As big publishing houses reluctantly move from dead trees to digital, they are stubbornly repeating the same misguided practices that big music used to self destruct.
First, some publishers have apparently decided to price ebooks higher than hardcover books. Customer are protesting (and giving the books one-star reviews on Amazon), but the publishers don’t seem concerned. Meanwhile, publishers are still insisting on ineffective and annoying DRM which only serves to harm legitimate buyers, without doing anything to prevent unauthorized copies from proliferating. We’ve seen this story before… How is it that folks at these publishers haven’t been paying attention? Or do they really think “but, with us, it’s different”? (Techdirt)
Big music had a much bigger time window to adjust to marketplace changes. When it made the the errors of crippling content with DRM, illogical pricing and criminalizing its customers self production was still complex and expensive. Free and cheap tools now make it possible for anyone to produce great recordings with a computer and $1000 worth of audio gear. While labor intensive, self production, promotion and distribution can be done with no capital investment. The tools for self publishing books are already fairly mature and even more accessible. Print on demand and access to virtual shelf space in stores like Amazon are available to anyone with no capital investment.
With publishers poor treatment of fans and readers along with taking the lions share of inflated prices, I have to wonder why any author would continue to work with them. I think we’ll see big publishing continue to follow big music into a permanently declining business of monetizing a back catalog of copyrights. Very few new works will be entrusted to them in the very near future.