30 January 2010

Amazon vs. Macmillan: Fight!

The New York Times reports that Macmillan has pulled all their publications from Amazon in retaliation for a dispute over Amazon's rigid ebook pricing.

E.C. has been trying for a long time to convince me that ebooks + Amazon = end of the publishing industry, but I would have none of it. I just couldn't get my head around why abundant ebooks at awesomely low prices could be a bad thing.

Over at Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow uses his sci fi writer's powers of inference and extrapolation to tell us exactly why.
There's no such thing as a proprietary book. There's no such thing as a license agreement necessary to read a book. Books are governed by a social contract that is older than publishing, older even than printing. The recent innovation of copyright in books recognizes the ancient compact between readers and writers, and protects your rights to own your books, to loan them, to give them away, to resell them, to read them in any nation, in any circumstance. A publisher or bookseller can't force you to buy Ikea sofas to sit upon while you read your books.

But Amazon can force you to buy Kindles (and Amazon-approved devices) to read your Kindle books on and listen to your Audible audiobooks on.


And if one of the five titans that control almost all of publishing gets into a scrap with one of the four or five titans that control almost all ebook publishing, or the one company that rules the audiobook market, the collateral damage is that you will have to choose to eschew a gigantic slice of all the literature ever made in order to hang on to your library, or abandon your library in order to get access to that publisher's work. Or fill your shoulderbag with a half-dozen tablets and readers, one for each permutation of which corporate elephant is trying to crush another.

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