By Calvin Reid — Publishers Weekly, 5/30/009 7:09:00 AM
The case could be made that Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson, author of the new book Free and the Long Tail, the seminal work that outlined a new paradigm of Web-enabled book searching and selling, is the patron saint of this year’s digitally focused BEA. At last night’s panel, “Jumping Off a Cliff: How Publishers Can Succeed Online,” Anderson was joined by Scribd cofounder Jared Friedman, New York Times digital guru Nick Bilton and the moderator, PW/LJ’s Andrew Albanese, in a conversation that can be heard all around the convention floor: What can the book industry do to avoid the unfortunate fate of the music industry?
The short answer to book publishers is: don’t act like the music labels and turn your companies into a disruptive force that comes between readers and the real product—writing and writers. Anderson began by describing a book industry dominated by “costly, monopolistic supply chains” that seemed much like the ill-fated music industry. But Anderson went on to say that unlike the music CD—described as the wrong unit for music, sold at the wrong price—“There’s nothing wrong with the physical book,” he said. “Long battery life, high resolution pages, easy to read, you can give it away—it’s a superior format,” he continued to some laughter. “The digital formats are great but they enhance the physical book rather than replace it.”