Regarding digital publishing…all thanks should be given to Larry Kirshbaum, former agent of LJK Literary Management recently described as ‘Amazon’s hired Hit Man’ by Brad Stone, writer for Business Week for being the new group leader on changing the world of publishing into a whole new digital playing field? Kirshbaum was hired to run Amazon Publishing, to jump-start a flailing imprint that desires to publish books on the bestseller list by large-scale authors. Amazon began rubbing the noses of the Big Six – Random House, Simon & Schuster (CBS), Harper Collins, Penguin (PSO), Hachette (MMB:FP) and Macmillan – in muck in November, 2007 when Jeffrey P. Bezos, founder, president, chief executive officer (CEO), and chairman of the board of Amazon.com unveiled the Kindle and proclaimed to these Big Six publishers that Amazon would sell their big-name authors’ titles as ebooks for $9.99, a highly discounted price from most top-selling hardcover books.
Barnes & Noble has also tossed their digital hat into the ring, they bought Sterling Publishing in 2003 and has since also entered the world of ebooks with the NOOK eReader and tablet with their form of vengeance. They taught a digital library of 2.5 million titles themselves and in November of 2011, they launched NOOK Digital Shops in 40 store to showcase NOOK applications, books and digital products. The shops focus on the presentation of digital reading in grand fashion. The digital shops offer 2000 square feet tailored by-product displays and large light boxed digital screens that play like a giant screened NOOK to engage readers into the new technology world of ebooks. Barnes & Noble is hoping to focus on their big advantage over Amazon and Apple, they’re the last freestanding physical, premium bookstore, who can physically engage shoppers into their digital world of publishing.
Apple has also played a hand in changing the digital landscape with the introduction of digital songs for 99¢ in their iTunes music store, which harshly stagnated the growth of the compact disc, and expedited the dissolution of music retailers like Tower Records. The power of digital monopoly began the launch of Apple’s market growth beyond the world of PC, creating new landscape for their digital products like iPods, iPhones and the world of iPad, launching their profitability into digital hemispheres.
Lastly, Mark Coker, an angel investor well versed in the world of Public Relations and technology startup companies, launched Smashwords, Inc., in 2008. Smashwords is a distribution platform designed to publish ebooks for authors and publishers as self-publishers. The Smashwords service actually converts Microsoft Word files into many e-book formats for a vast array of e-book reading devices. Also Smashwords does not use any Digital Rights Management (DRM) so books are for sale on the Internet at whatever price that is set by the author. No DRM is a major advantage for the self-publishers and a factor that was fought and haggled over between the Big Six publishers and Amazon.
As the many digital publishers, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Smashwords, etc., hash out the new world of digital publishing, no one expert is quite clear on how the landscape will look in two-three years, in five years, let alone 10 years from now. Will Amazon capture the world of ebooks, like Apple did with the many new forms of music and Internet media like Podcasts? It’s anybody’s guess about what the future holds and what new media will unfold to drive the world of readers into a whole new frontier of technology to experience the wonderful world of storytelling and story sharing.
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Riley Rose McKesson
McKesson BookSellers, Division of McKesson Marketing Company