Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Don't Attack The Customer

by Matt Lynn
I’m not one of those writers who worries about digital books, the decline of the local bookshop, or the closure of libraries. We are story-tellers, and there has always been a demand for stories, and an enthusiastic audience for them. How they are delivered – round a campfire, on a printed page, or on an electronic screen – doesn’t make much difference.

What does worry me is that the publishing industry might repeat some of the mistakes of the music business.

In The Bookseller today, Richard Mollet, the chief executive of the Publishers Association, is demanding that the Internet Service Providers should be clamping down on piracy.

This is the wrong route.

With my other hat as a business journalist on I’ve written a lot about the decline of the big music labels. What they got wrong was trying to sue their main customers – the music fans who download music. But a business can’t constantly be treating its customers like criminals. It doesn’t make any sense.

Interestingly, the music business is in pretty good shape. Total spending on music, when you add up CD sales, licensing fees, downloads and live performance earnings, has been going up over the last few years. It’s just the old music labels that have been struggling – largely because they couldn’t figure out how to deal with a changed market.

I hope the publishers don’t end up going down the same road.

The story-telling business is in good shape, even if the delivery changes. But attacking our customers is not the right way to respond.

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