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The Day a 600-Year Reign Came to an End


How digitalization of content is fast reshaping century-old value chain models

Amazon Kindle - Digital ContentThis may not have made the headlines last week, but I was nonetheless taken aback by the announcement from – the leading online seller of books and one of the most influential in the book industry – that it had sold more e-books in the month of April 2011 than printed books. Let’s not forget that this came less than four years after the launch of its market-leading e-reader – the Kindle - back in November 2007. I was personally ‘aware’ of e-readers and surely noticed a few being used on the plane or in coffee shops, but clearly failed to appreciate the rapidity at which the consumption of e-Books had taken off. I started to wonder whether my one-year old daughter would ever need a book shelf, a schoolbag or even put a foot into a library. I then realized that – while I still read hard copy books – I was actually reading this article online as I do five out of every seven days each week.  Furthermore, most of my personal and professional written communication is never laid down on a piece of paper, just like this very blog. ...

Keeping things into perspective this is not quite the end of the printed book as we know it, and according to the Association of American Publishers (AAP) e-books represented less than 10% of all books sales in 2010 but it certainly is a remarkable milestone for an industry that had been almost exclusively dominated by the paper format since the invention of the printing press in 1440 almost 600 years ago. This is not limited to written content. Back in December 2004 the news that digital download sales of music singles overtook that of CD shipments in the UK sent a shockwave throughout the music industry. This again took place only three years after Apple launched its first iPod MP3 player. Legal download of music is now predicted to overtake physical media formats in the U.S. next year. This also comes to show the pace at which this 100-year old industry is transforming.

The overall ‘author-producer-publisher-printer/replicator-distributor/retailer-consumer’ value chain is now being questioned. Will the ‘author-consumer’ model be the ultimate answer? Probably not in the short term—look at the continued success of Apple iTune Music Store and One thing though, seems unavoidable: A continued and perhaps dramatic decline of ‘brick-and-mortar’ retailers as well as printer/replicator production volumes. What services are publishers offering in this new context? What role will the hardware manufacturers play in controlling the distribution? Is an open format the way of the future? Is a ‘pay-per-unit’ model becoming obsolete with replication cost virtually non-existent?

The key challenge is, and will probably continue to be, around copyrights. How do you ensure that talent, research and efforts made in producing content delivered digitally can still be rewarded in a free Internet world where sharing content is only a click away from and to any corner of the globe? Intellectual property has a new global battle ground and – let’s face it - governments are unlikely to come up with a global answer any time soon. ...

On June 7th 2011 at 1pm EDT, ModusLink is executing a free webinar addressing some of the avenues to explore and concrete solutions to some of the issues emerging in this digital era: Monetizing Access to Digital Content. Industry experts such as: David Sidebottom, Senior Consultant - Digital Media, Futuresource Consulting, Bill Routt, VP Technical Operations, MobiTV, Jason Thibeault, Senior Director, Product Management, Limelight Networks and Guy Finley, Executive Director, MESA will share their views and experience on key strategies to help you monetize and control access to digital content and services, including: end-to-end subscription management; system administration and back-office provisioning; piracy prevention and digital lifecycle management. We would be pleased to have you join us.



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