E-books and publishing / E-livres et l’édition

07Nov10

[VERSION FRANÇAISE EN BAS !]

I am getting tired of hearing hypocritical statements about e-books and the future of publishing. (The same goes for music, but music publishing is much farther along on the curve and has already been dead for years; they just have not admitted it yet.)

The marketing frenzy and resulting consumer hoopla around e-books, Kindle, iPad, etc. ignores the point that their development and commercialization is motivated by the desperation of the publishing industry, manifested by its obsession to maintain CONTROL of works (and their remuneration). Publishers are – quite naturally – terrified by the digital revolution that has “destroyed” the music and movie industries. There is no shortage of middlemen (Amazon=Kindle, Apple=iPad) willing to play along with this game and share in the profits.

To provide this level of CONTROL, the e-book publishing model is much more restrictive than the one that has served us for 500 years. For example, to read e-books, I am obliged to purchase an expensive device whose purpose is to enforce the Digital Rights Management (DRM) scheme. I am also unable to share the e-books I purchase with other people.

But the same mechanism that drives digital piracy of music and films applies to text. The ten-dollar price tag on e-books and the restrictions on their use will be sufficient to encourage development of techniques to circumvent their protection. It is just a matter of time.

I do not have a solution to save the publishing industry, sorry!

Ça me fatigue d’entendre des déclarations hypocrites sur les e-livres et l’avenir de l’industrie de l’édition. (La même chose vaut pour l’édition de la musique, mais celui-là est très en avance sur la courbe et est déjà mort depuis des années ; tout simplement on ne l’a pas déjà admis.)

La frénésie de marketing et, par conséquent, de consommation autour des e-livres, Kindle, iPad, etc. ne tient aucun compte du fait que leur développement et leur commercialisation est motivé par le désespoir du secteur de l’édition, qui se manifeste dans son obsession à garder le CONTRÔLE des œuvres (et leur rémunération). Les éditeurs sont – tout naturellement – angoissés par la révolution numérique qui a «détruit» les secteurs de la musique et du cinéma. Il ne manque pas d’intermédiaires (Amazon=Kindle, Apple=iPad) prêt à entrer dans ce jeu et de partager les bénéfices.

Pour imposer ce niveau de CONTRÔLE, le modèle de publication de livres électroniques est beaucoup plus restrictif que celui qui nous sert depuis 500 ans. Par exemple, pour lire des e-livres, je suis obligé d’acheter un dispositif coûteux dont l’objectif est d’appliquer le système de Gestion des droits numériques (GDN/DRM). Aussi, je ne peux pas partager les e-livres que j’ai achetés avec d’autres personnes.

Mais ce même mécanisme qui pousse le piratage numérique de musique et de films s’applique aussi aux textes. Le prix de dix dollars pour les e-livres et les restrictions sur leur utilisation suffissent pour encourager le développement de techniques qui contournent leur protection. C’est juste une question de temps.

Je n’ai pas de solution pour sauver l’industrie de l’édition, désolé!

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2 Responses to “E-books and publishing / E-livres et l’édition”

  1. Jon,

    This is a very interesting topic and one where, as you point out, commercial parallels exist. The rise of ebooks is already creating significant disruption in the traditional value chain. A few interesting data points.

    – The volumes are here. Stieg Larsson and the ubiquitous Dragon books were the first to sell 1 million downloads in July. (http://bit.ly/9LtgVj)

    – Amazon pays traditional publishers 70% of the ebook sales in a revenue share agreement. Amazon used to keep up to 70%, but competition from other platforms (iPad, iTunes) drove the company to compete more aggressively. (http://bit.ly/9eUjZC) Although this appears to be positive for traditional publishers the revenue is on lower per unit pricing than physical books. The hope is that volume increases will offset pricing reduction. It is unlikely this will happen. The result being that traditional publishers lose revenue and digital publishers build a new significant business.

    – Consumers and authors may win in the end. Consumers will definitely find a way to get around DRM issues to acquire and share content at a lower cost or for free. Authors have an opportunity to distribute content to their customers directly, cutting out publishers. This requires developing a pricing and distribution scheme that pays them for their work. This is already happening in the music world.

    There will continue to be significant short term disruption as the market determines the most efficient distribution and reasonable pricing.

  2. Thanks to Sylvia for this link. It’s a guy who wrote a much better blog than I did on approximately the same subject, but it’s in Spanish. Hello, Google Translate…
    http://www.elmundo.es/blogs/elmundo/elmundopordentro/2010/11/14/los-10-pecados-editoriales.html


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