The blade we'd be walking on is the cost of good intentions, where do good intentions and law abiding ways cost too much?

E-readers are going to be The Thing for the next few years. The trend isn't going anywhere. But the upcoming generation that will be using them exclusively-at some point-will also be a generation accustomed to increasingly free entertainment. The pressures of the law make "cheap" acceptable, and even honorable-- The Right Thing to Do is to buy it, not pirate it. But if the cost to Buy becomes too large a dent in the wallet (keep in mind that one affect of a recession is an increasing awareness of what-can-be-gotten-for-a-better-price) then Free and risk of being caught begins to look more worth it.

In order to compete with piracy, and to keep piracy down, e-books need to be affordable. Amazon has the right idea in that regard. But the Big Six are afraid that selling e-books at such a low price will be the end of their institution.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe brand loyalty carries more weight than a smaller price tag. But entire brand names have been built on the foundation of discount pricing. Mind, that isn't Apple. But the paperback certainly arrived on the scene as a quicker, cheaper alternative to the hardback. Affordable convenience seems to me to be the greatest seller in America today, and I just can't see E-Readership being any different. Perhaps I'm blind. Or perhaps the publishers are... we'll see what this decade brings!



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