Is the future bright? Books, Digitisation and Evil!

Heat & Noise
Richard Charkin is a great blogger and he is at the helm of a fine company. He is anti-recent developments in the book world however. Or perhaps to reflect his views more accurately he fears the encroachment of Google.

I cannot blame him. His business is built on the exploitation of content. More specifically the exploitation of book content. That is why this post on the recent Kevin Kelly Article which was blogged about here was negative. The profitable control of much of the content most publishers rely upon may be moving into the hands of a competitor. It is definitely a corporate concern.

It might seem then that Charkin fears exactly what Jeff Jarvis crows for in the posts mentioned earlier. Or is he?

The truth is that Charkin has no issue with the type of changes Jarvis advocates so long as his company was positioned to take advantage of them. Indeed he is happy enough to see digitisation and e-book and any technology that works in his favour. Indeed he blogs in favour of these moves too.

What is the point of this post?

Simply this. There is a trend of argument that says the digital revolution will open the doors, remove gate keepers, release knowledge onto the world and basically make everything considerably more free. Jeff Jarvis with his almost messianic demand for these developments is to my mind the champion of this outcome.

There is however a quieter counter-revolution being fought even more intensely by established players in markets that digitisation is opening up. That battle is for the prime position and control of these new delivery systems just as iTunes has secured Apple the near monopoly (at least in consciousness terms) of Music Downloads and Google did with search.

These more subtle warriors are fighting to retain the power of their “old media” firms and the truth is that they are no more evil than the new entrants. Why should we allow Google or Amazon to control our access to digitised books rather than say, MacMillan or HarperCollins? Why any of them?

The truth then is that much of the heat on the war about Google Book Search, Copyright and digitisation is design to cover the fact that both sides are fighting to control your spending five, ten and fifteen years from now. Neither side really doubts the technology they just want to control it.

If we are lucky they may tie and offer us a range of options. If one side wins we may face the threat of a limited source with almost monopolistic control of certain markets.



  1. Enjoyed your post.

    I guess there are always pathfinders.

    I remember getting my first Mac and laser printer in 1984. Suddenly all those one page brochures and leaflets that were printed by printers via advertising agencies became the domain of people with a Mac. That impact has lasted through to now where a large majority of people in the graphic industry use Macs. This changed a paragdigm. Jobs did it again with iTunes. Back then nobody bitched about postscript being an enabling language, they just used the machines.

    Yes its a different world now but someone had to provide a solution that worked seemlessly for the user. Like the Mac and the laser printer. There are many lasr printers now and lots of programs to use them. MacDraw and MacPaint are no more. Pagemaker is hanging on. iTunes will not be the only format forever but without the paradign shift would I be driving to work listening to a podcast from London about publishing here in Australia?

    While iTunes is talked about being a virtual monopoly MySpace should be seen as more of a threat to publishers. Given that companies like Lulu and Booksurge can produce physical books they can be marketed directly to the world by the author and delived as an eBook or as hard copy. At least publishers are in the game with iTunes but maybe not for long. Most minor bands and artists in the world have MySpace accounts and sell their tracks from there. No record companies involved. Their community of fans visit their MySpace every day to check if anything is new. A whole new paradigm.

    So … yes there are two ways to go but I believe the trend will be that most of the publishing market will go direct from the artist to the consumer with “bestsellers” being picked up by traditional companies who have the bookshops and record stores.

    Paul Niedderer

  2. I read this post and your previous post about Jeff Jarvis with interest. As a writer, as well as a reader, this issue is one that has been exercising my mind considerably recently. I am not sure that I am as positive as Jarvis or the previous commenter. In any case Jarvis seemed to be talking about non-fiction rather than fiction. What really concerns me is copyright and the current attempts by media corporations to lock down ‘content’ with all sorts of DRM. That really bothers me because I’m old fashioned enough to believe that the public domain should be the default. Besides I don’t like ebooks.

  3. I agree that Jarvis is talking about non-fiction by default, or at least what he says only makes sense for non-fiction.
    I do hate the extent of copyright and the possible dangers of DRM especially now that it strays so far from the lifespan of the author. It does seem crazy to have books still potected 70+ years after the writer has passed away.

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