In his presentation at the 2010 Tools of Change conference, Kirk Biglione provided a set of lessons the book business might reasonably learn from changes in the music business in the last decade. The presentation updated work he first offered two years ago, when Kindle was new and the iPad was a unicorn.
The update was more than instructional; it was deliberately cautionary. In Biglione’s view, publishers have favored use of DRM-restricted content and left decisions about the type of DRM to e-book vendors.
In doing so, book publishers are retracing the steps that led the music business, which ceded control of its digital distribution to Apple, the one vendor that could provide a seamless, end-to-end platform.
A market with multiple file formats and incompatible DRM options drives the close (proprietary) end-to-end solution. In the book business, that means Amazon.
Biglione notes that publishers have fought with Amazon over price, but he thinks the bigger threat is the inconsistent use of DRM, a problem that favors only Amazon. If that’s the case, the price battle will be fought again, when Amazon is on even stronger ground.