Frankly Speaking: Expanding the Concept of On-Demand Books
Times and technology change. I was sitting in the 2,000-plus-volume library of the Cunard Queen Mary 2 in the North Atlantic with an Amazon Kindle. I connected to Amazon's website wirelessly and downloaded an e-book. Almost any book. Instantly. In the middle of an ocean. Get the picture?
Barnes & Nobles' Nook website, Amazon's Kindle Store, Apple's iBookstore platform and Google Books are the Penguincubators of today and tomorrow. These delivery systems also are being developed by publishers. Now, there is a virtual war between publishers and a new breed of book-sellers over pricing and other issues. For example, you can buy a hardcover at list price, which I cannot believe anyone does (about $30), or discounted at a chain store ($20), or at an online store, but with added shipping ($21), or the e-book version ($10). The only logic in book pricing today is illogic.
We do not buy books by publisher; we buy by title, author or genre. It may be too late for publishers to set up their own stores and entice us to have accounts with all of them. Also, little standardization exists in e-book formats, so not all books will work on all e-readers. Publishers are full of indecision as they try text-only e-books versus enhanced applications, weird release schedules to protect the hardcover-book sales, restrictive digital rights management, and infighting over pricing models, discounts and distribution policies. We cling to traditional business models in an age of change.
Thus, we are doomed to have a book world with books in multiple, non-standardized formats from multiple sources with erratic pricing. The concept of on-demand books can mean anything from a book in a library to a book on a sales rack, to a book in a vending machine, to a book shipped to me, to a book printed for me, to a book downloaded by me. And at the right price.
- Penguin Books
- United States