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Book Publishers Making the Same Mistakes as Record Labels? 227

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the just-relax-your-death-grip-a-bit dept.
Techdirt points out an interesting query in Slate asking why book publishers appear to be making the same mistake that record labels did with the iTunes service with DRM, and single-vendor lock-in. "Back in 2005, we noted that Apple's dominance over the online music space, which upset the record labels tremendously, was actually the record labels' own fault for demanding DRM. That single demand created massive lock-in and network effects that allowed Apple to completely dominate the market. If the record labels had, instead, pushed for an open solution, then anyone else could have built stores/players to work as well, and it could have minimized Apple's ability to control the market. Yes, everyone is now opening up (including Apple), but it took a long time, and Apple had already established its dominant position. So why are book publishers doing the same thing?"
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Book Publishers Making the Same Mistakes as Record Labels?

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  • by bornwaysouth (1138751) on Friday February 27, 2009 @03:43PM (#27015811) Homepage
    Publishers don't read.
  • by east coast (590680) on Friday February 27, 2009 @03:46PM (#27015857)
    A vendor means money flow. Non-DRM can, and does, open itself up to free transfer of a product with no money being involved. That's a bigger headache than dealing with vendor lock in when you're trying to make a profit.

    Better the devil you know, so to speak.
    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday February 27, 2009 @04:35PM (#27016537) Homepage Journal

      See Free Culture [free-culture.cc] by Lawrence Lessig (particularly the chapter outlining the four types of "piracy") and the introduction to Cory Doctorow's Little Brother [craphound.com] for a far more succinct explanation of why Doctorow put it on the internet (and still sells tons of hardcover copies, iinm it was in the NYT's top 10). you and the publishers are not only wrong, but in the publishers' case, possibly terminally wrong.

      Nobody ever went broke because of pirates, but lots of people have gone broke because nobody ever heard of their work.

      When Asimov's Foundation trilogy was first published, he got no royalties at all from its publisher, a small company without the means to publicize. It only started making money when Doubleday bought the rights from that small publisher and let people know it existed. It won a Hugo for all time best science fiction series.

      I don't know how many authors I've discovered by checking out their books at the library, then buying other of their books later. A free download, whether sanctioned or not, helps publishers rather than hurting them.

      • Another excellent write up on the subject by Eric Flint can be found at Jim Baen's free library [baen.com]. (along with some free sci-fi and fantasy books-I can personally recommend anything from there-I've read them all)

      • by east coast (590680) on Friday February 27, 2009 @08:07PM (#27018853)
        you and the publishers are not only wrong, but in the publishers' case, possibly terminally wrong.

        Actually, I'm not wrong, you're looking in the wrong places for the wrong thing. And then you go off to mention Asimov? No surprise you've missed the point that publishers have to make to remain afloat...

        It's fucking *Asimov*! No shit it doesn't take strong arm techniques to keep authors like Asimov profitable but what do you do about the other 99.9% of what sits on the shelf at your local Borders? What about non-pleasure reading? Or are you telling me that the books I find on The Pirates Bay are all non-sales anyway? That's a joke of an excuse.

        And don't get me wrong, free samples? Sure, that can move books but how do you sell something if all of it is available for free? I'm not saying that the model doesn't work for some under certain circumstances but it doesn't work with the current numbers of the market. That's the difference.
    • by jedidiah (1196)

      There are publishers that would disagree. They do well because they
      generate extra sales for old work and generate interest in new
      authors. They also do well by not treating their customers like the
      enemy.

      No one likes to be treated like a thief, or told that they are a thief.

      People may not flee immediately, but even sheep only tolerate so much.

      This latest nonsense has nothing to do with "survival". It's just an
      extra cash cow that was highly dubious to begin wih.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Spacejock (727523)
      I talked my publisher into releasing my first novel as a freebie download (see sig), and over the past couple of months I've worked on them to the point that they're about to announce DRM-free ebook releases of all my novels. (The first is free, the rest about US$3.50 each.)

      Trust me, it was hard work convincing them this was the way to go, but I don't believe people want $10-$15 encrypyted ebooks they could lose access to at any moment.

      The most common complaints with ebooks are ... too expensive when
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by AliasMarlowe (1042386)

        The most common complaints with ebooks are ... too expensive when they're priced at a similar amount to a hard copy, and too much trouble when they're DRM-locked.

