A couple of weeks ago Mike Wolf (Ebook superstores are (still) the future) and Mike Shatzkin (White labeled specialty stores, not ebook superstores, are the future) went toe-to-toe about the ebookstore of the future. It was a super debate.
While I mostly agree with Mike Shatzkin’s view of the publishing industry’s future I believe he has this one very wrong. His hypothesis requires consumers to change well established online buying habits and he hasn’t provided a substantive rationale for that happening.
In my previous ‘books are not music‘ post, I didn’t discuss the content industry's tendency to misunderstand their customer’s interaction with their product. Corporately at least these peeps think that a book is different to a movie, to a top 40 single, to a ball game, when to a consumer all these items are exactly the same: they’re entertainment.
I recently had the good fortune to attend an if:book lecture by the brilliant Richard Nash. Richard raised an interesting point when he said that books are special because they let an author get inside a readers’ head, creating a bond between not just author and reader but also between anyone who has read the same book. Richard’s hypothesis was that only books do this (unless I have misinterpreted his comment).
I would say exactly the same thing of music. Similarly I know of many people who talk about the latest hit TV show around the water cooler.
My point is that when analysts are too close to the industry they’re commenting on there is a risk that they’ll see it as somehow being ‘special’.
All art and all culture has its own unique value, and no one form is greater than the other. Books might not be music artistically, but when it comes to a consumer’s online commercial interaction with culture they’re exactly the same. There are no special rules for books/ebooks and publishing analysts too often fail to understand that simple fact.