Luring students, looking at publishing's ecosystem, and using big data for big publishing.
Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the publishing space this week.
Amazon targets students with print textbook rentals
In headline news this week, Amazon expanded its digital textbook rental program to include analog books. Students can now rent physical paper textbooks, complete with prior students’ scribbles, for less than buying a used book (in many cases). Sean Ludwig at VentureBeat reports that most textbooks rent for $30 to $60 and are rented for the typical 130-day semester.
According to Amazon’s FAQ on the program, shipping in both directions is pretty easy to get for free: rentals are eligible for free Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25 and are also eligible for Prime free Two-Day shipping for Prime subscribers. Students can also sign up for the Amazon Student program and get six months of free Prime Two-Day shipping, then get a Prime membership at a discounted rate of $39 per year (the “adult” version of Prime is $79 per year). Amazon will conveniently autosubscribe student members to adult memberships upon graduation. Sounds a lot like those “free” credit cards that came with swag during my college days, designed to suck you in from the get-go.
“The Amazon story is about scale and momentum in general merchandise sales, here and abroad. I don’t care how many Kindles they deliver or their burgeoning downloads in books, music, video games and streaming of films. All this activity is designed to suck you into buying TV sets, washing machines, even disposable diapers and bottled water by the case.”
Or as O’Reilly publisher and GM tweeted in relation to Sosnoff’s post, “Books are nothing more than roadkill on Amazon’s highway to total retail domination.” So as publishers are frantically trying to find innovative ways to compete against Amazon, Amazon is just using publishing, in all its variations, as a means to an end.
Which brings me to Jim Tanous’ post at The Mac Observer, looking at ebook DRM: one possible positive outcome of this one-sided publishing battle against Amazon is the potential eradication of DRM. As Mathew Ingram pointed out last December at GigaOm, publishers “handed Amazon and Apple the stick of digital-rights management, which the two companies are now using to beat them.” And publishers are starting to come around to understand that DRM isn’t just locking content away from pirates (which it doesn’t do anyway), but that it’s locking content in to closed platforms, ala Amazon Kindle.
After looking at the new StoryBundle platform that give readers a bundle of books for whatever price they want to pay, all DRM-free, Tanous writes: “I was struck by how the DRM-free nature of the books mirrors a growing trend by publishers and independent authors to make their products easily available on multiple platforms and escape the stranglehold they fear Amazon holds on the market.”
Tanous looks at the overall trend, including fantasy publisher Tor’s removal of DRM from its catalog earlier this year and publishers like O’Reilly and Double Dragon that don’t use DRM. He notes that removing DRM removes the constraints on “customer mobility between providers and platforms” and that publishers’ recognition of this and subsequent changes to distribution and sales models, such as StoryBundle’s model, “will not only be good for consumers but for the overall health of the eBook market as well.”
William Gibson's apt predictions, why C matters, and a vote against lightweight DRM.
This week on O'Reilly: James Turner noted that the corporate dystopia predicted in "Neuromancer" has come to pass, author David Griffith discussed C's continued popularity, and Joe Wikert explained why lightweight ebook DRM isn't viable.
O'Reilly responds to the IDPF's request for comments on a new form of DRM.
In this open letter to the IDPF's Executive Director, Bill McCoy, O'Reilly GM & Publisher Joe Wikert explains why a DRM-free approach is far better than any "lightweight" DRM option.
Authors and publishers need to get creative with piracy. DRM isn't the answer.
Mike Hendrickson: "Adding DRM to content to deter theft … are you kidding me? Seriously, think about that. It will take a good programmer about an hour to get past most DRM, or a manual shop somewhere in the world will cut and scan the physical book and away it goes."
Trust your customers to do the right thing and you'll earn their business.
A DRM-free world is one where retailers will find it much harder to create a monopolistic position that locks you into their device or format.
A major publisher drops DRM, Harvard opens up, and a Reuters blogger sparks a news-for-sale debate.
Macmillan's imprints under publisher Tom Doherty Associates will be DRM-free come July, Harvard opens access to its data and research, and Felix Salmon suggests the NYT sell its scoops to hedge funds.
Ending DRM is fine, but we also need great buying and reading experiences.
Abandoning DRM won’t change the publishing landscape unless B&N, Kobo and others force the issue through innovative devices and apps. In fact, Joe Wikert says that same innovation can occur with or without DRM — so why wait?
Removing DRM may not save publishing, first sale doctrine goes to the Supreme Court, and Apple wants its day in court.
It may be too late for the removal of DRM to make a difference for publishers, a textbook case heads to the Supreme Court, and Apple heads to court to seek validation.
Don Linn on the DOJ's lawsuit and the shifting ebook landscape.
Don Linn, president at Firebrand Associates, shares insights into the DOJ lawsuit and offers his take on what lies ahead for publishers and readers.
Sanders Kleinfeld on obstacles to a unified ebook format.
In a recent video interview, O'Reilly's Sanders Kleinfeld addressed a number issues surrounding ebook formats. He also talked about how vendors are among the biggest obstacles to an open, universal ebook standard and the end of DRM.