        I bought two ebooks several years ago - one from Amazon and one from Adobe. Both were infested with DRM, which was not mentioned until after I had downloaded them (which was obviously after paying). Both had restrictions on printing, copying (cut/paste was actively crippled), and the need for remote authorization prevented transfer to other PCs. There was also an arduous re-authorization process to be followed every time Acrobat was updated, or if you wished to transfer the reading rights to a new PC.
        The e

  • by camperdave (969942) on Friday February 27, 2009 @03:46PM (#27015863) Journal
    We're going to go through the same problem again in about ten years when those 3d printer/modelling machines get really cheap. First music, then video, then books, then "solids" or whatever they'll be called.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Yvan256 (722131)

      The order does look funny to me. It should have been books, music and then video.

      That's what it should be in terms of bandwidth anyway, but because of the lack of a good electronic paper, audio and video came first because the "playback" hardware already existed.

      • but because of the lack of a good electronic paper, audio and video came first because the "playback" hardware already existed.

        I would argue that books have taken so long because they're so much more difficult than music and video to digitize.

        In 1998 I could easily rip my music collection and offer it to the world. In 2002 I could easily rip my video collection and offer it to the world. But I still can't easily rip my book collection.

        • by Yvan256 (722131)

          I'm talking about the actual information, not your at-home-ripping process. Scanning a book to end up with a high-resolution bitmap graphic is pointless if the original information could be a text file.

          As the information itself goes, however, you could still re-type it all. And the publisher has the book in digital format too.

    • by RingDev (879105)

      We're not that far off now. Not too long ago I bought 3 resin cast models from Forge World to the tune of almost $200.

      Had I spent the time and rendered my own versions of those models in 3dsm and sent it off to a 3-d printing service, I could have had them for about $300.

      I'm sure with a bulk order and some negotiating I could have easily gotten the price of a 3-piece order to under $200. The only major cost would be my time.

      -Rick

    • by Lumpy (12016) on Friday February 27, 2009 @04:21PM (#27016363) Homepage

      Oh no it's way more insidious than that. The book publishing industry have wanted to kill the used book and discount industry for centuries now. The eBook and 95 tonnes of DRM on it will Kill that industry they so despise with a passion.

      Writers are lucky to get $1.00 a book sold, that's if you signed a really good contract. I have 3 books published, I did what many writers consider career suicide. I told my publishers to go pound sand and I started self publishing. I now make $10.00 per book sold.

      Because the publishers are raging assholes, I can never get "published" by any of the big publishing houses, I have been blackballed in the industry.

      I really dont care. I will never use a traditional publisher again. They are honestly useless in today's world. My books are on the shelves of Barnes and noble and in Amazon.com without them.

      I just have to do the little bit of work they did.
      Many big traditional publishers are forcing writers to add DRM even if they don't want it on any e-releases of their books.

      If there is a way to destroy every old traditional publisher making them penny-less, I'm all for it.

      • Writers get a far, far better deal than musicians get. They generally get a percentage of the sales price, an advance on that that they don't have to give back if the book doesn't earn out, and no deductions for "expenses".

      • Because the publishers are raging assholes, I can never get "published" by any of the big publishing houses, I have been blackballed in the industry.

        I'm curious as to what segment of the industry you publish in. Self-publishing by itself won't get you blackballed in the parts of it I'm familiar with (SF/F/H) but perhaps it works differently in other markets? I can't help but suspect, though, that you maybe did some bridge-burning of your own to get that kind of reaction.

      • by Kabuthunk (972557)

        Do you have any advice, or specific webpages I should go to in order to get info on self-publishing? By blind coincidence, I was giong to be emailing/phoning around to various publishers to see what's involved with getting a book I'm writing published. If I can do a little extra elbow-work and avoid the publishers, but still manage to get the book into book stores/amazon, I'd be all for that.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Spacejock (727523)
          My article on self-publishing is here [spacejock.com.au], and you'll also find articles on POD, finding a publisher, seeking an agent, etc.

          (I self-published back in 2001, and after putting out three titles in the same series I was picked up by a traditional publisher. Therefore my articles cover both sides of the coin.)
  • by gweihir (88907) on Friday February 27, 2009 @03:47PM (#27015877)

    Have a look at Baen books: They publish everything also as downloadable without any DRM (HTML/RTF/PDF) and you can buy months (4-6 books) or individual books. Individual books cost about the paperback price, a month costs about twice that. You typically also get the first 1/3 of a book as fee sample. They also have a "free library" where you get older books in the same formats entirely for free.

