With Friends Like These…

Here’s more on the coming effort, particularly by magazine publishers, to make use of the soon-to-be useful and affordable for all e-readers (if we’re lucky).  I’ve been on record for being all for this effort as it, to me, makes far more sense for packaging and potentially getting people to pay for material formerly done best in print.  Adobe, the makers of the ever-popular Photoshop, Acrobat and InDesign graphic software that publishers rely on to produce their print products, is currently working on software to design products for these readers, as it appears that the locked down, device-specific controls like the Amazon Kindle’s days are numbered, thankfully.  Freedom, flexibility, and inexpensive are three words that the industry would do well to heed with this effort, lest they fall into the same trap that virtually destroyed the music industry, not just in sales but in reputation.

Which makes this guy’s comments appropriately interesting.   Steve Haber is the president of Sony’s Digital Reader Division, and came up with these gems in trying to explain why it is that his company, despite beating Amazon to the punch with its own digital reader years earlier, has been unable to capitalize like the online retailer has, even with their exorbitant revenue grab from publishers:  On the cost of e-books:  “The $9.99 price point is not a money maker.”  And, more interestingly, beating on the drum that broke the music industry’s back, copy protection software:  “You need an orderly process for selling books and DRM makes that possible.”

Okay, one at a time.  First, the price.  Yes, I think a one-size-fits-every-e-book pricing structure is pretty short-sighted.  But you can’t make money at $10 a copy?  For something that costs you virtually nothing to replicate?  Really?  Apparently, no one’s bothered to mention to this guy that there are bunches and bunches of publishers out there selling physical printed copies of books for less than $10 per copy, and they’re making money just fine.  And those copies actually involve putting out some greenbacks to print.  An e-book is an electronic copy that costs nothing more than the time it takes to duplicate to generate additional copies.  So, to review, with real books, a publisher pays for creating the original and then pays more for each additional copy, and they can make money at $10 or less per copy.  For an e-book, the publisher pays to create the original and then absolutely nothing for each additional copy up to infinity, but they can’t make money at $10?  Let’s remember, these are the same people who are still selling new CDs for up to $16 when its apparent to everyone on the planet that they’re worth nowhere near that.  Could be why sales are down, maybe?

Which brings me to DRM.     Seeing an exec from Sony touting the value of DRM threw me into a little time warp.  Do you all remember this debacle, you know, quite possibly the one event that did more to wreck the recording industry than all of the supposedly illegal downloading in the world?  If you’ve forgotten, back in 2005, Sony spearheaded an effort to covertly place DRM programs on new CD releases that would install software on any Windows machines the CD was placed in without the user’s knowledge.  This software not only affected how the machine played CDs, but it also opened the computer up to malicious attacks from outside entities.  This was so bad that Sony ended up being sued by numerous parties and wound up recalling all of the CDs with that software on it.  Needless to say, when Sony starts talking about DRM being a good thing, be very afraid.  Before this, the music industry actually had some credibility when discussing copy protection, but this scheme unmasked their priorities completely.  There were no longer any illusions that these companies cared at all about their customers’ rights, private property or anything other than keeping a stranglehold on their falling profits.  In the end, in an ironic twist, this DRM software turned out to have been developed using code that violated someone else’s licensing rights.  There may have never been a clearer case of “do as I say, not as I do.”

The publishing industry today is heading toward a situation like the music industry was in 5 or 10 years ago.  We need to be certain not to make the same mistakes they did.  Publisher’s need this guy and Sony’s help like they need a hole in the head.

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Published in: on December 16, 2009 at 8:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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