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This week’s column over at eWeek is about Google Print and the pressure the giagantico on-line media and advertising company is placing on the book business.
The story has the sort of web-booster drop head (that’s the little paragraph below the main headline) that I try to avoid. It’s another one of those “Lookee: Technology Matters” cheers that take away from what you’re trying to say. But that’s a minor point.
Google’s doing some clever positioning with its decisions to copy — it’s using the more politically correct verb “scan” — all the books in the libraries where’s it’s cut deals. It’s going after college students — future users for the next generation — with this deal, getting them to think that everything that’s worth knowing is on the Internet. If you’re a book publisher, this is going to hurt your business in ways you can’t — or won’t — even consider.
Of course, for us, that’s kind of a obvious statement. We’ve seen it with the record business; we’re seeing it with the newspaper business. But there is – and there will remain for some time, I’m afraid – an enormous gulf between those who understand this new world and those who fear it. A long conversation with Allan Adler, the book publishers’ lobbyist, convinced me of that. Although they are perfectly happy to sell books on-line (the web as a giant cash register remains the favorite vision of the not-so-technical) Adler’s members don’t want to become web sites.
Why? Because web sites don’t make any money. To which any sane person asks: And the book business does? This is an industry that turns up its nose at anything that’s not in the New York Times but considers a “best seller” to be anything that sells 100,000 copies. You wanna know how we got three books about Enron and AOL and why those works were considered “ era” books. This is how. These folks aren’t ostriches. They’re moles.
To start with, the idea that a web site must be — by definition — free is starting to fade away. The Wall Street Journal went first. Some smart book publisher — probably one already on the web — will figure out how to put the infrastructure in place to sell books to a modern (and by that I mean young) audience. But first they’re going to have to get over the idea that any and all change is a bad idea.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 10:38 AM | Permalink

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