“Post-Medium Publishing”

Interesting article. It makes a good point, and one that I (and apparently most other people too) hadn’t consciously considered before:

[C]onsumers never really were paying for content, and publishers weren’t really selling it either. If the content was what they were selling, why has the price of books or music or movies always depended mostly on the format? Why didn’t better content cost more? […] Almost every form of publishing has been organized as if the medium was what they were selling, and the content was irrelevant. Book publishers, for example, set prices based on the cost of producing and distributing books. They treat the words printed in the book the same way a textile manufacturer treats the patterns printed on its fabrics.

I’ve long been annoyed by the prices of electronic books at eReader.com for just that reason: they seem to price their books at the same level as the most recent print version. If you want to get a book early in its life-cycle, like when it’s only out in a hardcover version in print, you have to pay the hardcover price for the electronic version too — despite the fact that it costs eReader literally pennies to produce it. Ridiculous. Understandable perhaps (“charge all the market will bear” is the common mantra in almost any business), but ridiculous anyway.