Books, Monopolies, and the Internet

Two articles that seem to relate to each other.

1. Having gotten the majority of the book market through aggressive discounting, Amazon is (surprise) raising prices, although their prices on academic books are still often under the publisher’s list price.

Bruce Joshua Miller, president of Miller Trade Book Marketing, a Chicago firm representing university and independent presses, said he recently surveyed 18 publishers. “Fourteen responded and said that Amazon had over the last few years either lowered discounts on scholarly books or, in the case of older or slow-selling titles, completely eliminated them,” he said.

2. Google, Facebook, and Twitter want to create “closed gardens” for their users, as America Online, Compuserve, etc. tried to do twenty years ago.  You go to the site, and you stay there. Hence Google’s elimination of Google Reader: RSS and Atom feeds are free, low-maintenance, and don’t make money.

Google Reader is just the latest casualty of the war that Facebook started, seemingly accidentally: the battle to own everything.While Google did technically “own” Reader and could make some use of the huge amount of news and attention data flowing through it, it conflicted with their far more important Google+ strategy: they need everyone reading and sharing everything through Google+ so they can compete with Facebook for ad-targeting data, ad dollars, growth, and relevance.

RSS represents the antithesis of this new world: it’s completely open, decentralized, and owned by nobody, just like the web itself. It allows anyone, large or small, to build something new and disrupt anyone else they’d like because nobody has to fly six salespeople out first to work out a partnership with anyone else’s salespeople.