A modest proposal

Digital Book World debuts in New York this week. Later today, I am moderating a panel on “E-book Challenges: Competing with Free and Getting the Timing Right”. But I stopped in yesterday to hear Macmillan president Brian Napack talk about the firm’s views on how book publishing should address digital content piracy.

His presentation outlined a seven-point program that is covered in depth elsewhere. I don’t embrace the Macmillan plan, which feels heavy on targeting and enforcement, but I do want to point out an area of agreement.

In his presentation, Napack described a fourth action item, “Build a viable consumer marketplace”, as (in his words) the most important initiative.

I agree – this is the most important initiative.

Hence, a modest proposal: the next time Macmillan talks about piracy, start with the big idea: building a viable digital marketplace, one that takes into account buyer behavior around price, format and the use of DRM, among other concerns.

And, follow that up with a commitment to gather data on what helps and hurts paid content sales. Once we have data on where piracy hurts paid content sales, enforcement is likely targeted, not a rallying call.

This doesn’t argue against enforcement. Instead, it argues for enforcement once we know the impact of piracy on paid content sales.

I’ll acknowledge that starting with consumer requirements doesn’t easily fit with our notion that pirates are, well, pirates. Still, why deny the obvious, child?

Full disclosure: I have consulted for a magazine owned and operated by Macmillan.

Edited February 8 to add: Shortly after Digital Book World, Marian Schembari posted “Gen Y Reaction to Macmillan’s Piracy Plan”. Sorry I initially missed her post and the comments that follow.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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