Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Irony of the Digital Age

Think about it:  When the publishers discovered the possibility that by converting them to an electronic format they could charge per use of their “books,” what incentive was left for them to still publish books at all?

I firmly believe that if there was a way that publishers could have mounted some sort of tracking and timing device on books so as to make us pay for the amount that a book, or a set of books is used, they would have done it.  Obviously, though, there would have been no way that libraries, attorneys, or any book owner for that matter, would agree to buy something like that, or agree to have their current collections retro-fitted for this type of arrangement.  The development of the internet and full text online searching presented them with a powerful motivation to shift the way they sell their “books.”  By converting them to electronic format, they can now sell them to us as subscriptions and make us pay premiums for volume of usage!

That shifting of the paradigm for them has created an interesting dilemma for us.  We, as consumers and researchers, want things that are better and new; and computers are both of those things.  But since we see them as additional tools in the research arsenal, publishers are seeing them as an entirely new reality: a cheap way of selling, and a lucrative way of converting the “ownership” of information into a fee, or a lease of it.  Essentially, the end result will be that we will re-purchase everything that we already own in hard copy (and more) all over again!  Now that’s a good deal for publishers.....


1 comment:

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