Sunday, September 26, 2010

ebooks, mp3's, and why the publishing industry has nothing to worry about



These days, the “e” that you find preceding nouns like mail and commerce is all up in the publishing industry; gimme an iBook, gimme an eBook, gimme a nook – anything but a regular b-o-o-k! The internet tends to fuck industries up, so the publishers in their titan of industry thrones are nervous: even in a cushy throne your ass can still sweat. But why should their butts be stayin sweat free? Considering how significantly the mp3 fucked up the music industry, shouldn’t we expect the ebook to knock at least a couple of zeros off of the Random House’s profit? (future NYT headline?: “ebooks send Random House into Foreclosure”).


Here’s what I’d say at the investors meeting if I was the Random House CEO: “chillll you crazy bats everything is fine!” Because shit, we can’t use the mp3-provoked decline of the music industry as a predictor of the ebook’s impact on the publishing industry, as the ebook has been raised in an environment way too different than the birth-era of the “esong”. Consider the wild difference in who was in control when the two mediums went digital.


You remember Napster and Kazaa and Limewire (which sucked, but at least was mac compatible. Damn I used to be so jealous of my pc friends). These networks didn’t develop the technology, but they digitized the song on the mass scale in invention of the idea that a song should actually be free.


These file-swapping guys were some best of the best of the best dorm-room geeks (with honors), who didn’t care about totally inverting the music industry’s business model. For them it was like: why shouldn’t the song be free? And for us it was like: yeah you’re right, why shouldn’t a song be free? And like tink says: since we all believed, it became so. The music industry says fuck, their cash crop being completely revolutionized and liberated in a dorm room fully outside of their control: no wonder the mp3 had such a profound effect on the bottom line.


But there is no Seth Green from the Italian Job chillin in the ebook story. If mp3 swapping was like some 60’s daisy age free love type shit, the ebook is the mayor of that town in Footloose. This time the medium was digitized by Amazon, by Apple, and by Microsoft: aka by the man, which almost ensures that the ebook is not at all revolutionary. The money is in control, and when the money is in control, things work out so that the money stays in control.

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