19 November 2007

Kindling a Conflagration

There's one of Steven Levy's finer big pieces in Newsweek about Amazon's new Kindle e-book device. It all sounds pretty cool, but for me the real showstopper is the following:

Publishers are resisting the idea of charging less for e-books. "I'm not going along with it," says Penguin's Peter Shanks of Amazon's low price for best sellers. (He seemed startled when I told him that the Alan Greenspan book he publishes is for sale at that price, since he offered no special discount.) Amazon is clearly taking a loss on such books. But Bezos says that he can sustain this scheme indefinitely. "We have a lot of experience in low-margin and high-volume sale—you just have to make sure the mix [between discounted and higher-priced items] works." Nonetheless the major publishers (all of whom are on the Kindle bandwagon) should loosen up. If you're about to get on a plane, you may buy the new Eric Clapton biography on a whim for $10—certainly for $5!—but if it costs more than $20, you may wind up scanning the magazine racks.

What planet are these people on? Amazon is shipping electrons - well known for being rather cheap (here, take a few trillion for free). When you buy a book, you're buying mashed-up trees that cost something (which in fact cost rather more than you pay). E-books will never take off until publishers are prepared to throw their analogue business models on the fire.

Update: Almost needless to say, Kindle is powered by GNU/Linux.


Anonymous said...

Two huge issues with Kindle. The one you mentioned, and the proprietary data format. When will these people learn that proprietary, non-media formats don't work. Just caused it worked for itunes doesn't mean it will work for everyone.

Glyn Moody said...