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October 23, 2011

Sunday Book Thread

Walter Russell Meade writes about the revolution in book publishing brought on by Amazon. Amazon has progressively moved from being a bookseller to a major book hub to a book publisher. Their e-book platform, the Kindle, has carved out a niche in the book world in much the same way that Apple's iPod did in the music world. And now the publishers are eyeing Amazon's success and wondering what their future holds, much as the music labels did when confronted with the success of Apple's distribution model.

The new Kindle Fire (their color touchscreen device) is apt to be just as disruptive as its e-ink forebears were. For one thing, the Kindle Fire's new layout technology combined with the color touchscreen means that many books can now be published on the platform that were previously not feasible: children's books, graphic novels, cookbooks, and other graphics-heavy publications.

As for books: I received Vernor Vinge's The Children of the Sky -- the sequel to A Fire Upon the Deep -- earlier in the week. I got the dead-tree edition, but I re-bought A Fire Upon the Deep in Kindle format so I can refresh my memory of the story before diving into the new book.

One thing I wish the publishers would allow Amazon to do: allow access to all formats of a book -- e-book, hardcover, paperback -- for one price, even if it's a few bucks higher than the paper-only price. I'm to the point now that I actually prefer reading novels on my Kindle, but I want to have some books on dead-tree editions as well (come the End of Days when I will have had to use my Kindle to crush the head of a Wasteland mutant, I want to have paper books to fall back on). It's not Amazon's fault: the publishers set the prices for the books. This is, I suspect, is why Amazon is getting into the publisher business themselves -- they can make the rules for their own books, and provide more value-add that way. I'm sure other publishers will hate it, and I foresee court battles in the future, but screw those guys. Publishers, like record labels, have taken their business model as a permanent fact of life rather than a short historical interregnum. I've written in the past about the concept of Schumpeterian "creative destruction", and this is a good example of that process.


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posted by Monty at 09:21 AM

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