Publishers look to music lessons on digital content

Tue Jun 2, 2009 8:07am EDT
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Publishers are learning from music labels' struggle to make online music profitable and combat piracy, but so-called e-books will only add value to the industry and not replace printed books, experts say.

Amid a global economic downturn, the publishing industry is also trying to deal with a growing demand for online content driven by advances in technology with electronic readers like's Kindle and Sony Corp's Reader.

But it is learning from music labels, who have seen a shift in fans to digital sales from physical sales. These labels have filed countless lawsuits to combat free online music-sharing sites, while trying to make digital distribution profitable.

"Our aim is not to beat up the music industry ... but that said, they sure did screw it up," Andrew Albanese, Publisher's Weekly features editor, told a panel discussion on the topic at the recent Book Expo America in New York City.

Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, told the panel the Internet broke the traditional physical distribution model for music and is now doing the same for publishing.

But while he said the popularity of the MP3 music format is a rejection by fans of compact discs, "the difference is with books there's nothing wrong with books, the book is not a value-subtract medium but a value-add medium."

"Over time (e-books) will tend to enhance and contribute to the success of the book rather than replace it," he said.

While the music industry fought free music-sharing sites such as Napster and Kazaa in court, Jared Friedman, co-founder of social publishing website Scribd, said he was optimistic about the transition of the publishing industry.   Continued...

<p>Author Stephen King holds up a pink Amazon Kindle 2 electronic reader at a news conference in New York where the device was introduced, February 9, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Segar</p>