You may not care, but there are certain aspects to the content available on the WSJ.com that are either mildly scarce or at least hard to find from other sources. That is why WSJ.com is one of the rare news sites that has a reasonably sized subscriber base.
For people who live/breath within the financial and investment communities, the WSJ.com does have unique value. It is the casual WSJ.com visitors (you, me) who are not part of the close-knit community that Murdoch is apparently willing to lose.
When you state that "the lending is pretty limited", in what sense did you mean that?
From what I can tell, their lending implementation is better than what can be done in the world of paper-books in at least one aspect: When you lend the book to a friend, you still retain a copy that you're able to read. Hard to do with a paper-book.
Demanding that the devices and the BN.com bookstore be completely DRM-free sounds to me like a totally unreasonable demand. DRM is not, be definition, pure evil IMO. The support for ePub means millions of public domain books from multiple sources can be read, which is really quite amazing, IMO.
In general, this looks like a strong step in a good direction. I'm still a big user of audio books/audible.com, but if and when I do return to the printed word, it will most likely be in eBook form.
Although I will admit that the flow is not yet a flood, the sales figures cited by Amazon for the Kindle do support the claim that there are people out there that are very convinced.
I predict that it is largely a matter of time and refinement before paper-based books eventually fade away. It may take 2-3 decades, but the advantages are clear albeit not very cost competitive at this moment in time. But costs of the devices will start to drop sharply as competition increases (already seeing this) and usage increases (already seeing this too).
Spent 10 days in and around the Paris city center, and in all that time managed to only find a single free (with password, obtained from staff, and only if you knew to ask for it) Wi-Fi network. Everything else was pay-only and locked down.
And interestingly, the % of Parisians at coffee shops with their laptops was at least an order of magnitude lower vs. the US. Laptopping over coffee is just not part of the culture, which probably keeps demand for free Wi-Fi below the threshold of most business owners.
This feels to me a bit like a tragedy of the commons situation: As long as reasonable quality investigative journalism is available for free, most people will avail themselves of that free resource. If that business model is in fact unsustainable, the providers of it will eventually fold. Over time, that unlimited free resource will become limited, thereby forcing the free-loaders to either:
1. Pay for the product they once obtained for free.
2. Find a new source that is still free
3. Go without the product
My feeling is that the market for investigative journalism needs another 3-5 years to reach a new level of homeostasis. In that time, we'll see plenty of death and rebirth.
It appears as though Microsoft has acknowledged that in matters of software, using IP to prevent competition (or even mimicry) is a losing proposition. So they went ahead and changed their license agreement to specifically allow free and open-source implementations of their CLI and C# development tools.
But in other parts of the industry, threats of lawsuits against open source projects have been occurring for the last 4-5 years, IIRC.
There is certainly some of that in every crowd. One solution that I like and have seen implemented elsewhere:
Charge reasonable fees for the ability to participate in the conversation, making it a premium service.
It can still be pseudo-anonymous (site visitors may not know who you are, while site operators do), but by charging a fee for what the users value - the feeling that they are interacting with the author n a meaningful way - you only get comments from people who are willing to put their money where there opinions lie.