The Great e-Book Conspiracy


It’s a standard plotline for a whole category of potboiler novels: a shadowy, global group of evil corporations conspire to bend the marketplace in such a way that it delivers them massive profits (and sometimes global domination as well).

Imagine my surprise then in reading a recent article that suggests that not only is such a conspiracy real and operating as we speak, but it is operating in the world of book publishing. Yes, the people who publish conspiracy novels are engaged in a conspiracy themselves!

Here’s the diabolical plan: newly freed to set the price of e-books, publishers are pricing them purposely high to discourage their sale. This in turn will push consumers to reject the e-book format. With nobody buying e-books, the e-book sellers will go out of business, and the publishers will have achieved their objective. And what might this objective be, you ask? Well, to force consumers to buy books in print again! According to this article, print books have better economics than e-books, so by destroying e-books, the glory days of book publishing will return.

Now there are more than a few prominent blogs read by publishing professionals that are relentless in promoting the belief that a resurgence in print books and magazines is right around the corner. There are no shortage of people in the publishing industry that want to believe. The fact that these blogs derive their advertising support largely from printing companies is itself telling. But to take it to the level of a plan where the major book publishers are collaborating on a plan to crush digital distribution in favor of print is odd, worrisome and not just a little sad.

And that’s just one more reason, by the way, that the data business is such a good business. There’s no longing for print among data publishers because the print format always constrained data. Remember the days of the print giants such as Sweet’s and Thomas Register? Even publishing their 30-volume print products with tens of thousands of pages, these publishers were only scratching the surface of what they might have published. Even the advent of CD-ROM did little for these publishers, who were forced to publish in inconvenient multi-disc sets. Online is the natural home for data. When you’re online, your economics improve, size doesn’t matter and you can update your content faster and more efficiently than ever before.

Best of all, there’s no need to create print-centric global conspiracies, though there’s probably a great novel in there somewhere…