This week at BookTech East in New York City, vice president and publisher at World Book, Michael Ross, expressed disappointment in laws inhibiting open file exchange. He says that in the book industry, Napster's repercussions can be felt two-fold. After a period of dot-com losses and online prospecting, the new trend in digital rights is cautiousness. He says, "It's not so important to be the first, as it is to be profitable." Ross also notes that with the first of many pioneering portals already sunk, the definition of "information" is changing. "Information costs a lot of money," says Ross. He predicts that Napsterization will not harm the industry, but will demonstrate how a highly accessible database is a new revenue stream for multimedia-savvy publishers. "The more you experience content," charges Ross, "the more likely you'll pay for it."
Similarly, Steve Kotrch, director of electronic publishing technologies at Simon & Schuster, also champions file sharing. Kotrch estimates that as more consumers take advantage of digital exchange online, the outlook improves for e-books and non-traditional publishing devices. "We are at the crossroads," explains Kotrch. "The biggest challenge in the immediate and foreseeable future is to ensure profitability."
For magazine publishers and catalogers, digital files are critical to production. Not only are print producers investigating electronic media through Web sites, e-prints and archiving methods, but publishers and their advertisers are eliminating stages within the workflow by abandoning traditional analog production. Therefore, it's not surprising that the Napster-induced debate about standardization and digital control is key in predicting how publishing will embrace, disseminate and eventually protect goods from pirating. Just as digital providers may bark at whether to use PDF, XML or PDF-X1 formats, the new arm of digitization will ask how to make money from reusable, repurposable content, without exploiting it.
At The New Yorker, for instance, the IT department discovered that vintage materials make for profitable resale items. As a result, the magazine's digital department is electronically archiving vintage magazine covers and photography in order to sell originals to collectors and for historical research. But some of the same professionals championing digital prowess are also suspicious of the lack of regulation and wary of potential profit threats to money-making material.