    Eric Flint coordinates the free library. He has a series of postings on the effect and it seems to be very postive, with older books suddenly producing significat income for the authors, which they did not before.

    Of course this only works for good quality books, but for them it works. I found myself buying more and trying authors I would otherwise have overlooked.

    References:
    http://www.baen.com/ [baen.com]
    http://www.baen.com/library/ [baen.com]

    • by emj (15659)

      Yeah but they mostly publish the glorified-war-sci-fi kind. But sure I really recommend buying books from them they have some really good book and they are cheap.

      • by emj (15659)

        that was unfair, I did read The Immoratilty option [webscription.net] it was one of the better sci-fi ideas I've read and there wasn't any of that glorification.

      • by gweihir (88907)

        They have a specific focus. But I think their experiences _are_ representative.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by R2.0 (532027)

        "Yeah but they mostly publish the glorified-war-sci-fi kind. But sure I really recommend buying books from them they have some really good book and they are cheap."

        That's not particularly true. They publish a lot of fantasy, and have had a huge success in the alternate history genre. That being said, Jim Baen (rest his soul) was quite conservative and tended to buy from authors who he liked, so they tend to be conservative as well. With notable exception - Eric Flint was a labor organizer, and Bujold cou

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Funny, I would put David Drake in the category of glorification of War for just that reason, the soldiers actually feel superior for the way they think of it. Believe it or not, the War is Hell is very much a part of the whole glorification.

          And their alternative history books are very much the glorified-war-sci-fi kind. The 1632 series, for example, practically drips it.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Believe it or not, the War is Hell is very much a part of the whole glorification.

            Here's the thing: the hellishness of war does isolate the people who experience it, and soldiers very often do come to think of themselves as superior because they've been through things that most people don't understand. It's impossible to write a realistic depiction of war without portraying the phenomenon, and depiction is not the same thing as glorification. I agree, however, that it's a fine line to walk -- it's very e

        • by vanyel (28049) *

          Fictionwise.com has a number of non-drm'd books ("Multiformat") in all genres. There is more non-drm'd content that I'm interested in than I have time to read as it is, so the publishers forcing drm are shooting themselves.

      • by canajin56 (660655)

        The Honor Harrington series is about how war sucks. She gets mutilated and nearly killed almost every book. In every book 90% of the characters introduced are killed. Ace pilots with lots of character development? Oops lucky shot they're all dead now. A minor firefight typically wrecks the ship and kills lots of the crew. There's no, "Shields holding Captain" like in StarTrek. Its all about chickenhawk politicians rattling sabres and pushing for "Glorious war" and totally ruining their nation. The

    • Last time I looked (which, because of your post, was about 30 seconds ago) Baen do not offer PDF downloads. They also do not offer a download in any format with semantic markup suitable for generating a high-quality PDF. This limits you to horribly-typeset text which will either make you feel tired or your attention wander when you read them on an eInk device. They would do well to learn from FeedBooks, which produces beautiful PDFs from Project Gutenberg texts using TeX, typeset for various eBook reader
      • I don't get it they give you HTML, in what why isn't that ok for eInk displays?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by R2.0 (532027)

        You probably talked directly to Jim Baen, the publisher, and I'd guess he was irritated that you didn't read the FAQ.

        "But what about PDF?

        These formats have been extensively considered for WebScriptions. However, Baen Books does not currently plan to support them. If you would like to discuss these decisions, please visit Baen's Bar."

        That's not a blow-off answer; Baen's Bar is a very active forum that the authors and publisher use and pay attention to, and they've responded to th

        • by rts008 (812749)

          You probably talked directly to Jim Baen, the publisher, and I'd guess he was irritated that you didn't read the FAQ.

          Sorry to be the one to pass you the sad news: Jim Baen passed away last year. I heard who had taken over for him, but don't recall his name, and a quick scan of baen.com home page did not help me...sorry.

          You sound like a fellow fan, so have you seen thefifthimperium.com [thefifthimperium.com] site? Download or read online cd's of Baen books....Free!

          I buy a lot of my books from Baen now days. (heh! I have already r

      • PDFs? Ugh! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by meehawl (73285)

        I prefer about 5 million-fold when I can get an ebook that is simply raw text, or text with light markup. That way I can refont, reformat, resize, or reflow it to suit a particular screen, or a particular reading posture.

        PDFs fail at all of this.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Of course this only works for good quality books

      Indeed, like the music industry. If an album only has one good tune, they don't want anybody to hear any of the crap.

      DRM is a crapware shield.

