Monday Morning Thoughts

I hope everyone had a great weekend.  But now it’s time to get back to work — at least for me.  So, to start the week off, here are a few links that might be of interest.  And, of course, there is an update on the Borders situation.

There is an interesting article in the Washington Post about how the publishing industry needs to take a page from the music industry and get rid of DRM.  I have to agree.  We didn’t see the music industry end when they finally did away with DRM and settled on a generally recognized format.  Did it change the industry?  Sure.  But that would have happened anyway simply because of new technology and demand from the buying public.

As a consumer, I’d love to be able to buy any e-book without DRM.  It wouldn’t even matter if the e-books were offered in different formats.  With no DRM applied, it is easy to convert from EPUB to MOBI to LIT or LRF, etc.  It would allow me to move an e-book from my kindle to my iPod touch to whatever.  That way, if I happened to be going somewhere and didn’t want to take my kindle with me, I could at least continue reading my e-book on my iPod touch, which certainly fits into smaller purses — or pockets — than the kindle does.

As an editor, I wholeheartedly agree that DRM needs to go away.  Oh, I can hear the screams of anguish now about how that would lead to an increase in piracy.  Sorry, but I don’t buy it.  If e-titles are easily available, the demand for pirated copies will decrease.   I’ll lay odds on it.

For those of you who might not follow the kindle boards over at, there’s an interesting discussion going on about why e-books cost so much.  Now, you do have to wade through the grouchy responses about the agency model and others who won’t pay more then X-amount for an e-book.  But one response in particular caught my eye this morning.  This particular poster simply responded that e-books cost so much because they are still books.

I have to agree with him to an extent.  In particular, I do believe an e-book is no less a book than a hard cover is.  However, there are differences in the cost of production, distribution, etc.  And those cost differences should be passed on to the reader.  Pricing an e-book at the same — or higher — price than a hard cover will come back to bite the publisher on the butt.  (And hurt the author at the same time.  See the comments and posts about Michael Connelly’s The Fifth Witness last week when the digital version cost more than the hard cover versions at both Amazon and B&N.  Since then, the publisher has lowered the price of the e-book by $2, making it less expensive than the hard cover version.)

Finally, our Monday morning update on the Borders bankruptcy proceedings.  According to Publishers Weekly, the figure for unsecured creditor claims is in excess of $500 million.  That thud you heard was my jaw dropping to the ground.

Borders also argued for — and was granted — the ability to continue its contract with an outsourced call center.  The figures for this are in the article.  Go take a look.

In fact, just go read the article.  There’s a lot of information in it, much of it that still has me shaking my head.  The one thing it does include is the fact that the U. S. Trustee filed an objection to Borders’ request to pay its execs bonuses.  To say such plans are premature has to be the understatement of the year so far.

On the NRP front, we will have two new titles out Wednesday.  Check back for more on that later.



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5 responses to “Monday Morning Thoughts

  1. Only one quick comment.

    DRM I have to agree with you here, it’s worse than useless. From trolling around places I really should be reading… the thrill of the hunt (breaking the DRM in this case) is more than half the value that a potential hacking pirate gets out of the act. It’s exciting, and they see a challenge. It’s not possession they’re after, but the accomplishment of being able to say they did it. If the DRM goes away, then so does the challenge, and these guys (or girls) will go find their kicks somewhere else, maybe they’ll eventually get bored and start working out the kinks in the latest Linux distro.. maybe.


    • Gah! That was supposed to be “shouldn’t be reading”– sorry, I’ll go away now.

      • Dan, that’s the way I feel about it. By putting DRM onto e-books, all the publishers are doing is waving a red flag, daring folks to try to break it. Going hand-in-hand with that is the fact that if digital versions of books were readily available at reasonable prices, folks also wouldn’t feel the need to find pirated versions of the book.

  2. Thomas Wicklund

    One counter point to the music industry example. Apparently the largest source of income to the music industry today is older music from the pre-digital age (see articles in the Economist magazine, one this week, several this year). Apparently a CD collection of 50’s songs released in time for Christmas (forget if last year or the year before) went double-platinum and I think was the biggest seller in the market.

    Most CD sales are for older bands, both because they have an older demographic (thus more likely to buy a CD than download and share) and because the CD is a cash cow for the company. Today’s bands are not making a lot of money from the music, they need to tour more and sell other stuff (e.g. t-shirts, etc).

    So the music industry is not necessarily the best example of how publishing can survive the move to ebooks.

    We’ve already seen how publishing is affected by “piracy”. My understanding is the reason publishers put out new versions of textbooks every 3 years or so is that by then the supply of photocopied or scanned books is high enough to cut sales. Of course, part of this is the outrageous price of the books, but that’s another discussion altogether.

    • Thomas, I’ll agree with you, up to a point. The music industry example I was trying to point out was the fact that applying DRM to their tracks didn’t work. Neither did having multiple formats for download. It’s much the same situation we saw back more years than I like to count when VHS and Betamax formats were battling it out.

      As for why textbooks are updated so often, well, it’s more about the changing demands of instructors and school districts than it is about the photocopying. Yes, that is a consideration. It is also why some textbook publishers are now trying to get the authors of textbooks to agree to allowing instructors to specify what parts of the textbook they want when the text is ordered — sort of a modified POD. In this case, the professors can not only order just the sections they want, they can also include their own material.

      And don’t get me started on the price of text books. My son is in college right now and the cost of some of his engineering and architecture books are absolutely outrageous.

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