News Blog: When Harry Met Sandy, a Stormy New eBooks Merger
Ahoy out there, me mateys! I hope everyone is braving Frankenstorm, that saucy dame Sandy, on this blustery and wet Monday. In hopes that your power is not out, there is some important news for you, my ambitious bibliophiles! A lot is going on in the publishing industry: the DOJ has a case against Apple and other publishers concerning eBooks AND a pangea-like merger is occurring between Random House and Penguin. [Can you imagine its new name? It could hilariously be the Random Penguin House, the House of Random Penguins, or most likely Penguin Random House.] Either way, the name gives way to “global domination” (as Bring It On would say); Penguin is known for their classics and Random House mostly recently published the 50 Shades of Gray trilogy. What storm is a-brewing in the publishing industry and what other hail, wind, and fire will be brought against readers?
The book industry is transforming as we know it. More people are buying their books on eBook readers such as the Kindle, iPad, or Nook; print prices for classics have declined; and the future is uncertain as to whether universities will continue to stock libraries full of books or make an entirely online catalogue. With the personal debate aside, eBooks are changing the way people read and how publishers publish. Right now, Amazon, Google, and Apple are vying in a Titanic battle for the eBooks market; their deals and Ereaders are almost too good to pass up! (Confession: I would much rather buy JKR’s new Casual Vacancy for half the price as an eBook than shell out $30; that could buy me 30 new used books on any other day!) So, in order to compete, publishing companies are banding together to brave the storm of the eBook market. In this case, two companies are merging in the hopes that they will have enough market power to do so. And, in my predictive opinion, this is going to happen more and more often, until publishers can handle and profit from the eBook trend.
What does this all mean for readers? Well, how many people can remember Napster? To me, the eBooks fight is very very similar to the music sharing casualties in the music industry. As the NY Times said, publishers are trying to keep their positions as gatekeepers of eBooks; they want the industry to stay profitable unlike the free song downloads of the music industry, despite attempts such as iTunes. However, who will guard the guards themselves? One of the big problems with this Zeus-vs.-Cronan fight is that consumers are losing out. In one case, publishers and Apple allegedly pushed prices of recent popular books higher than necessary in order to gain power from Amazon. How does that help us, the readers of our generations?
Perhaps it is the influence of Sandy or my love of Batman, but a storm is coming. If this merger is any indication, books will be changing even more in the near future. And, for a younger generation that has already been criticized for not reading enough, what does that mean for the salvation of the book?