After a healthy hiatus, Don Linn has resumed blogging over at Bait ‘n’ Beer, which covers “books, publishing and their intersection with technology. Among other things.”
Linn recently published “Digital Reading Standards: The Monopolist’s Tale“, a perceptive post that links publisher concerns with the so-called “Big Three” (Amazon, Apple and Google) to the development of U.S. railroads in the 19th century.
The comparison reminded me of Kirk Biglione’s recent update to his “Lessons learned from the music industry“, in which content producers, anxious to exercise control over format, ceded a new digital market to a third party. In so doing, the music industry helped that party become one of the “Big Three”.
We think of Vanderbilt as a monopolist (and he was), but on his watch service improved, fully-allocated costs fell and a nation’s interior opened up. And we think of the music industry as a cautionary tale of what happens when you don’t “protect content”, but the alternate take is that consumers, frustrated by an inability to get “what they wanted, when they wanted it,” invented a new path.
There’s a recurring theme in these discussions, as well as in the one I occasionally foster about piracy: history does repeat itself, but the lessons aren’t packaged in a form that says “Here’s the obvious answer.”