Reading Between Lines in the Ebook Industry

Yesterday I made the kind of mistake reading some correspondence from my lawyer that drives me nuts when people do it to me. I read into his note something that wasn't there at all, not even hinted at, and chided him for it. Reading between the lines is often touted as a clever man's skill, but it's subject to coloring by preconceived biases and the psychological trick of seeing what you want or expect to see. A lot of this goes on in the e-book industry, and a lot of it goes on with blogs.

One amusing example you can easily find by Googling "Rosenthal recants." It's a trackback on another blog from somebody who completely misunderstood the discussion he'd read, and posted to his own blog with my supposed recantation in his title. I have no idea how he read black into white, but it happens all of the time on blogs. In fact, I'd say that somewhere between a quarter and half of the statements I see ascribed to myself are either touted as saying the opposite thing or taken so badly out of context as to be misleading.

On the other hand, sometimes I fail to catch a sea change in the e-book industry because my reading of the data lacks the sort of subtlety that reconstructionists of all feathers thrive upon. When Amazon UK dropped Lightning Source e-books last year, just a month after acquiring the French e-book vendor Mobipocket, I missed the signs. I should have at least looked into Mobipocket, but I figured that most of my e-book sales came from Amazon in North America, so there was nothing to worry about. A week or two ago when I noticed a flood of hacked Mobipocket titles showing up on Amazon here, it didn't occur to me to wonder why I was seeing Mobipocket for the first time. I focused on the fact that somebody was abusing the system.

Well, it turns out Amazon is dropping Lightning Source e-books, and the $500 a month they were netting me. It also turns out the Ingram, in what probably amounts to a strategic retreat, is assuming control of the LSI e-book operation and rolling it into their Digital Ventures.

"IDV is assuming management responsibilities of Lightning's existing e-Book business and will be working to develop future digital businesses, including new types of content, delivery platforms, and other evolving markets."

I have no idea who their customers will be with Amazon off the bandwagon, perhaps they'll focus on the academic and library markets that smaller players have been serving. I suppose I could start selling e-books direct, but I guess I'll try Mobipocket first and wait a bit to see how things shake out.

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