Book Publishers Misguided Complaints About Scribd

from the sensationalism-at-work dept

If you're a bored journalist, it's easy to create a sensationalistic story about "piracy." Just find some pre-internet industry that's dealing with the shift to online content, get a few quotes about how awful "pirates" are, and then find a company to blame for all of it. That seems to be what the Times of London did with its story about publishers freaking out over people uploading books to Scribd. Scribd responded by pointing out numerous factual errors in the original article (specifically the parts that seem to try to place the blame on Scribd, despite it being a third party platform that actually has a pretty advanced anti-infringement system in place). However, this is the quote that struck me:
Peter Cox, a literary agent and editor of the Litopia blog, said: "These people are pirates. We don't have to give in to this. We can't afford to make the same mistakes the music industry did."
Apparently Mr. Cox hasn't been paying attention. The "music industry" (he means the recording industry) didn't give in on this. It fought it consistently. And lost pretty much every battle -- often making things worse for itself by simply never adjusting to the changing marketplace. So, Cox's response is to follow their exact mistakes by "fighting" this? That's exactly the mistake that the music industry made.

Instead, he might want to take a look at what folks like Paulo Coehlo discovered when he "pirated" his own books and saw sales jump. Or what Baen books has done. Or what tons of authors have found after they put their books online for free and combined it with a smart business model. Otherwise, Mr. Cox is making the exact mistake the recording industry made while thinking (incorrectly) that trying to "stop piracy" is somehow a workable solution.

Filed Under: books, piracy, publishers, publishing
Companies: scribd


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  1. identicon
    K. C. Rourke, 1 Apr 2009 @ 12:05pm

    Marketers vs. customers

    Production/distribution companies, whether their product is music, movies, books or other things, fill their rice bowls by buying content, adding a value to it (convenience, distribution networks, packaging, publicity), and selling it to consumers.

    The big traditional marketers (studios, publishers, etc.) are locked into an age when mass production/distribution was so expensive that everyone had to come to them. Many of them cheated both their suppliers and their customers, but got away with it because there were no viable options.

    When technologies came along that threatened their monopolies, they went to war to suppress them. They had some successes, but time is always on the side of change, and trying to force money out of the pockets of customers who have choices (and know it) is a big mistake.

    Today, the game is very different. Artists/writers/performers can produce their own work and market it alone, or through networks they create with others. We live in the age of YouTube and CD Baby. The big marketers can keep a death grip on the beloved "legacy ware" of their heyday, but that's the past, not the present, and certainly not the future.

    The only real way to get people to buy from you is to offer them something they want and make it pleasant for them to get it from you. Go to war with preschools for showing your cartoons without paying a ransom and you'll send them to the nearest competition, which won't be far away. There's an army of talented young cartoonists out there, just like there was in the last century, and their tools are better.

    Jim Baen had the sense to make his market happy to come to him. The model is working -- of COURSE it is. Who needs to fight with companies who treat consumers like enemies? The ones who mickeymouse the market will slide into irrelevance, and the beat goes on.

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