A quick round up of interesting posts, articles and ephemera crossing the if:book radar. Enjoy.
Apple’s behavior is a modern, sophisticated version of the “embrace, extend, and extinguish” behavior that got Microsoft in so much trouble in the 1990s: Enter a product category supporting a widely used standard, extend that standard with proprietary capabilities, and then use those differences to disadvantage competitors. (The strategy is even more effective if you have a dominant market position in another, related category that you can use for leverage. Think Windows in the 1990s, iPad in 2012.) If you read, write, or publish digital books, you should be concerned.
Then I had an unsettling thought. There comes a time in any Apple demonstration where they begin talking about the value of the thing they’re showing off. It’s a slightly more sophisticated version of the old infomercial schtick: ‘How much would you expect to pay?’ So when that moment arrived for iBooks Author, only one thing came to mind: Please don’t tell me it’s free. I said it over and over: ‘Don’t say it’s free!’
There’s an interesting court case about to erupt into much greater visibility that could ultimately have a big impact on digital book publishing. At its heart are issues involving digital First Sale, Fair Use, and an old friend before the courts, whether copying in RAM constitutes a copyright-infringing reproduction.
Most e-books are just HTML. While this is probably obvious to technical people, most people don’t have a clue and don’t care. I find it interesting that we live in a world where 3 year olds know how to navigate a smart phone, yet most elementary kids have a very rudimentary understanding of computers and how to use them. Still, they can master the basic concepts of XML (or HTML) and CSS relatively quickly.
In short, piracy is certainly one problem in a world filled with problems. But politicians and journalists seem to have been persuaded to take it largely on faith that it’s a uniquely dire and pressing problem that demands dramatic remedies with little time for deliberation. On the data available so far, though, reports of the death of the industry seem much exaggerated.