If Apple gets their way, they’ll soon control the book business in much the same way they’ve taken over the music business. And Apple is pretty good at controlling businesses; they’ve just sued Samsung to stop distribution of the Google Galaxy Nexus, using this ridiculous patent.

I guess that’s why Penguin Books is making it harder to borrow their titles electronically.

Ostensibly, Penguin makes a good point: if they don’t have the rights to distribute books in a certain way, they’d best not do it. And assuming Penguin is telling the truth … well, the conversation and any criticism of Penguin over the move can stop right there. Penguin’s made a business decision. Got it.

But of course there’s something bigger happening here. Business changes. Figure out how to change along with it, or your business’ next change will be “going away”. And conversations about rights notwithstanding, if Penguin has the rights to lend books electronically, I’ll bet they can figure out a way to make the whole “over the air isn’t OK but downloading is” thing go away.

In other words, Penguin is just creating friction in the process, on purpose, to make e-book borrowing harder.

Bad Move.

Listen: I don’t imagine too many readers care who publishes the books they read, and with new publishing options like The Domino Project popping up conversations about who your publisher is may not matter for much longer anyway. But you’d think Penguin would want to stay in business as long as they can, if just to be part of business change instead of being steamrolled by it.

If Neil Young and Elvis Costello understand music business change, if file sharing is worth this much press coverage, and if some simple renegotiation can have so large an impact on the movie business, you’d think Penguin could see the right way through this issue.

So far, it looks as though they don’t.

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