Paywalls, ebooks, and making way in a digital world

My distaste for Amazon’s foray into publishing has made it into a number of posts, but the only alternative I keep spouting is, “Go to Barnes and Noble!” (Or their website). But this isn’t exactly breaking new ground for publishers, and finding a way to stay afloat in a changing world. Then I came across this today. Now, magazines/newspapers are clearly a different beast from book publishing, or at least they have become different, but there is something that seems stunningly similar: the distribution/pay models being pushed by outside companies (Apple, Amazon) do not make a lot of money for the producers of the content. The NY Times went behind a paywall and, as far as I know, have done pretty damn well with it. I pay for it, and I love the coverage they provide. Now, the Financial times have pushed away from the Apple store, set up their own ap, and are enjoying a booming success.

I wonder if this is something the publishing industry could learn from.

Set up their own aps, allow people to subscribe to them for X dollars, distribute some works through digital serials, give access to extra materials, etc. In other words, customize their brands, personalize their products, and provide materials that go above and beyond the books themselves. Is it more work? Oh, hellz yeah. Could it pay off big? Yes. It could also give control back to the publishers. And if they are really afraid Amazon won’t play along, so what? I’m sure Barnes and Noble would be more than willing to find a way to co-exist with such an environment if it meant it could strengthen the prospects of their brick and mortar stores. Independent book stores would probably be all for it, if it meant they had a stronger ally in fighting off Amazon. I have a feeling even a lot of the authors themselves wouldn’t mind getting into something where they could have a stronger impact on the end product and its distribution/marketing/etc.

Maybe none of this is possible, but I want to see the publishing industry not get steamrolled by the digital walmart. And I wouldn’t mind shelling out $5 a month to Penguin if they provide the right content.  Give me serialized novels from up and coming writers, give me interviews with writers and editors,  or notes/revisions kept by the writer, etc.  I don’t know what all, but the possibilities are endless. Give me a reason to give you my money, Publishing Industry. I give a damn about books, and I want you to stick around.

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