Not the Book Business but the Reader Business

Sara Lloyd, as always on point in her writing on The Digitalist.net, posted a piece yesterday about a new service called Spotify (“A World of Music - Instant, legal and free” – but not yet available in the United States).  Spotify makes music available legally on any device at any time to its subscribers, essentially redefining the notion of ownership.  

This concept, if applied to written content (we don’t need to call our content “books” anymore do we?) might have profound ramifications for publishers, as readers realize that it is both unnecessary and impractical to own books as commodities if they can have instant access to any book or other written material at any time in electronic form.  This makes us all dizzy because we don’t know what it means for the “business model” but culture is all about exchange, which means it will get worked out eventually.

I think this is these are the key points for what we know now as “the book business” as it will continue to evolutionize over the next few years, while the web (and mobile web) become the predominant distribution systems for information and entertainment in our culture:

1) that we (ie publishers and writers) are really in the reader business
2) that readers or those who serve them the way they want to be served will lead in publishing
3) that publishing has always been about connecting readers to writing
4) that the web enables that connection to upset the authority model with the most profound ramifications for both sides of the reader writer equation

Posted by David Wilk on 02/24 at 06:51 AM
(132) CommentsPermalink

Freedom of the Press

Freedom of the press belongs to whomever owns the press.  Or so it has been said.  But isn’t it more true than ever that freedom of the press belongs to whomever owns the customer relationship?

If  being a “publisher” is defined by the act of making written work public, then is it possible to be a publisher without distribution?  Obviously not, otherwise the publisher is no better off than the creator.

So in an electronic distribution environment where distribution is determined by the entities that own the customer relationship, doesn’t that make publishers dependent on Amazon, Apple and to a lesser extent Barnes & Noble and the other myriad of smaller sites where readers are willing to give up their credit card and some other private information in order to be able to safely download content?

Freedom of the press belongs to any publisher whose technology enables readers to access that publisher’s work.

What’s a better play for the publisher then?  Kindle or iPhone?

Posted by David Wilk on 02/19 at 04:19 AM
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Buzz, Balls & Hype
MJ Rose’s excellent blog


Where I podcast interviews with writers and thinkers about books, publishing and the future of culture.

Ron Silliman’s Blog
one of my favorite and most regular visits

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers
Incisive, intelligent blog well worth bookmarking! 

Publishing Insider
The renowned Carl Lennertz covers the book business and more

Fresh Eyes Now
Robert Gray’s consistently interesting bookseller’s journal

Book Slut

The Long Tail
Chris Anderson’s ongoing exploration of how the web and human behavior creat new opportunities for information to be distributed (my words)

Galley Cat
Blog about the bookbusiness

Conversations in the Book Trade
interesting site

Flaming Grasshopper
Chelsea Green Press’ ongoing blog

Publishing 2.0: the (r)Evolution of Media
A blog about the (r)evolution of media, driven by the migration of media to the Web and new digital technologies by Scott Karp.  Highly recommended.

An e-book business site, but their blog covers book business stories as well.

The Digitalist 

"The Digitalist was originally conceived as an internal sounding board, discussion forum and blog for the publisher Pan Macmillan to start thinking about a range of digital issues it faced. It still is. Only now it’s open for everyone to join the debate about books, publishing, the web, and the future."  Highly Recommended reading for anyone interested in the future of publishing.

Teleread "Bring the E-books Home"

David Rothman’s outstanding blog covering all things related to e-books, now with the assistance of Paul Biba.

Invention Arts

Really smart people thinking hard about books, publishing and the emerging social conversation.  Creators of Aerbook: an author platform service for the social web. Highly recommended.


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