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. icon
    Geoffrey Kidd (profile), 31 Mar 2009 @ 2:13pm

    Customer Loyalty is STILL the best business model

    You cite Baen Books as one of the best models to look at for dealing with necessary business model changes. I can second that, if only by examining how I feel about dealing with Baen.

    Baen gives some books away for free, yes, but you can also pay for the free books if you wish. Prices for the electronic editions are about that of a paperback book, and they don't use DRM to accuse their customers of being thieves or "thief wannabes."

    Result: I buy literally every electronic book they bring out. I pay for the free electronic books if I don't already own a copy. If somebody wants a copy that isn't available for free download, I try to steer them to the site and buy the book, or read the sample chapters and then buy the book. And I guard my private (unencrypted) copies of the book with an encrypted portable drive that only I and my wife know the passphrase. I've also had a policy over the last few years of buying every new hardcover and trade paperback they bring out and donate them to the local library to attract new addic... er, fans.

    In short, emotionally, Baen is family, and gets that level of loyalty as a matter of simple justice.

    BTW, I used to buy a lot of music and movies. I literally can't remember the last time I bought a DVD (cf. Netflix), and I only buy DRM-free MP3s from independent music sites like Magnatune or CD Baby.

    Baen has a better business model? Yup!

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