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A view from the other side – epublishing

In amongst all the doom-mongering of Amazon monopoly and of epublishing in general, there is an alternative view in which the publishing houses are dinosaurs who can – yet refuse – to avoid their own extinction to preserve a monopoly they feel entitled to. Strong stuff, but this is the view of Barry Eisler in this article for The Guardian.

There are some incendiary points in there as well as a completely irrelevant aside about the US Department of Justice’s conduct on political prisoners but this section caught my eye:

wasn’t around for previous technology-driven disruptions of industries, but I’m confident that as cars displaced horse-drawn carriages, electric lights displaced candles, and digitally distributed music displaced CDs, to name just a few, the establishments of the day decried the newcomers’ methods and aims and predicted that the new way would inevitably cause The Destruction of Civilisation and the End of All That Is Good. And yet the doomsayers’ predictions have never come true.

I really cannot argue with that. It is certainly true that every generation has its Luddites regardless of their political persuastion. The Catholic Church were against the Printing Press, the music labels have always done their best to restrict the development of a digital music market. The oil industry is funding pressure groups to spread misinformation about climate science in order to protect their profits and the privelege they have in the market economy. It is a story that is repeated time and time again. The industries that have become cosy in their monopolies must either adapt to it or become obsolete because they spent more time handwringing than thinking about how to adapt.

Like Eisler, I hope the market that emerges is one that works for everybody. I will never stop buying physical books but having a Kindle has made me realise how much space they take up. From a retail point of view, anything that makes Waterstone’s change its business model can be a good thing.


6 thoughts on “A view from the other side – epublishing

  1. Yeah, it is funny how the folks who say e-publishing is never going to take off (um, hint, it already has and has been developing for decades) don’t see the parallels. True, one never does know the future, but somehow I think we will all be buying most of our books via 1s and 0s rather than paper and ink very soon.

    1. The most tragic thing is that this idea of new tech ‘destroying’ an industry is just cliché now.

      I can’t say I will ever stop buying physical books but I foresee a time when most of the fiction I buy is digital. Most of the physical books I’ve acquired in the last year have been through “read it, swap it” or second hand purchases.

      It’s the non-fiction I read that might be harder to switch, science books with illustrations or phoographic plates and the sort of books that look good on the shelf

      1. I stilll buy CDs as I like to have them for the car. But to be honest the first thing I do with them is rip them for my mp3 player. I don’t buy huge amounts of music -perhaps no more than five or six albums in the average year and I have bought a handful via download only.

        Will I ever stop buying CDs? I don’t honestly know right now.

      2. Well, I never bought very many in the first place, so when mp3 came out, I easily went over. I buy all my music online now. Everyone is different. But I’m sure how we *predominantly* read books will change in the future (unless Armageddon comes and we lose electricity).

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