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Open Ebooks & Big Media Cartels

David Rothman has been explaining the advantages of the openreader. Here’s a longer piece by Jon Noring on the dangers of DRM overkill., and open ebook standards.

On their implementation roadmap, I see that they are emphasizing xhtml/css and basic oebps, but not TEI-lite or Docbook (not immediately at least). That is both good and bad. I don’t have enough experience with these dialects, but i’m not sure that people making xhtml are thinking about how it would be rendered in an ebook reader. (Here’s a FAQ about basic oebps).

Also David Rothman is proposing reverting copyright laws back to pre-Bono terms. This is a sensible idea, but we are misidentifying the real harm being done. “Perpetual copyright” make content creators reluctant to cede rights. At this point in my life, everything I do must be creative commons. But if I could negotiate rights to regain copyright control after a substantially shorter amount of time (say 5 or 10 years), then I wouldn’t rule out trying to sell content. Therein lies the advantage of small publishing. Instead of offering giant royalties, they can offer authors better copyright control (and shorter durations).

The problem might actually be one of content production. Far-fetched? The status quo media companies are not pumping out content fast enough. Look at mp3’s. The ratio of unsigned artists to signed artists is 100 to 1. For every song put out by major media companies, unsigned artists are releasing at least 100 mp3’s. Unfortunately, big media companies want to convey this sense of “scarcity” in order to keep the high price of content. Why has the cost of buying music stayed essentially the same over the years? In fact, the costs of production have dropped precipitously to the point of nonexistence; when you download or share mp3’s, the content creator is essentially losing nothing.

Here’s the solution to how to beat the big media empires: outproduce them! In other words, make it easier for consumers to acquire content in greater amounts and at substantially lower cost than the major media companies are doing now. Of course, it means essentially forgoing massive marketing campaigns and music videos and thousands of review copies and payola. The net result may be lower royalty checks for more content creators. Media companies can compensate for lower payments by offering more control over rights. This is really easy.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Mike 8/31/2004, 6:10 am

    Its not just outproducing big media empires (“Pigs”), but PROMOTION and SALES. There is no MTV for unsigned artists. And turns out the unwashed masses like to buy whatever the Pigs sell them on MTV. They buy what they are told to buy. Gee, if everyone thought for themselves rather than buying the first thing crammed down their throats on MTV maybe the world would be a better place. Think we would be in this mess now?

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