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Joe’s Picks for 2010: Reckless Enthusiasm and the Platform Wars

Smothers Brothers performing in 2004.
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Selected Posts: Let’s Hear It for Reckless Enthusiasm! and Platform Wars Come to the Book Business.

Unlike Tommy Smothers‘ mother, I don’t know which of my children I love best.  But if I have to choose, well, I guess it comes down to “Let’s Hear It for Reckless Enthusiasm” and “Platform Wars Come to the Book Business.”  The “Reckless Enthusiasm” piece was published on January 1, with the intention of ushering in the new year (and it has been a reckless one!), and perhaps that is reason enough not to choose it to close out the year as well.

“Platform Wars,” on the other hand, has been given renewed currency with the December launch in the U.S. of Google e-books, a blast from the platform wars that may have no rival for years to come, if ever.

The core issue of “Platform Wars” is that books are now caught up in a battle among technology firms, particularly Amazon, Google, and Apple, whose interests are, to say the least, extra-literary. Get more applications to run on your platform (in this case, the apps are books), and more people want your platform.  This situation has intensified as the year progressed and is likely to become ferocious in 2011. While a platform war rages, books are priced not for the benefit of authors and publishers, but for the benefit of the platform.  Cheaper is better.   The long-term interests of publishers are of interest to no one but publishers, who are helpless while the battle rages.

Look for platform wars to lead to the shutting down of more bricks-and-mortar bookstores; for the amount of shelf space in bricks-and-mortar stores given over to used books and nonbook items to grow; for some technical platforms to exit the business (no, I won’t say which ones); for a surge in online discovery services for books; and for publishers to feel for the next several years that they are not in control of their own industry.

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About Joseph Esposito

I am a management consultant working primarily in the world of digital media, software, and publishing. My clients include both for-profits and not-for-profits. A good deal of my activity concerns research publishing, especially when the matter at issue has to do with the migration to digital services from a print background. Prior to setting up my consulting business, I served as CEO of three companies (Encyclopaedia Britannica, Tribal Voice, and SRI Consulting), all of which I led to successful exits. Typically I work on strategy issues, advising CEOs and Boards of Directors on direction; I also have managed a number of sticky turnarounds. Among other things, I have been the recipient of grants from the Mellon, MacArthur, and Hewlett Foundations, all concerning research into new aspects of publishing.


One thought on “Joe’s Picks for 2010: Reckless Enthusiasm and the Platform Wars

  1. Thought this was an interesting look at the advantages of Google’s bookstore over Amazon

    Posted by David Crotty | Dec 28, 2010, 10:31 am

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The mission of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) is "[t]o advance scholarly publishing and communication, and the professional development of its members through education, collaboration, and networking." SSP established The Scholarly Kitchen blog in February 2008 to keep SSP members and interested parties aware of new developments in publishing.
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