  • There is a persistant and politically powerful group of people [1] that state that they shouldn't publish as ebooks until there is a fail proof DRM for books. Just to get a picture how inane people can be.

    [1](the guys who decides the Nobel prize for literature)

  • One Word... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cutecub (136606) on Friday February 27, 2009 @03:49PM (#27015921)

    Greed.

    That's all this is about. That's all its ever been about.

    -S

    • Nope, Honesty is what it is all about.

      Some people steal (yes, pirating is stealing and let's not quibble over the definition) what they can't have. Some people don't have the cranial capacity to understand that downloading stuff off the web is theft. The more that happens, the less money publishers and writers don't make.

      Here is a side effect of pirating books. Publishers are prone to market conditions too. When the market goes south, publishers tighten up and stop taking on new writers. They also s
      • Re:One Word... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by uniquename72 (1169497) on Friday February 27, 2009 @05:47PM (#27017413)

        yes, pirating is stealing and let's not quibble over the definition

        Saying, "Night is day and let's not quibble over the definition" doesn't make night and day the same thing. Piracy is infringement, not stealing.

        Every book that is pirated, and to the same degree where a book is swapped on an internet site, means one less sale to the author

        Replace the first 2/3rds of that sentence with "Every CD or video borrowed from the library..." to see why the argument is retarded.

        But you know as well as I that with electronic copies, the barriers are completely removed. That is why publishers want DRM.

        These 2 sentences together make no sense. If you add DRM, you still have an electronic copy.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by berend botje (1401731)
        But you know as well as I that with electronic copies, the barriers are completely removed.

        True, no barriers. Make a thousand copies in the blink of an eye. And still, every study that is not paid for by the industry itself says 'pirating' is actually beneficiary to the bottom-line.

        Sure, a lot of people get your product without paying for it. But they wouldn't have bought it anyway! No lost sales there. And there are (a lot actually) also people that had never heard of your product and now, due to fre
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Spacejock (727523)
          The question boils down to this: Would I rather sell 100 ebooks heavily protected with DRM, and sleep sound knowing those 100 people are the only ones who can read my book.

          OR would I rather 150,000 people pirated and read my novel, and 200 people paid for a copy out of honesty, guilt, or because they were too inept to seek out a stolen copy?

          The second way I many twice as much money, even though it still wouldn't buy a meal for 4. I also reach more readers, some of whom might spring for a paperback.
      • by DrLang21 (900992)
        I know this puts me at risk of being seen as quibbling over a definition. But if someone can't have something because they can't afford it, how does making a copy of it instead equate to theft? Tort, illegal, copyright/trademark/patent infringement sure. But theft? If you couldn't afford it to begin with, then your making a copy does not result in the publisher having anything less in terms of money or physical goods. Only if you would have actually purchased the item in the absence of an illegal altern
      • Re:One Word... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Friday February 27, 2009 @06:20PM (#27017777) Homepage Journal

        pirating is stealing and let's not quibble over the definition

        It must be very convenient for you to be able to dismiss a fundamental argument over the meaning of a word which is central to the debate at hand as "quibbling." I seem to recall various Bush Administration officials doing the same thing with words such as "rights" and "torture." You may believe that copyright infringement is the same thing as stealing; a great many people, clearly, do not. By calling any objection to your position a "quibble," you are trying to cut them out of the debate. Sorry, you don't get to do that.

    • This misses the point. The book industry is taking actions that will lead to less money for the book industry.

      Saying "greed, that's all it is about" completely misses the fundamental irony.

  • Audible (Score:5, Informative)

    by thermian (1267986) on Friday February 27, 2009 @03:51PM (#27015949)

    Audible have already cornered the market in DRM encumbered audiobooks. I've been a regular customer of theirs for years, buying dozens of titles. Yet I have not a single drm file in my collection, thanks to those nice people who packaged up the 'how to strip Audible DRM' set and stuck it on piratebay that is.

    I'd prefer if they had no DRM to start with, but for the moment they have lots of titles I want, so I just pipe the downloaded files through the stripping process and discard their drm. It takes all of 20 minutes usually.

    If however they changed their DRM to make it harder to crack, I would cancel my account that day and never go back.

    • by ianare (1132971)

      Why help support a company that treats you like a filthy criminal ? In your position I would simply download the torrent and be done with it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by murdocj (543661)

        Well, because just downloading the torrent w/o buying the product is theft. Period. If you really really hate DRM, don't buy the product and don't steal it either.

