Of Middlemen And Other Evils
Gemstar, purchaser of Nuvomedia (maker of the late, great Rocket eBook) is doing nothing to squash rumors and stories that the next generation successor of the Rocket, the RCA 1100, (a) will cost about $300; (b) won't have the capability to let you upload your own files; and (c) will essentially be tied to the offerings of yesterday's print publishers in New York.
If true, this flies in the face of the hopes that had been rampant on various lists, by devotees of the ReB, that Gemstar would be smart and (a) introduce the new model at a logical price point below $99 to entice hordes of buyers; (b) continue the capabilities of the ReB, engineered into it by NuvoMedia, one of the greatest little companies that ever lived; and (c) keep an open orientation toward the web-based ebook publishers that have sprung up in the past two years or so. It appears that none of these things is planned, and from this quarter it looks as if Gemstar has hitched its wagon to a falling star and as if the Rocket eBook is fast committing suicide.
It pays to stay awake these days. Every day brings a new revelation, a new twist, a new strategy...and at some point soon, we will start seeing losers and winners in the game for who controls the new book industry, which will be entirely based on electronics. Those betting on the old way of doing things will of course put their money on the traditional middlemen - for example, the online catalogs demanding 60% of the cover price, as if they were wholesale shipping print books and then retailing them from brick and mortar storefronts. Pullleaze! Does nobody have a brain? Judging by the past year's mindless acrobatics with dot.coms, the answer is obvious. In the real world, as the details shake themselves out, watch for online catalogs that carry the same load and only ask 10% -- that will put the pirates out of business. Talking about last century's business model:
You don't think so? Picture two guys in a barn in Germany around 1885. The one is P., a rather pompous neighbor who happens to be out for a walk and is visiting. The other is O., the owner of the barn, who happens to be polishing his new Daimler horseless carriage. You can imagine the nature of their discussion:
P.: "So this is your new toy. What is it?"
O.: "This is the automobile. It moves around without the efforts of a horse."
P.: (scoffing) "So what would people use this contraption for?"
O.: "You'll ride around in it."
P.: (laughing) "Really? Why would I want to do that?"
O.: "It will be cheaper, safer, and better than being pulled around in a carriage by an animal."
P.: "Really. You're too much. Do you think for a moment that hundreds of millions of people will get rid of their horses and carriages to careen around in one of these silly contraptions?"
O.: "Yes. I predict that the horse will be obsolete for all but sporting purposes in about 25 years."
P.: (hooting) "You're insane! The whole world is built around horses." On a condescending note, adds: "Actually, to give you a little credit, your device may be useful for moving the carriage in place behind the horse so it will be easier to hook up. But it will never replace the horse. How could such a thing be possible??" (Leaves in a huff).
As I have been predicting since April 1998, the consignment book publishers have about 5 years left at best. Their industry, which is based on large, risky print runs that historically have an unacceptably high failure rate, and which has in recent years become more impacted by conglomerations, was until now the only game in town. Writers were treated slash and burn - for every writer who got in the door, a hundred or more deserving writers died unrecognized after a lifetime of hard work for nothing. This may have worked while such swinery was the only game in town, but those days are over.
It doesn't matter what you or I believe, or how much those Romanovs in New York scoff about the invincibility of their empire. The economics of the market place will take care of the future, and I believe the future belongs firmly to the e-book. I've been predicting the consignment book will be replaced by the POD book within 5 years. Meanwhile, the perfect economic and ergonomic e-book will finally appear, and POD will be recognized for what it is - a meaningless bandaid to repair a dying way of life that cannot be brought back, anymore than the illuminated books of the monks will ever become current again, and POD will be largely gone in 10 years. As with the spurious creationism debate, the truth here won't be determined by who shouts or who believes the loudest. The facts will take care of themselves, just as they did with the horse and carriage. POD represents the period in which people try to use the automobile as a means of bringing the carriage up behind the horse. After a few years of this, people will realize that it's entire much smarter to get rid of the horse and buggy and just ride around in the car. That's what we'll all be doing in about ten years when the real ebook is on the market.
MZB last chance! Fans of the late Marion Zimmer Bradley are urged to take advantage of the last weeks of opportunity to obtain back issues, some at bargain prices. Various deals available. Check at http://www.mzbfm.com or Marion Zimmer Bradley Living Trust, PO Box 249, Berkeley, CA 94701-0249. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Received: From Weekend Novelettes, P.O. Box 587150, Alsip, IL 60803-7150, a CD-ROM containing "Ka: The Beginning." A planet awakens from ancient sleep and reaches to the universe for a life force.