Welcome to The CITE -- a blog on Course materials, Innovation, and Technology in Education, created by Mark Nelson and now part of the Publications Department of the National Association of College Stores. CITE is a pun with multiple meanings - referring to cite as in citation, something people reference; site as in location, website, or place people go to; and sight as in foresight or looking ahead to what is coming. Comments, discussion, feedback and ideas are welcome.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Is piracy the reason e-books are slow to take off?

An interesting posting on the Guardian Technology Blog suggests that the real reason e-books are not taking off is due to the lack of pirates. The posting explains that the music and publishing industries are often compared and therefore everyone is waiting for a drastic change for books. However, the reason that the music industry changed was due to the overwhelming amount of lost revenue from music piracy and currently the publishing industry is just not feeling that same push. The posting notes:

“I suspect that the real change will come as more authors who are already part of the digital age push for new things. But that's a generational shift, and we're still a long way from it.
It's not that I don't believe electronic books can't be a success - just that without an outside factor that can push things faster than the industry is comfortable with, progress is always going to be very, very slow.”

Although there is piracy in the publishing industry the authors point is that by comparison the publishing industry is currently not in the same situation as the music industry. Perhaps the growth in open access textbooks are an equivalent, albeit more legal, response to industry dynamics than piracy. It will be interesting to see if the publishing industry has learned from the lessons of the music industry and if it will be prepared for the change when it ultimately arrives. Textbooks seem to be an ideal market for the piracy problem as the consumers are telling us one thing, but what is being provided is another. In the end, as the music industry learned, the consumer always gets what the consumer wants. If publishers and college stores do not provide that, someone else will.

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