        • Re:Audible (Score:5, Insightful)

          by John Hasler (414242) on Friday February 27, 2009 @04:22PM (#27016389) Homepage

          > Well, because just downloading the torrent w/o buying the product is
          > theft.

          No it isn't. Coyright infringement is a tort, illegal, wrong, and even a crime in some circumstances, but it is not theft.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by gutnor (872759)

            Come on - always the same 'it is copyright infringement' bla bla bla

            Slashdot is not a court room - people say steal when they get something illegally without paying. Period.

            If you want to nitpick, regardless if you purchased the drm version or not, downloading the torrent is always copyright infringement. What do you tell your kid in those circumstances ? Moral Copyright Infringement vs Immoral Copyright Infringement ? Let's call the immoral one stealing and hope the second disappear one day.

            • by muuh-gnu (894733)

              >people say steal when they get something illegally without paying.

              But its annoying as fuck to have those people making actions they dont agree with sound worse than they are just by calling them something else. Copying stuff has already been called theft, piracy, France's madman Sarkozy recently even went so far to call it "murder of the creation" (yes, he actually really did), but none of this actually is enough of a description of whats going on: people just exchange information and ignore the fact th

              • Your period aint gonna impress anybody.

                Well, I've known this girl in Tucson that would probably amaze you...
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by berend botje (1401731)
              Car analogy time...

              Say I have a really neat device. I point it at your car, push a button and suddenly I have a copy of your car. Yours isn't harmed in any way. And everytime I push the button, I get another car, just like you still have. Tens, hundreds, thousands even.

              Have I just stolen your car? Have I stolen from the car company? Nope, I didn't.
            • people say steal when they get something illegally without paying

              Which people are these? The people who agree with you and are therefore right?

              When my neighbors house was robbed, they were pissed because their stuff had been stolen. They weren't mad because the culprits were "getting something illegally without paying for it." They were mad because the culprits had removed my neighbors own ability to possess what they'd paid for.

              I'll never understand the need for an otherwise intelligent person to get all upset about "nitpicking" when they are demonstrably wrong. Equ

            • by dissy (172727)

              If you want to nitpick, regardless if you purchased the drm version or not, downloading the torrent is always copyright infringement.

              Go tell that to Linus and the Linux distros that are all up on torrents.
              Tell that to all the people that legally purchased World of Warcraft and just got forced to update.

              If you are trying to force a non $0 price tag on works of art i choose to give away for free, then how can you possibly be against the pirates for forcing other authors to have a $0 price tag when they choose a non zero dollar amount for their own works???

              Shame on you for forcing authors into doing something they don't want to do. You're

          • by LWATCDR (28044)

            "No it isn't. Coyright infringement is a tort, illegal, wrong, and even a crime in some circumstances"

            That is called nitpicking.
            But I am glad to see that you are not one of the people that feel you are entitled to pirate media.

            • by jedidiah (1196)

              "No it isn't. Coyright infringement is a tort, illegal, wrong, and even a crime in some circumstances"

              That is called nitpicking.
              But I am glad to see that you are not one of the people that feel you are entitled to pirate media.

              If you are going to dabble in LAW, ETHICS or MORALITY then you better be precise.

              The details matter.

      • by thermian (1267986)

        Why help support a company that treats you like a filthy criminal ? In your position I would simply download the torrent and be done with it.

        Because I want the audibooks writer and performer to get paid for my enjoyment of their shared work. Its as simple as that. Everything else is just people trying to shove their agendas down my throat.

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        Why help support a company that treats you like a filthy criminal ? In your position I would simply download the torrent and be done with it.

        In this day and age, it's really hard to get away from. You probably
        experience the same BS in your day to day routine in meatspace and
        don't notice it anymore. It's pretty pervasive.

  • Amazon's DRM specifically limits sharing books from the Amazon store. However I dont see ow it would limit other book formats from being loaded other than the lack of software for doing so. I would think some clever hacker would write that software. An alternative is to convert to MSWord file, then load that.
    • by Zerth (26112)

      It comes with a USB cable. It is easy to just copy them over. Alternatively, you can email it to them and they'll convert a limited number of formats for $.10 a hit.

  • nobody reads anymore. In fact, I'm notrqwh even lookitnag at whwat I'at typing right nwo.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday February 27, 2009 @03:54PM (#27016005) Journal

    When my last book was made available in electronic form, I asked my editor about DRM. Her reaction, before I'd expressed an opinion on the subject, was 'don't worry - I'm used to authors hating DRM. We won't put any on if you don't want it.' The contract for my most recent book had a explicit clause added preventing the publisher from distributing it in any DRM-encumbered format.

