Tuesday, September 13, 2011

From Bob Edwards to Alexander Hamilton, with a rant in between

I made a mistake last night. I was supposed to go to bed when I set down Bob Edwards' A Voice in the Box, not scroll through Twitter and click on infuriating links.

Especially not when I'd just gotten to the dumped-by-Morning-Edition section of A Voice, which is seething with controlled fury. So that may have shaped my reaction to "Six Ways Amazon Book Streaming Could Help Small Business."

Maybe. Just a bit.1Vlad's a smart guy.2 And it's morning now, and I still think it's a dumb article.

First, it's total SEO-bait. The headline calls out small-biz benefits, but the article doesn't actually make the case for any.

Item 1: "We're going to take a leap of faith here and assume that what Amazon is offering goes beyond the usual Project Gutenberg titles that every e-book reader and service has made available for free, since they will need to do so to attract subscribers to their service."
  • "the usual Project Gutenberg titles" -- nitpicky it may be, but this phrase grates on me. The works in question are mostly public domain titles. Because their copyrights have expired,3 these documents are often available for free in digital format,4 or in a variety of formats from any publisher who cares to put them out.5
  • "need to do so to attract subscribers" -- I'll be curious to see what percentage of new Prime customers sign up for the service because of streaming book access.
Item 2: "Google Books is Not Enough."
  • Maybe the service should claim this as its tagline, with all the current and former James Bonds doing voiceovers.
Item 3: "which is still a big 'if' at this point"
  • In fact, it's a huge if. Everything in this article is speculation, and a whole lot more verbs should be in the subjunctive mood.
Item 4: "To obtain e-books from Amazon right now, you must go to Amazon’s website, search for what you want, and download it. If Amazon’s purported service does it right, you’ll be able to tap an app on your smartphone or their forthcoming tablet and stream a book directly to your device."
  • Which is pretty much what you can do with the Kindle app on any of these platforms, no? The key difference between the-way-things-are and the-way-things-might-be is that in the latter case, there would be no payment component to the transaction -- something the article overlooks.
Item 5: "Streaming Model May Bring Down Price Points."

No, you know what? I give up. It's not worth it, and I don't want to spend any more time on this.6 I could have been writing a post on Alexander Hamilton instead.7

1 Standard disclaimer applies: I'm an indie bookseller, a fan of indie bookstores, and a former employee of their trade association. So my perspective on who these moves are likely to help is neither unbiased nor disinterested.

2 For reference.

3 Or, in the case of government documents, they're simply public domain.

4 Except for the many $0.99 versions. Why? If you're going to spend the money, get a good annotated edition!

5 Which is why we were subjected to the Everything and Zombies nonsense two years ago.

6 Plus, the month is still young, and I don't want to waste my one officially-sanctioned outrage just yet.

7 TK soon. Preview here and here.

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