Many of us were excited about eBooks when they were introduced, even though we understood the disadvantages – eBooks cannot be loaned. They cannot be displayed on a shelf. The cloud and the nature of electronic data makes their ownership nebulous.
These concerns were trade offs. We were willing to trade these shortcomings for an affordability that printed books could not match. Normal market dynamics should have helped eBooks overcome their disadvantages. Instead, we saw price increases that couldn’t be explained by rising costs of publishing.
On Wednesday, July 10 2013, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote ruled in the case between the Department of Justice vs Apple over ebook price-fixing. She ruled that Apple conspired with five major publishers to raise rates.
The five major publishers – Hachette, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin (now Random House), all chose to settle the case with the government and states before the trial. Apple was the only defendant to go to trial, but maintains they have done nothing wrong.
Companies spend a great deal on PR. I hope their paper profits (pun intended) are worth the hit to their reputations and customer trust. But most of all, I hope we see affordability of eBooks become an advantage again.
Publishing will never be the same as it once was. The Internet, social media, blogs and even Amazon are helping to make book publishing affordable and available to anyone. The big publishing houses were unprepared for disruptive technology. It’s hard to face change, especially a change in your very sustenance. The recording industry struggled with disruptive technology, and it is still searching for the optimum business model. The same is true for the motion picture and newspaper industries.
It’s a new world. It is more dynamic than ever before. Agility and the courage to fail rapidly are key to success now. But, learning the hard way is better than not learning at all. As my father said after one of my car accidents, “Experience is a great teacher, if you survive the experience.”
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