    Tech book publishers know that what they provide of value is access to a large reservoir of knowledge. That is why they are creating things like Safari Books Online, which allows you to browse books online and buy DRM-free PDF copies (or get some included with your subscription) if you need to read more than a few pages.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by chromatic (9471)

      Tech book publishers know that what they provide of value is access to a large reservoir of knowledge.

      That doesn't mean they treat authors any better than other types of publishers. Most publishers severly undervalue their authors [onyxneon.com] -- there's no way that the publisher provided seven times the value to my most recent few books than I did. (If they took on seven times more risk than I did, that's not my problem. That's their broken business model.)

  • by unlametheweak (1102159) on Friday February 27, 2009 @03:55PM (#27016007)

    Yes, everyone is now opening up (including Apple), but it took a long time, and Apple had already established its dominant position. So why are book publishers doing the same thing?"

    Because book publishers and record executives have the same types of personalities and intelligence that drives people into executive positions. They have the same token MBAs and Law degrees and lawyers that all "Business" people have. They all think-outside-of-the-box the same way.

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Friday February 27, 2009 @03:56PM (#27016021)
    Kindle [xkcd.com]
    The "Guide" on the other hand...
  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday February 27, 2009 @03:59PM (#27016073) Journal

    No matter where you are, if you are there long enough, you will start to think that what happens around you is normal. That is a very generic way to describe the problem.

    To put it more concrete, the more time Bill Gates spend as they head of Microsoft, at Microsoft, surrounded by Microsoft, the more he got to believe that this is the way the world is. He no longer has any connections to the outside world and his own world has become one that agrees with what he thinks because his world ain't stupid enough no to.

    Yes-men are liked, get promoted, you make friends with them and pretty soon everyone around you is a yes-men.

    I am a volunteer cameraman. The unique thing about this job is that you become a faceless observer, the camera allows you to distance yourself from whatever you are filming yet who you are filming often assumes, because you are focussed on them (Yes, cameraman wit) that you are not just intrested but even part of their world. Once the camera is allowed in, you are part of the family.

    It allows me to see parts of the world that I would never see otherwise. I don't mean shocking things like secret societies, well actually I do, because I am still at the early stage but still.

    Take for instance, performance art. I have filmed pieces where the artists involved talked about the importance and meaning of what they did and how their new work was affecting the world, while a simple pan would have showed an audience of only other artists and then only because they were waiting for their turn.

    It is a common thing, you see property developers talking about new plans when you can see that NOBODY cares about it, architects presenting new exciting buildings that you have seen countless times before and are never going to work out or if they do end up and windy hellholes where nobody wants to work or live.

    People live in their own small world.

    And so the book publishers, they live in a world surrounded by other publishers and hear the thing from people who want to work as publishers and get promotoed. So you say what you think your boss wants to hear and the boss promotes those that say what he wants to hear and pretty soon you got a system where no outside information can get in. No previous information.

    Right now we are debating in the Netherlands about the selling of public utilities to foreign companies. Because that worked out so well in the US. But the people in the banks say it works so it must work. Nevermind the credit crisis caused by the same banks, privatisation is good because...

    Trust me, once a system has been in place for to long with nobody to shake things up, you have a small bubble of alternate reality that you have no hope of penetrating.

    • by ianare (1132971) on Friday February 27, 2009 @04:14PM (#27016269)

      Yes, kinda like this web forum called 'slashdot' where everyone in it thinks normal people actually care about openness of files, formats, and software.

      • I did say it is a common thing. We all do it. Except me of course :P

        I can't even get myself to agree with my ideas.

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        Yes, because no one ever had any interest in buying a different mp3 player or type of computer...

        "normal" people may not be aware of these issues but they are limited by them just the same.

      • by canajin56 (660655) on Friday February 27, 2009 @06:02PM (#27017601)
        Slashdot (as a single minded group) might suppose that most everybody on Slashdot cares about open files, formats, and software. However, Slashdot certainly doesn't operate under the false impression that it represents normal people!
      • I think most /.ers know perfectly well that "normal people" don't care about openness. Many of us think people should care about it, and harbor the hope, however naive it may be, that they will care if they understand the implications better.

    • No matter where you are, if you are there long enough, you will start to think that what happens around you is normal. That is a very generic way to describe the problem....He no longer has any connections to the outside world and his own world has become one that agrees with what he thinks because his world ain't stupid enough no to.

