Monday, March 05, 2007

The Secondhand Value of a Download

A very measured post from Scott Pack on digital downloads, and why he thinks whereas the music industry has seen "revolution" the publishing industry will see "evolution." A couple of points: although I can see that books might come with an "unlock key" so you buy the physical book and perhaps that gives you access to the e-version as well, this sort of hybrid, though good in principal never seems to work in practice, mainly because it tends to be marketing driven - and, actually too costly to maintain beyond the short term. I agree that books, by their very nature, will remain a little immune to being replaced by the download version. I keep asking friends "what's the second hand value of a download?" and the answer, of course, is nothing. The music industry seems a little oblivious to this (but then, it still insists on Digital Rights Management to restrict what you can do with what you've legitimately paid for.) I think - with the whole history of 1st editions, hardbacks, trade paperbacks etc. - this is a genuine loss - and would actually mean there wasn't, in reality, much of a publishing industry left. What intrigues me is whether the Print-on-demand option will create a market for bespoke books. I think the difficulties of doing this at the moment probably mean the answer is "no", but I could easily imagine a Faber or someone else with a good backlist, letting you choose your favourite poems to create your own personalised anthology and letting you pay a premium for it. I could imagine it, but don't think, as yet, there's anything like that level of inventiveness in the industry.


I am writing this at the same time as digitising some records - I'm not entirely sure why, but it is oddly satisfying, as one of the comments on Scott's blog makes clear. I use a little piece of software called Polderbits, a Dutch company, which is by far the best and easiest thing I've found for chopping up albums into tracks. I use a little pre-amp that cost me about £50, but I think you can get them from Maplin and places for about half that these days. At the time of writing: I've been listening to New Age Steppers, Royal Trux and the Dream Syndicate.

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