In his Publishers Weekly article, Indie Booksellers Sue Amazon, Big Six over E-Book DRM, Jim Milliot has put together the line-ups facing off in this suit to try to even the E-Book playing field. The problem stems from publishers cutting a deal with Amazon to sell titles with DRM (Digital Rights Management) software inserted as opposed to the same E-book being sold through Independent Booksellers with no DRM inserted (as an aside, those without the DRM are more expensive). As I read through I started to see that the playing field is not really all that uneven at this point in time.
What drives a Capitalist market? The ability to negotiate and sign contracts and agreements with viable corporate organizations is paramount and indisputable. The suit brought against the six publishers will only make the waters murkier later when the ABA (American Booksellers Association) or individual Independent Booksellers try to negotiate new provisions with the publishers named. As an example, remember when you were in elementary school and you were at lunch. You have an apple in your lunch-bag, and Johnny across the table from you has a bigger apple in his lunch than you do. Do you call the cafeteria monitor to come over and force Johnny to give you his apple because it is bigger? Later, you need Johnny to help and tutor you with your Math homework because he is the class wizard when it comes to Math. How willing is Johnny going to be to help you in Math when you had the cafeteria monitor give him a hard time about having a bigger apple than you did at lunch? Seems like a Suit to nowhere if you ask me…
Even the Field
Couldn’t the Indies ask the publishers named to give them access to the same DRM protected E-books that Amazon is receiving? Then, everyone is receiving the same content with the same constraints on it and the ultimate ability to choose purchase outlets is left to the consuming market. From a previous blog post I wrote, we know that the DRM free E-books actually cost more than those that have the DRM software included. If everyone received the exact same content, then the need for a suit would be negated.
I think the Indies are living in corporate fear that doing nothing will lead to a loss in customers and market share to the Amazon 800 pound gorilla in the room. As Franklin Roosevelt so eloquently stated, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” There are so many things that independents are doing and can do to offset the size and scope of the Amazon challenge, I don’t think they need to be overly concerned that these e-books will appreciably impact their bottom-line. Amazon cannot be a meeting place for community events like an Independent bookstore can be. Amazon cannot give a personal touch to consumers on book buying interests as the Indies can do.
Let’s Make A Deal
One other avenue that I have not touched on would be to have Independent Booksellers work in conjunction with Amazon. Amazon is a corporate entity that wants to use the book/e-book publishing business as an inroad to consumer market-share. They care very little about the book business in total, but only insomuch as they can use it to stream more customers to buy other items on Amazon.com. Has anyone on the Indie side approached Amazon to try to make a deal? In all things, the ability to do the unexpected may bring fruitful results that were unanticipated.