E-book Landscape Turning Oligopolistic; Bleak Future for Easy Reading

March 2, 2012, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

Whenever a new media form comes up, pessimists predict the death of books. But they never die. Digital technology has rechristened them eBooks and easy publishing.

But now, certain developments in the eBook marketing show some alarming trends that may make it a kingdom of oligopoly where things are decided not by readers but by Apple, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The issue got popular attention recently, when Apple refused to carry a book in its, saying that the book had links to Amazon book store. Actually, the links were to related works and other titles from the authors.

But that was not enough reason for Apple to carry it. Result? The book will not reach Apple device users.

The situation is not as simple as a national book seller chain opting not to market a particular book. Readers may have other options. But the e-book marketplace juggernauts like Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble has more control over the fate of a book or in other words, to decide what should reach the readers.

The chances of open access to eBooks are falling sharply day-by-day and soon they will become products that will be available through dedicated apps or e-reader platforms rolled out by these three publishing giants.

Right now, restrictions stand up between users of a specific platform from reading a title from other publisher as in the case of Apple’s rejection of the book. Similarly, Barnes & Noble has also decided not to carry any title from Amazon titles in their stores.

This power has made them play any game for their vested interests and profit. Recent incidents point to this truth. Amazon infamously blocked the titles from distributor IPG since they were on negotiation tables of a new contract. Amazon similarly locked out the titles from McMillan when both of them were in talks of a new pricing deal.

With Apple and Amazon making most of the Digital Rights Management restrictions to restrict the traditional ways books were circulated through loaning and libraries, writing a book and reading it may turn a very restricted process which will shrink within the walls decided by these giants.

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