Monday, March 16, 2009

The ABA Seeks a Direction

At the March Board of Directors meeting for the American Booksellers Asssociation (ABA), Len Vlahos, the ABA's Chief Program Officer, made a presentation. The presentation was titled "Opportunities in the Digital Arena for Independent Bookstores: An Action Plan for the American Booksellers Association," and is now available on the ABA website.

Vlahos started out by discussing the book industry's history with digital content. He then moves into talking about the music industry's experience with Napster.

As an aside, Mike Shatzkin had a post on Friday in which he argues that the parallels being drawn between the music industry and the publishing industry are not viable.

Vlahos finishes his historical summary by saying:
Given all of this, we now find ourselves at a critical moment. We can either build on the knowledge base that we have established and use the collective power of our trade association to facilitate the sale of digital content through our member stores, or we can cede this business to other channels.
Vlahos answers his own question this way:
New technologies start slow, finding their way through R&D trial and errors, consumer education, and the building of a manufacturing base and necessary infrastructure . . . new technologies need time to mature and grow. Many such technologies -- maybe even most of them -- ultimately fail. Consider telephone pagers and eight-track cassettes. These were stepping stone technologies. But these technologies failed in their execution, not their concept. People wanted mobile communication and portable music. It took cell phones and the WalkMan to get the concept right. When an increase in utility meets a decrease in production cost, the line curves sharply up, and adoption explodes.

E-books, it would seem, have arrived at that bend in the road.
Vlahos then offers a list of recommendations. Go here to read what he is suggesting the ABA do.

Go here to read Mike Shatzkin's post for Friday.

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