Friday, November 18, 2005

Fracturing the Old Business Model

Among the websites and blogs I check periodically is Forrester Research ( They advertise themselves as an independent technology and market research company providing advice on technology's impact on business.

On November 7, Forrester had an article on "ABC/iTunes Deal Cracks Open the TV Business Model." The executive summary says in part: "The iPod video player doesn't matter. Downloading episodes of Lost and Desperate Housewives to computers barely matters. What does matter is the crack in the traditional television business model opened by the Apple/ABC deal to allow consumers on-demand access to current hit TV shows. Unwittingly, Apple is building the proof of concept for the video-on-demand (VOD) business model . . . [and] will fracture the old business model."

If you're interested in the article, you can go to their website and pull it up. I don't want to talk about it specifically right now. As I read the article, however, I was struck by some of the subtitles:

Alternate Distribution Means More Revenue, Not Less
Time-shifting generates more revenue
Downloads diversify the . . . revenue stream
Cable VOD will get popular
Ad-supported VOD is next
Dying shows will find new life on VOD
iPod and online video will reveal their untapped promotional potential

I found myself wondering if the basic premise of the article could also be applied to the digitization of books. Can we substitute the words "digitized books" for "VOD," "iPod" and "online video" so that the subtitles read: Digitized books will get popular; ad-supported digitized books are next; dying books will find new life in digitization; and digitized books will reveal their untapped promotional potential?

I know many writers are fighting the digitization initiatives, but it feels to me like fighting the incoming ocean tide. The planet is shrinking, our natural resources are drying up, and we are addicted to speed--faster, more convenient, more immediate everything. The traditional book which can take more than a year to publish, which has to be shipped and warehoused and which is eventually recycled is just not the medium for the twenty-first century.

I talked with a friend at length this afternoon. She spoke about her 16-year-old son taking classes at our local college. He's writing his first term paper and she was concerned because he hadn't been to the library yet. He laughed and said he'd done all his research online.

My friend was a child of the twentieth century; her son is a child of the twenty-first century. He listens to downloaded tunes (but still buys CDs), has online friends all over the world and is completely at home in a digital universe.

Our perception of books hasn't fully caught up with our technology yet. There are lots of issues to be resolved. An ethical debate always follows the development of technology. We had to be able to harvest stem cells before we could discuss whether it was right or wrong to do so. We had to be able to digitize books before we could begin to negotiate fair methods of reimbursing writers.

Just musing . . .

1 comment:

Sherrill Quinn said...

It does seem that technology always moves faster than we can keep up with it. And change always scares people, whether the change is for the better or not.