      I think you're right to point out that this is a more generic problem than just "yes men". See, even if Bill Gates isn't surrounded by "yes men", when he's at Microsoft he's still surrounded with software developers. So everyone he's talking to people who think about things the way software developers (and software-developer managers) think about things, from the point of view that software developers look at things.

      They don't have to be yes-men, since they'll still take lots of things for granted. They

      • by tomhudson (43916)

        They don't have to be yes-men, since they'll still take lots of things for granted. They'll get used to their coworkers agreeing with them, and they'll take that as evidence that they're 100% correct about certain things. Then when they encounter an alternate opinion, they'll be quick to disregard it because of this confidence that comes with being agreed with all the time.

        1. Surround yourself with disagreeable people
        2. ...
        3. ... and if you think this model doesn't work, look around you ...
  • Book publishers could do some things to get the dead-tree edition people to buy. Off the top of my head here are some suggestions:

    1. Customized paper/covers. A person orders a book and specifies what paper they want or cover they want. They could keep the common formats around, and the truly exotic could be print-on-demand (high quality)

    2. Paper/electronic combo. Focal Press (a photography publisher) already does this already. Photos look shit on displays which is why their paper books work.

    3. upgradeable b

  • answer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blhack (921171) on Friday February 27, 2009 @04:01PM (#27016093)

    So why are book publishers doing the same thing?

    Because the companies are run by old-timer that are still trying to apply a set of rules that no longer apply to a failing business model.

    Look, the internet is here, it isn't leaving. Portable electronics are not some sort of passing fad. Dead-tree publishing is an old technology. As things like the kindle and the sony reader start showing people that they don't need to purchase a stack of paper to read a book, they're going to start demanding that when they purchase a book, they own the *book* not the rights to display the text of it on one specific device.

    People are starting to catch on to it, too. There is a marketing tool that we use at my work that requires a serial # to activate. Since then, we have installed the software for all of the serials (this is a result of everybody demanding that they need access to it...not just the people we bought it for).
    I finally told the boss that we don't have any more serials, we need more, and this is how much it's going to cost. He flipped out. Why was I being so difficult! The receptionist isn't using her copy any more, just use the serial number for that one!

    I'm sure this is pretty common. People don't understand how completely and totally ridiculous DRM is until they actually run into it. As digital media becomes more and more ubiquitous, this is happening more and more and people are having their eyes opened.

    Another example is when my Dad decided that he wanted to add MP3 playback capability to his home automation system (like what I showed him at my house). Problem was that all(most) of his music had been purchased in the iTunes Music Store and the tool that I was using for music playback ran on linux.

    Sadly, it might actually take as long as it takes for some of the people running these companies to retire before things start to change.

    • The bulk of your father's music can likely be upgraded to the DRM free format (with a higher bitrate) for a small cost. iTunes should be able to show you a list, I think you get to it via a menu somewhere. Tell him it is a tax on those of us who valued convenience over DRM.

      Of course that isn't MP3 playback, but I assumed you meant digital music playback.

      • by blhack (921171)

        The bulk of your father's music can likely be upgraded to the DRM free format (with a higher bitrate) for a small cost.

        It's okay, Apple maintains a library of every version of iTunes...meaning that I can download an older version and use it along with qtfairuse to just extract unencrypted .aac files from RAM.

        The thing is that most people don't have somebody around to do that for them. For them, they're stuck paying a fee for it.

  • "So why are book publishers doing the same thing?"

    Making a broad generalization, but the answer is simple - because they, like music execs before them, are stupid.

    Ok, that's harsh. More accurately, they are ill-informed. Just because you managed to become an executive of a company that deals with IP rights does not mean you are aware of what is going on in the world-at-large. In a perfect world, yes, the upper management of a company should be well-informed and make intelligent decisions based on more
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2009 @04:15PM (#27016281)

    People don't have the attention spans for a full exploration of a theme across an entire novel.

    They want one or two really catchy pages at a low price. Something you can dance to.

  • by creimer (824291) on Friday February 27, 2009 @04:16PM (#27016289) Homepage
    Relying on a product model that worked well in the past, selling products that they hope to sell, and clueless about the future. Except the government won't be throwing buckets of cash at them since no one cares about the extinction of bookworms.
  • If so, please provide a profitable business model that they can follow.

  • The Book Publishers better not fuck with the blind over screen readers and other text to speech stuff. The GOV and Americans with disabilities people may come down hard on them.

