Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Who Decides What Gets Sold in the Bookstore?

Seth Godin writes an excellent piece on what could happen in 'a world where there are just a handful of influential bookstores'.

I just found out that Apple is rejecting my new manifesto Stop Stealing Dreams and won’t carry it in their store because inside the manifesto are links to buy the books I mention in the bibliography. 
Quoting here from their note to me, rejecting the book: “Multiple links to Amazon store. IE page 35, David Weinberger link.” 
And there’s the conflict. We’re heading to a world where there are just a handful of influential bookstores (Amazon, Apple, Nook…) and one by one, the principles of open access are disappearing. Apple, apparently, won’t carry an ebook that contains a link to buy a hardcover book from Amazon. 
That’s amazing to me. It must be a mistake, right? 
First, because the web, like your mind, works best when it’s open. Second, because once bookstores start to censor the books they carry (business reasons, personal taste, etc.) then the door is open for any interest group to work hard to block books with which they disagree. Where does the line get drawn? 
I think that Amazon and Apple and B&N need to take a deep breath and make a decision on principle: what’s inside the book shouldn’t be of concern to a bookstore with a substantial choke on the marketplace. If it’s legal, they ought to let people read it if they choose to. A small bookstore doesn’t have that obligation, but if they’re seeking to be the one and only, if they have a big share of the market, then they do, particularly if they’re integrating the device into the store. I also think that if any of these companies publish a book, they ought to think really hard before they refuse to let the others sell it.
[Should YouTube be able to block videos that promote Vimeo? Should Bing refuse to link to Google docs if you search for it? What about the Comcast cable box on your TV--should CBS be off limits?]

Read the entire article here.

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