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