  • It may be a mistake from our perspective, but Apple shareholders don't mind too much that the iPod and iTMS are incredibly successful.

    Many other companies have tried to break into the same markets (hello Microsoft?) with not much success. And they had even better DRM than Apple's! (from a lock-in perspective)

  • Greed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Adrian Lopez (2615) on Friday February 27, 2009 @04:53PM (#27016737) Homepage

    Wiktionary defines [wiktionary.org] a monkey trap as "a cage containing a banana with a hole large enough for a monkey's hand to fit in, but not large enough for a monkey's fist (clutching a banana) to come out. Used to 'catch' monkeys that lack the intellect to let go of the banana and run away."

    I think the lure of requiring customers to buy new books rather than borrow or buy them used has placed book publishers in a situation similar to that of the monkey who can't get his hand out of the trap because he's too greedy -- or perhaps just not intelligent enough -- to realize it's in his best interests to let go.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Friday February 27, 2009 @04:54PM (#27016761) Homepage

    First off, make sure to read the Slate article [slate.com], not the crappy techdirt page that just summarizes and links to it.

    The Slate article makes a lot of oversimplified analogies. One big difference between books and music is that with music, there is only a very tiny difference in utility between a CD and a song bought online and downloaded. Personally, I perceive the CD as having slightly negative utility compared to the download, because it's just one more physical object to clutter up my house. Other people might prefer the convenience of having the CD, since you don't need to make backup copies of CDs. But in general, they're pretty much interchangeable products. With books, however, there are huge differences in utility between paper and download. I can easily make notes in a paper book. I can loan it to a friend to take to the beach. It's never going to become obsolete, whereas a digital book in a specialized e-book format is almost certainly going to become obsolete within 5-10 years.

    Because music has nearly the same utility regardless of whether it's embodied in a physical object, there are lots and lots of people who copy their music from other people without paying for it. There's really no such phenomenon in the case of books. Okay, sure, there are people who scan entire books and post them on scribd or something, but it's a very tiny niche, so this is another case where the analogy between books and music breaks down.

    The article says $10 is cheap for a digital book. This is both an oversimplification and an irrelevance to their argument by analogy. In the case of music, the huge difference is that if I want to buy one track, I can buy it for about $1 by downloading it, whereas on CD I would have had to pay $10, even if I didn't want the rest of the music on it. That's an order of magnitude difference in price. When it comes to books, there's nothing like that. $10 is ridiculously expensive for a used mass-market paperback. $10 is not cheap for a new mass-market paperback. $10 is about the going price for a trade paperback. $10 would be insanely cheap for an illustrated physics textbook.

    If you want to look for a real threat to the book publishing industry that's analogous to the threat file-sharing poses to the music industry, it's not the Kindle, it's the extreme efficiency of the used book market these days. Years ago, one of my favorite things to do on a weekend was bum around used bookstores in a place like Berkeley or New York. It was fun, but it was incredibly inefficient, and the used books weren't particularly cheap. Today, you can get pretty much any used book you want online, at a very reasonable price, and the internet has obsoleted the concept of a bricks and mortar used bookstore. A lot of titles go for something like a buck plus shipping. This is what the book publishers should really be afraid of. They hate the used book market. I see this most vividly at the community college where I teach. The publishers bring out a new edition of the textbook every few years, for the sole purpose of killing off the used book market. The sales reps are now constantly pushing DRM'd books that the students use on a rental basis, meaning that when they stop paying, they can no longer read the book.

  • Not true. Book publishers are making new mistakes also.

    Look at Grove. They have been selling product placements in their novels.

  • Publishers? Don't you mean one specific bookstore chain, who's doing the classic "let's leverage our way towards a monopoly" schtick?

    The publishers left in the world already know the value of making books available free electronically and retaining the right to print them. I'm proud to say that O'Reilly started this with the first edition of my "Using Samba". Other, smaller, imprints like Baen are following suit.

    And isn't it this same bookstore that's leaning on their supplier to use one particular pr

  • Too late (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ucblockhead (63650) on Friday February 27, 2009 @05:11PM (#27016967) Homepage Journal

    Amazon already has a huge share of the book market. In most respects, Amazon is much better placed than Apple was when it launched the iPod. Imagine if Apple had been the largest single retailer of music CDs when it launched the iPod...that's where Amazon is now.

  • Go read Cyberbooks [amazon.com] by Ben Bova. 20 years ago and he got it pretty right.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern

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