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Monthly Archives: January 2007

“The world of e-books abounds with debacles such as Gemstar’s. But what about paper books? Well, here’s a tidbit from a Publishers Weekly about a major distributor / wholesaler / marketer of p-books:

Advanced Marketing Services announced…that it has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware…[with] liabilities of over $100 million and assets of more than $100 million. Its top unsecured creditor is Random House, which is owed $43.3 million. Simon & Schuster, Penguin and Hachette Book Group are all owed more than $20 million each, while HarperCollins is owed $18 million.

Wouldn’t it be great if the p-book biz didn’t have to deal with returned books and other joys? Or if p-publishers weren’t so much at the mercy of outfits like AMS? And if middleman-type costs were lower? I’m sorry to see AMS in bankruptcy, but might there be a lesson here for publishers who’ve ignored the possibilities of e-books or have hobbled them with outrageously high prices and consumer-hostile DRM?”

Hobbled is the right word. The e-book (and e-reader) market has simply been undermined even destroyed in its short life. Don’t think for a moment the conglomerate owners of publishing care about books and reading culture. They think only of power and what they can extract from consumers and the market.

Consumers are the reason publishing corporations are in business. The parent media conglomerates of the publishing corporations have dismantled (and still are dismantling) the e-book alternative because they want power over the market and consumers and the provision of information products.

In simple revenue and profit terms I believe they are making a huge error. By opening up the trade they would benefit hugely as well. But they are ‘genetically’ unable to risk their power. The debacle over Gemstar is something I have looked at closely and can conclude the deliberate dismantling of a competitor to print books (and cable TV), was done by News Corp and others, with, unfortunately, the tacit or unknowing support of Yuen himself. As Rothman writes, price (of e-readers and e-books) was/is the key element.

And what does Chaper 11 mean for AMS and its workers?…Does it mean, for instance, that AMS now does not have to pay its workforce the pensions and other allowances etc they have worked for and are owed, that AMS gets to keep trading with a list of lower ‘liabilities’?..If the AMS directors do walk away from this, will they be hobbled and disenfranchised in the same way as AMS workers?

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